9.6.17

BYPASSING THE GATEKEEPERS.

I've been reading Senator Ben Sasse's recent The Vanishing American Adult, and yes, there should be a full review of his principal argument to come.  In passing, though, he remarked on Martin Luther's 95 theses in a way that is relevant to Our President's use of social media.

It's not just that Martin Luther was pointing out the corruption of a rigged system.
21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope's indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;
22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons, they would have had to pay in this life.
Nor that the Roman Church was being run by terminally stupid people.
28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.
29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.
30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.
31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.
32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.
33. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;
34. For these "graces of pardon" concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.
Nor that the terminally stupid people were feathering their own nests.
79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.
There were undoubtedly parishioners who held such thoughts, and there may well have been priests, monks, and bishops who did not discourage them.  Martin Luther's objections were not thought-crime per se.

Nor did he commit a crime by nailing his theses to the church door.  "Church doors functioned very much as bulletin boards function on a twenty-first century college campus."

It's what came next that brought Martin Luther in front of the Diet of Worms.
The 95 Theses were quickly translated into German, widely copied and printed. Within two weeks they had spread throughout Germany, and within two months throughout Europe. This was one of the first events in history that was profoundly affected by the printing press, which made the distribution of documents and ideas easier and more wide-spread.
Put another way ... this is Senator Sasse's observation ... Martin Luther used the social media of his day to go around the gatekeepers.  The printing press made possible the dissemination of more texts in a day than all the monks in all the scriptoria of the German states, assisted by their brothers-in-faith elsewhere in the Holy Roman Empire, the British Isles, and Scandinavia could produce in ten years.

Thus, whether Martin Luther's theological points are right or wrong, the fact that he could get them to the multitudes relatively cheaply posed a threat to the gatekeepers and the establishment of the day.  And yes, some of his ideas went viral.

That's where the parallel to Our President, and his Twitter account, emerges.  "Not only is Trump president, but his Twitter base has grown from 5 million to 31 million. Instead of acknowledging the advent of a potent new mode of presidential communication, the very people Trump is trying to bypass — the traditional media — have derided and mocked his use of this technology. To be sure, the president’s indiscriminate and sometimes intemperate tweets have made an irresistible target."  Gotta love that "to be sure."  "Recant or be excommunicated!" only has its force if the heretic wants to continue to batten off the corrupt system.  Martin Luther and his followers might have been pushed out of the Catholic Church.  Donald Trump and his followers don't want to be any part of the Cathedral.

No less an archbishop than Berkeley linguist George Lakoff, he perpetually offering unsolicited advice to self-styled progressives on how better to sell their indulgences, sees Mr Trump beating the establishment at their own game.
“In general, if you frame first you win, and Trump knows that,” Lakoff said. “The media is having trouble with the truth because the truth doesn’t sell – and they could sell it if they went about it the right way,” he added. “Right now they can’t help themselves, having the entertainment elements of their job take over for the news element.”

If Lakoff’s theory is true, the failure of the most influential elements of the U.S. media to exercise proper news judgment when assessing Trump’s tweets has had a greater negative impact on the country’s political discourse than is appreciated.
Put another way, the harder the Cathedral cracks down on the heretics, the more the heretics will fight back.

At Bloomberg View, Tyler Cowan (no Reformation, no Freemasons, different name?) suggests a different reason for Our President going around the gatekeepers.
Imagine a president whose view of social change is extremely pessimistic. He thinks that America has gone far off a desirable track, and he despairs at the prospect of ready change. All around him, he sees a news media, a bureaucracy, a foreign policy establishment and a think-tank world mostly opposed to his agenda and to his methods.

Furthermore, assume the same president spent eight years watching President Barack Obama. Obama was highly strategic and thoughtful, and yet his legacy is an open question. Many Obama initiatives are being reversed by Trump, including possibly his signature health-care policy. Trump might plausibly expect that, if he proceeded along normal lines, many or most of his policies would be overturned by his successor, too. And Trump has nothing like the backup intellectual and policy infrastructure of the Obama years.

So here’s the final piece of the puzzle. Let’s say you think that a big chunk of the American public has a natural affinity for your views, but they have been corrupted by the liberal media and political establishment and the cult of political correctness. If only they could keep on hearing the truth, over time they would shift in your direction, even if they don’t end up supporting you personally. For instance, you might think that most voters are instinctively nationalist, and ultimately will end up thinking in nationalistic terms, no matter where their party loyalties fall.

On top of all that, now imagine that you consider nationalism, resurrecting America as it once was, negotiating from strength, returning to older notions of masculinity and “building a wall” as the major issues of the day. You don’t see the traditional Republican concerns with cutting taxes and repealing Obamacare as all that salient for reversing America’s deterioration, even if you are willing to go along with those reforms. Nor, given your nationalism and unilateralism, do you see alienating allies as a major cost of opining so openly.
Here he stands, he can do no other?

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