Vulture Culture

Mike Flynn pleads guilty to lying about being instructed by “members of Trump’s transition team” to talk to the Russians, apparently about a UN debate. Okay, so Flynn is guilty of lying to the FBI. So far, there is nothing more to this “breaking story” than that. No evidence of pre-election collusion with the Russians, no late night secret meetings. Nothing.

But neither the mainstream media nor certain members of the “alternative” media are prepared to accept this extremely limited information at face value, namely as indicating nothing beyond itself. Of course, there is no excitement in this face value assessment — that is to say, in hearing and judging the information correctly — compared to the thrill of shouting, “That’s the end for Trump!” or alternatively, “This proves Mueller has nothing!”

Actually, what it proves is what everyone pretty much suspected anyway, namely that Flynn had misrepresented himself to investigators, and got caught in the deception.

But in the age of “whatever works” in politics, “whatever sells” in news and opinion, and “whatever satisfies our blood lust” in public discourse, patiently waiting for principled deliberation to play itself out, for all the facts to emerge, or for people to defend their lives or reputations against the pack of slavering wolves we have become as a salve against the pain of a bad TV night, has no value. Calmly absorbing relevant facts without allowing them (or their disseminators) to pull us by our leash into rabid anger, rabid enthusiasm, or sheer rabid rabidity for its own sake — our gleeful daily doses of tearing-down-the-patriarchy sex scandals being Exhibit A at the moment — is now dismissed or condemned as disengagement, as “not caring,” or even as being complicit in wrongdoing.

All the old warnings about glass houses and “he who has not sinned” have been tossed on the bonfire of “me-too-ism,” as our already-dangerous predilection for so-called infotainment has transmogrified into a hunger for what we might call revolutio-musement, the mass thrill of the progressive hunt for violators of right thinking, moral purity, or our precious safe spaces.

Public shaming is all the rage now, having supplanted not only due process but also the once-natural averting of one’s eyes from the sight of a fellow human being squirming. This is the just punishment, possibly the death penalty, for the Facebook Age, with its world of souls who have less and less to show, but are more and more eager to expose themselves. Fate is upon us at last: all will be exposed, all will be shamed, all will be destroyed by the joy of the hunt that we ourselves helped to foster, mindlessly assuming our fellow happy hunters could never turn on us.

We are now the vulture culture. Anyone who has ever watched a scavenger bird tear the flesh from a carcass, and then slowly realized the victim was a member of the scavenger’s own species, can understand where this culture leads.

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