The magnification of minor fluctuations and amplification of sub-acoustic distortions is what the media does best these days. It uses many new tools. The most sensitive—and most ridiculous—are those dials they put in the hands of focus-group members that allow them to register their feelings about individual words in candidates’ speeches. This results in bottom-of-the-TV-screen graph lines that continually slope up and down in a way that’s deemed crucial simply because it’s visible. Before these tiny twitches could be measured, our democratic system functioned just fine; voters’ minds were on their conscious thoughts, not on their helpless synaptic microbursts. Daily tracking polls have the same effect: they dignify static, treating it as a symphony. Break down those polls by gender, age, religion, and a hundred other categories which suggest that human beings aren’t really fit to rule themselves at all because in fact they have no selves, just bundles of circumstance-determined reflexes manipulable by precision marketing tactics (and someday direct electronic stimulation), and patterns can be discerned almost at will. Given an endless supply of evidence and a boundless desire for conclusions, the narratives can branch out to infinity.

Walter Kirn. Read and heed. Please.