Monday, July 16, 2012

Review of Literature on the 2012 Presidential Election


Essay on Published Literature on the 2012
Presidential Election
July 14, 2012

This is a review of the current whole-article literature concerning the parties and candidates for President of the United States and the election in November of 2012.

Using the Amazon.com database, I reviewed 5 popular authors representing each of the 2 major political parties. Using a combination of the reviews written by the Amazon staff, and the extensive commentaries posted by readers of these books, I was able to get a very good picture of the structure and contents of each of the books. It is important to note, that many of the reviewers are prominent scholars, politicians, and well-known media personalities. Their comments were well written, very detailed, and, in general, had high praise for the book in question. Admittedly, this is a lazy man's attempt to evaluate this literature, but the time it would take to read ten volumes is beyond my current capacity and time limitations. However, let me add that I have been a high-volume consumer of new nonfiction literature since I was in college. More specifically, after reading The Medium is the Message by Marshall McLuhan in 1969, in which he warned of the hidden dangers of watching television, I stopped that habit and have been consistent in not watching television ever since. I know of no other individual who took Marshall McLuhan's advice; and, so while my peers have been watching television I have been reading books.

The appearance of Amazon.com on the Internet changed forever my reading experience. The brilliant structure of the database included reader reviews, which greatly aided myself and many, many others in making intelligent decisions concerning our next purchase and reading experience. Another splash of breakouts included cross-linking of the purchasers’ buying history, as well as their browsing history. With these two constants, the purchaser would then be offered books labeled as " other books you might be interested in." This soft sell, while at first seeming like a cheap gimmick, actually proved to be affective in helping me find books that I was interested in. Because the database permanently maintains your purchasing history and your browsing history, it was particularly effective for my style of reading. For example, I like to jump from topic to topic, for instance reading 3 or 4 books on recent breakthroughs in brain physiology; and, then switch to an interesting new series of subatomic particles in theoretical physics. In addition, the service was impeccable: fast, accurate, and reliable. The point in all this is that I have learned from 25 years of experience using Amazon.com how to use their system to the greatest advantage in finding books that were interesting and expanded my scope of knowledge. For example, I developed a screening criteria for readers’ comments; and, after a short while, it was obvious which readers’ commentaries were written by a knowledgeable person and which were written by a hack just wanting to spout off.

Given the basis of my methodology, here are my conclusions about the 10 best-selling books concerning the candidates and political parties engaged in the presidential election of 2012.

First, the books were all structured in an almost identical manner. These books began with the philosophical origins of the party. This was followed by a glorified history of the tradition of the political party and a lengthy section on their accomplishments and achievements that benefited the American people.

The majority of these writers wrote in a very erudite manner and were very convincing. But the overall tone was consistently more of a cheerleading exercise than a discussion of important issues of the day. When the current issues of the day were discussed, whether it be the poor state of the economy, the massive federal deficit, unemployment, or the decline in " family values", the emphasis was well focused on blaming the other party for all of these ills. Facts were always sporadically introduced when convenient; and ,only when supporting the claims that all of our major problems are the other parties’ fault. There was a complete absence of discussion of the underlying causes of the problems. When an occasional topic of discussion relative to the cause of our difficulties, it rapidly deteriorated into a high mannered blame game.

I was struck by the world view of all the authors. They wrote as if the world still functions as it did in the 1950s. It made me wonder if either of the candidates, their party leadership, or the writers of these books, have read a single book relative to the astonishing changes in our world view that have occurred in the last 20 to 30 years. In particular, they were totally ignorant of the concept of ecology, which was heralded in the 1950s by Rachel Carlson's Silent Spring. Her idea is that our planet is, in effect, a single organism in which everything affects everything else.  The delicate balance that keeps our environment in balance can easily be disrupted and destroyed by human folly. The entire scientific community has accepted this theory for over 20 years. The Democrats have made some efforts to support ecological agendas, but due to the fact that Congress has become completely corrupt, and every congressman's vote is up for sale to the highest bidding lobbyist, Democratic stance as the defender of the environment has been pathetic. The Republicans, on the other hand, have chosen to ignore the issue altogether, their belief being that anything that benefits the environment is costly to business and therefore reduces profits. They initially and stubbornly refuse to accept that issues like global warming are even real, based on the lame excuses of " we don't have enough information yet" or " scientists are not in agreement on this issue" which is a bold-faced lie.

The other major worldview-altering discovery, that human behavior is at least as much driven by biological factors as psychological factors, was not even hinted at in any of these " comprehensive" assessments of our current troubles. A prime example was the failure of any author to mention television as the technological "Marvel" that was the root cause of the unraveling of every aspect of American life. While the proof of this statement has only recently been proven down to the molecular level of neurotransmitters and brain circuitry, the general principles have been known in the scientific community for at least two decades. Another glaring omission that fits under the category of the effects of biology on human behavior is the discovery of the precise biological mechanisms that cause the overtly antisocial behavior of the sociopath. While sociopaths makeup slightly less than 1% of the human population, some very large and very convincing research studies have shown that these individuals, when they are able to gain positions of power and influence, cause roughly 99% of the misery in the world for the “other” 99%.

Morris Creedon-McVean