Gov. Matt Bevin — never a fan of any autonomous institution or thinking individual — has now basically sworn off cooperating with the serious journalists who ask detailed, uncomfortable questions so citizens can make informed decisions in their personal lives and at the polls.
Like a teenage scenester, he’s going all-in with social media as a means to communicate with constituents and taking his “press = enemy” rhetoric to Trump levels of insanity.
If that sounds appealing, consider how you curate your own social-media accounts, how you craft an idealized version of yourself that obscures your faults and creates an unrealistic narrative.
Nobody’s going out of their way on social media to call attention to their own hypocrisy, for example. They’re bragging about the expensive dinner they just ate or, say, the aluminum jobs they coaxed into Logan County. The whole phenomenon amounts to one giant lie of omission. We’re all guilty.
Given the already uber-self-serving nature of politicians like Bevin, are you foolish enough to believe that they won’t use these new platforms to that same effect?
Far from the unfiltered straight-talk Bevin claims it to be, his use of social media amounts to meticulously crafted public relations from someone who clearly adheres to the “government as corporation” analogy and considers himself its chief executive instead of a public servant. It’s just marketing for Bevin, Inc.
No facts. No figures. No followup questions. Just their own handpicked “experts” and their scout’s-honor word. Social media allows them to do it cheaper than Philip Morris ever dreamed of advertising cigarettes, and on a much grander scale.
Don’t buy it.
Parents send their kids to school and pay small fortunes to send them to college so that true experts in their fields can gather, interpret, filter and condense the most current knowledge and pass it along to them. Serious journalists and the media outlets they work for fulfill that role in the continuing education of adulthood. They do not condescend and they do not flatter.
Guys like Bevin butter up their mark by telling them what a genius they are, that there’s an elitist “they” that think they’re too stupid to interpret the facts for themselves and that they should just plug their ears and follow the boss.
It’s a simple trick that works well because people don’t like to admit the unpleasant reality: For the most part, we are too stupid to interpret the facts for ourselves. Myself included. And, if it weren’t for good journalists, none of us would have any facts to interpret in the first place.
We need their expertise in our search for truth in the same way we need the expertise of a surgeon when we’re on the operating table. A real leader wouldn’t hide from this truth or attempt to turn you against it. He or she would embrace it, because the paradox of wisdom is that embracing your ignorance is the only way to erase it. More than anything else, accepting this idea is what separates people of consequence from the suckers.
No, when a preacher or a politician or a combination of the two like Bevin starts telling you that you don’t need any help figuring out the facts for yourself, don’t take it as a compliment. All he’s really saying is, “Don’t bother getting any smarter, dummy.” Because that can only lead to problems for guys like him when the collection plate comes around.
It’s no happenstance that Bevin has doubled down on this faux straight-shootin’ approach right around the time his questionable financial and political relationships are coming to light, now that he might have to start answering for his indefensible support of our incompetent, possibly treasonous, president and his Kentucky-crushing budget; and now that he has to sell voters on tax reform that will almost certainly exempt corporations, himself and the wildly wealthy while asking the already struggling poor and middle class to cough up more in exchange for nothing.
Something tells me those topics won’t get much play on the Bevin News Network, not when more important things like National Root Beer Float Day are right around the corner.
These kinds of adolescent strongman tactics are not for the strong. They’re malicious tricks that erode the public’s trust in our real allies and advocates while leading his supporters down a path of ignorance that will condemn them to a lifetime of subservience to exploitative men like him.
Coleman Larkin of Shelbiana is a writer, artist and cook. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.