We have reflexes for essentially the same reasons that bacteria have them. They can’t help but use them and neither can we.
We also can think, and sometimes we even do, but nobody thinks while their reflexes have taken control. Nobody thinks while their reflexes are in charge because thinking requires attention, and paying attention is the polar opposite of reacting reflexively.
This business of an outrage every twenty minutes keeps our reflexes on the playing field and our attention on the sidelines and out of the game. I’m not saying that’s why they do it, only that it’s one effect of doing it.
Still, I do believe that that is why they do it – I just don’t have access to Steve’s notes (assuming that he makes notes). I suspect it because he can’t have helped but notice how well this trick worked for Trump in the campaign, just as Trump must have previously noticed how well it works in the reality TV trade.
Promise and then deliver something for the reflexes to get excited about every few seconds, and everyone’s attention span is effectively reduced to zero.
Theologians and philosophers can and do argue endlessly about whether free will actually exists, but I have never heard anyone claim that there can be free will without choice, or that there can be choice without some kind of awareness that is more than purely reflexive. We are without even the illusion of free will when we are in the grip of one reflexive command after another.
Being under the constant control of our reflexes is tiring, not to mention unpleasant for people who have gotten used to thinking even a little. One consequence of this was well expressed by the famous psychologist Terry Pratchett:
“…people don’t like change. But make the change happen fast enough and you go from one type of normal to another.”
On December 7 of 1941 we were at peace, on December 8 we were at war, and well before new year’s the new normal of war had thoroughly sunk in. Sunk into a population that had collectively refused to go to war for two years of nearly constant thought about it, then embraced doing exactly that one Sunday morning without the barest trace of thought.
Steve knows that. Our Steve’s a thinker, yes he is.
He’s hardly the first politician to notice this. I used to be a poll watcher, and in ’72 I was supposed to watch the last paper-ballot precinct in Chicago. Paper-ballot precincts were designed for stealing votes (there are simply so many good ways to do it!), and I was supposed to keep them from being stolen (ha!). I showed up at 6 AM and met the precinct captain — the guy who would do the stealing — and we kicked the rules around over coffee. He was a hell of a nice guy, and he seemed to take a real paternal interest in me. He said:
* “You seem like a bright kid, so I need to do what I do in the first half hour. I need to be done before you even begin to figure out what you’re seeing. After that, we’ve both got a long, boring day coming up.”
And we did. Fourteen hours later we got down to the votes at the bottom of the ballot box and I finally figured out what he’d done, but by then it well and truly was done.
I never felt so helpless before, and I think I’m seeing the same thing happening now — get it done before they figure it out, which they will do eventually.
Being of that opinion, I become very frustrated at the notion that the important stuff can still happen, is still happening at congress-speed, at court-speed, at government-speed.
All that was the old normal.
* Some but not all of this paraphrasing is from ancient memory, but the part in bold is word for word.
(Ed note; the method of voting fraud referred to is the chain ballot technique, as Nat explains in a comment thread elsewhere. —9K’)