It has been difficult for me in discussions of the election not to mention Hunter S. Thompson or Joe McGinniss’ “Selling of the President, 1968.” To my mind both presage today’s mockery. Both are too obvious. For some reason tonight, I started thinking about John Updike’s “A Month of Sundays.”
“A Month of Sundays” is a delightfully bad story of a fallen minister assigned for a month to desert retreat where such go for healing. Healing is found in a prohibition of sermonizing or discussing the Bible, but instead miscreant clerics are to play poker, golf, drink, and smoke. Throughout this month he journals daily his thoughts and recollections of his fall from grace. These are also poorly disguised sermons.
The daily writings are written in the first person and addressed to Ms. Phrynne, the stern, foreboding woman in charge, always hinted at, never seen. But as the passage below suggests, our protagonist is clearly not above misinterpreting the text to suit his own desires. Further, each journal entry is part of act of seduction, aimed at the one woman present.
But who that has eyes to see cannot so lust? Was not the First Divine Commandment received by human ears, “Be fruitful, and multiply”? Adultery is not a choice to be avoided; it is a circumstance to be embraced. Thus I construe these texts.
And so I started thinking about seduction, and politics, and the act of writing. Election politics are all about seduction. Writing can clearly be an act of seduction. Whether it is persuasive writing or attempts at romance (love letters). But it also occurs to me that raw, gut-wrenchingly honest (or at least appearing to be honest) writing, can be seductive. Such writing can be used to draw the reader into the author’s world, especially if the reader is even only mildly empathic.
This line of thought got to me to thinking about the responsibility of writing. The last year in particular has provided innumerable examples of irresponsible writing. Trash-writing on blogs, fake news sites, and real news sites, citing fake data or fake stories from other sites. All in the name of generating content or persuading you to a point of view not your own. Or persuading you to hold onto your point of view without basing it in real fact. Really though, it is simply the provision of information that is at best only partially true but designed to stir certain feelings in you while removing your sense of agency.
I know there is a word for this. I learned it from working with an individual many years ago who was going through sex offender therapy as preventative measure.
The word is grooming.
And it pretty well describes how I feel about about the last 18 months.