Friends and others I speak with regularly (who are also smarter
and wiser than I am) tell me that the recent emergence of
synchronous communications is a growing peril in our society
“Synchronous” is a fancy adjective (derived from two Greek
words meaning “together” and “time”) for which we might
substitute the simpler word “instant.”
This advanced velocity of communications appears in many
aspects of contemporary life including science and technology.
economics and commerce, psychology and medicine, and
politics and public relations
I only feel competent to speak about the latter, alhough I note the
recent claim for a breakthrough in quantum computing in which
data speed is taken to levels beyond what our mere minds can
Synchronous communication has been developing for centuries,
beginning perhaps with the invention of the printing press, and
picking up speed with advances of the telegraph, telephone,
film, radio, television --- and now, the internet.
The internet, and its social media derivatives, have now brought
us and our devices (computers, smart phones, etc.) to virtual
and near-universal “instant” communications.
The plus-side to this phenomenon is the potential for better
transparency in our public life, including more honesty and
accountability. The minus-side appears in the potential for a
critical loss of credibility of communications of all kinds,
particularly those concerning public policy, public interests,
It is timely that I raise this discussion now because we have
begun the campaign cycle of the 2020 presidential and other
The modern pathologically manipulative techniques of news
and public information can be traced to early in the last
century under totalitarian regimes in Germany and Russia.
The word “propaganda” came into usage. Today, we have the
notion of “fake news” (although ironically, some who assert
certain news is fake are not themselves being honest) as a term
covering misleading and plainly wrong information distributed
over various media (and by word-of-mouth).
Without attempting here to specify from the innumerable
examples of ”fake news” now circulating, I caution all readers
--- be they on the left, right or center --- to treat the political
news they receive over the next year with heightened skepticism
and care. Media reporting bias is at (unacceptably) high levels,
and hitherto respected media venues are no longer dependable
in reporting events, quotations, and statistics.
Politicians and political parties, of course, have always
promoted their issues and points of view. In the past, however,
the media and other public referees have acted as a correcting
force to the public discussions. In my view, this is no longer
This places unprecedented responsibility on each of us to use
our critical faculties, common sense and open-mindedness in
the next year --- if we want to get it right and make the best
choices at the ballot box.
Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.