秉持著只要有好消息就讚頌的精神，我想要指出一項關於總統選舉的卓越發展。各個候選人都引用許多的數據來打擊對方 -- 對於最富有的1%到底減多少稅？到底盈餘有多少？ -- 這些問題讓報紙雜誌警覺到他們自己的角色，甚至連電視網都嘗試著要找出這些數字可能是多少，可是動作卻很不積極。
沒有意義、腐化的思考一再地重複，這也是扼殺人格特質的關鍵。比爾o柯林頓(Bill Clinton) 做了一件不光彩的事；不幸地，這種事情許多國會議員也都曾經做過，但柯林頓從未指控他們，反而是國會議員對他吹毛求疵，使他陷入彈劾程序當中，甚至還希望能讓人們永遠不會忘記這件事情。他們不斷地、一再重複地對白水案提出指控，而為了要證明這些指控都是沒有根據，得花上數百萬美元，以及數年的時間，但是我們大部分的人對於實際上到底發生什麼事情卻仍然只得到模糊的印象。
一樣的道理，紐約時報(New York Times)試著要找出高爾(Al Gore)宣稱他發明網際網路(Internet)，及成為"Love Story"這本小說之創作靈感的論點。猜猜怎麼了？他(Al Gore)當時提到這兩件事情時是相當謙虛且完全無誤的。而如今我們聽到不下數百次：不但高爾自己說這些古怪的聲明，而且他總是在發布這類古怪的聲明。
類似這樣的手法，兩黨使用的程度有越來越廣的趨勢，但算起來要以右翼派人士技巧較為高明，從未出過事情。一些較受矚目的團體就會伴隨著一些像是民意調查(push-polls)、圖像運用(photo ops)及其他現代選戰過程中所見的手法，而這些全部都是設計來將選民淹沒在錯誤資訊中。喬治(George W.)並非如我們所想的那樣黯然，他有著一副好心腸。高爾也不只是無趣，並且相當裝模作樣。這些都是我們選總統時所考慮的特質，並不是依據他的經驗(已被過度渲染)，也不是依據他對各種議題的主張(已被刻意低調或過度誇大)，而是我們是不是「喜歡」他。我確實曾經聽過電視評論者質問觀眾仔細地想想，到底哪張臉是他們在未來四年當中想要在電視螢幕上看到的(讓布萊德彼特來當總統？)。
政治上的沉默及貶低身分的舉止並非小事。這在一個瞬間強大且算是民主國家的權利結構當中，是一件嚴重失常的事。假如這樣的情況沒有改善，這個國家將走向自我毀滅；如同其它強權國家的下場一樣 -- 一旦擁有權力的人喪失了約束他們權力慾望和哄騙人民能力之後，這個國家便完了。
唐妮拉米朵斯(Donella Meadows)是達特茅斯學院(Dartmouth College)環境學助理教授，同時也是位於佛蒙特州(Vermont, Vt.)哈特蘭(Hartland)永續發展協會理事。
版權歸屬 Grist Magazine 環境信託基金會 （陳均輝 譯， 黃媺雯 審校）
||by Donella Meadows 10.30.00
In the spirit of celebrating good news wherever it appears, I would like to point out one excellent development in the presidential campaign. The candidates have flailed at each other so much about numbers -- how much of that tax cut really goes to the top 1 percent? how much surplus is there really? -- that the press has wakened to its proper role. Even the TV networks are trying, however feebly, to check out what the numbers really might be.
Think how much deception and grief we would have been saved, if the press had always done that.
So, having allocated 5 percent of this column to the full part of the glass, I can spend the rest pointing to the 95 percent of Campaign 2000 that is empty.
Things started going terribly wrong when TV became our main information source and politics was put in the hands of marketers. Now even stump speeches, convention addresses, and "debates" are essentially ads.
Ads do not employ the human faculty of critical thinking. Quite the contrary, they are designed to shut it down. Ads are emotional appeals. They reach into our psyches and press hot buttons. If at first they don't succeed, they do it again and again and again, until they pound into our defenseless cerebral matter impressions of reality that are purest fiction.
If we have heard it 146 times, there must be something to it, right? Thus we are convinced that sports utility vehicles are safe, that junk food tastes good, that we can save money by going out and buying stuff, or that conservatives can be compassionate.
Ads, soundbites, thought-stoppers. If your opponent says you are giving a tax break to the wealthy, you say just two words: "fuzzy math." Over and over. That not only diverts attention from the tax break and throws an insult at your opponent, it removes fact and rigor from the discussion. You can hide any outrage -- a spending plan that exceeds the highest possible surplus, handouts to campaign donors, erosion of the Social Security system. Fuzzy math. Let's talk about something real, like the way vouchers will improve public schools by taking money away from them. But let's not use any numbers.
Constant repetition of nonsense erodes thinking; it is also the key to character assassination. Bill Clinton did something unsavory that distressingly many members of Congress have also done. He never accused them, but they piled on him, ginned up an impeachment process, and still won't let anyone forget. They did the same with endlessly repeated Whitewater accusations. It took millions of dollars and many years to show that those accusations were baseless. But many of us still have a vague impression that something real happened there.
Along the same vein, the New York Times just tried to find the point at which Al Gore claimed that he invented the Internet or that he inspired the novel "Love Story." Guess what? In both cases he said something much more modest and totally accurate. However we now have been told hundreds of times not only that he made those outlandish claims, but that he always makes outlandish claims.
Tricks like these, used to some extent by both parties, but much more skillfully by the right wing, are no accident. Along with focus groups, push-polls, photo ops, and all the other manipulations of the modern campaign process, they are designed to drown the voters in misinformation. George W. is not so dim as we thought and very good-hearted. Al is not only boring, but grandiose. And those are the qualities by which we should choose our president. Not by his experience (which is glossed over), nor by his stands on issues (which are muffled or exaggerated), but by whether we "like" him. I have actually heard TV commentators challenge viewers to think hard about which face they want to see on their screen for the next four years. (Brad Pitt for president?)
Whatever democratic campaigns should be, they should not be tidal waves of cynical, scornful flimflam. Candidates should not have "handlers"; we should not be choosing between genial, empty-headed, ambitious puppets moved by backstage plotters with agendas we never see. Responsible media in a democracy should focus on substance, not image. People with money, power, cameras, and microphones should not dominate or limit or distort the political discourse. No one should treat the voters as a bunch of gullible rubes.
But they are rubes, I have heard journalists and media executives and campaign planners assert. People don't want to hear about issues. They won't follow complicated arguments. They only care about personalities.
To which I have to say, if your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Try speaking to the public's intelligence and you'll discover that it's there.
The dumbing and demeaning of politics is not a minor matter. It is a severe malfunction in the power structure of a momentarily mighty, supposedly democratic nation. If it is not corrected, that nation will destroy itself, as other mighty nations have done when those in power lost all restraint in their eagerness and their ability to deceive the people.
Donella Meadows is an adjunct professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College and director of the Sustainability Institute in Hartland, Vt.