During a brief exchange with Senator Dianne Feinstein about a controversial viral video in which she was seen telling off a bunch of small children for making demands about climate change legislation, journalist Ryan Grim reports that the senior US lawmaker told him something very peculiar.
“Feinstein told me she was surprised she went viral, because: ‘You know what somebody said to me?–I didn’t see any of this–they said anybody with a cell phone in their hand can get you on international news in two minutes. I never knew that,” Grim tweeted, adding, “She was chair of the Intelligence Committee, and had just come from a hearing.”
If Feinstein is telling the truth about this, it’s an admission from one of the most powerful politicians in the most powerful government on earth that she literally just found out how mobile phones, social media and the internet work. If she’s lying about this, one of the most powerful politicians in the most powerful government on earth just used an “I’m too old and befuddled to understand how these newfangled dongle widgets work” excuse for her behavior. Either way, this doesn’t say good things about the sort of person who is at the steering wheel of America’s legislative branch today.
Feinstein is 85 and looks like she’s held together by nothing but formaldehyde, contempt for the working class, and a wig. She is also worth an estimated 94 million dollars and married to a billionaire, and when she took office in 1992 news networks were running segments about the internet that looked like this:
So it is quite believable that she has been so pervasively cocooned within an elitist beltway echo chamber that she hadn’t the faintest inkling how ordinary people have been communicating with each other online for years, nor the curiosity to find out. But what does that tell you about the kind of life US senators live, and how distant they are from the citizenry whose interests they’re meant to be advancing?
Take this isolated ivory tower lifestyle and combine it with the fact that the average age in the US Senate is 61 years old, an age where ordinary Americans are preparing to retire from the work force, and you’re looking at a legislative body that is simply not doing the work required to stay informed about the wildly unprecedented realities of modern everyday communication. Given Capitol Hill’s intense interest in Russian internet behavior, just to name one example, this means the people who are making important demands and decisions about things like internet censorship are doing so with little or no information about the fundamentals of the matter at hand. There’s no way someone who doesn’t even know what a viral video is could know things like how small of an operation St Petersburg’s Internet Research Agency was in relation to the rest of the content produced online, or even what a meme is. And that says so much about the idiotic consensus building that happens in both houses of the US Congress every day.
The word gerontocracy is defined as “a state, society, or group governed by old people.” I get accused of ageism whenever I point out that the legislative branch of the US government most certainly fits this description, but if anything this obvious bias towards people who continue working long after an age when most Americans are forced to retire from far less consequential jobs is ageist in the other direction, by which I mean rigged against young people. And that disdain for the young was displayed openly in Feinstein’s viral reaction to demands from a classroom of children that action be taken to preserve the ecosystem which they and they alone will eventually be left with.
There is no legitimate reason for an 85 year-old lawmaker to be anything but humble and deeply sympathetic toward frightened children who’ve been told that there may only be twelve years left to make the massive, sweeping changes necessary to prevent cataclysmic ecosystemic collapse. There is no excuse for a powerful leader who is that close to death’s door exhibiting any kind of arrogance or dismissal toward the concerns of the generation that is going to inherit the fallout from her decisions long after her generation has squeezed the life out of our planet and then left it for the arms of the cold, cold ground. Yet that is exactly what she gave them.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Feinstein told a group of students who came to urge her to sign on to the Democratic Party’s Green New Deal. “I know what I’m doing. You come in here and you say it has to be my way or the highway. I don’t respond to that. I’ve gotten elected. I just ran. I was elected by almost a million vote plurality and I know what I’m doing. Maybe people should listen a little bit.””
In other words, Feinstein’s answer to a bunch of schoolchildren who are concerned about the fact that their government has done essentially nothing to slow their planet’s slide into climate collapse is that she’s spent thirty years as a part of that government and participating in that refusal to take meaningful action. She is saying, Don’t tell me how to deal with climate change; I’ve spent thirty years not doing anything about it and it’s been working out fine for me.
Regardless of your opinions about the Green New Deal or the science behind climate change (and yes my libertarian readers I am exceedingly aware that you have some intensely strong opinions on that subject), there’s no excuse for a grown adult to have that kind of an ego trigger to the concerns of children who are having a perfectly natural response to the information they’re being given, much less a grown adult at the forefront of Capitol Hill leadership. There is no excuse for someone who is not long for this world to be curt and dismissive of the very real concerns of the generation which just arrived here. Yet that is exactly what happened.
And today Feinstein defends that condescending brush-off with a claim that she is so completely removed from the lifestyle of ordinary human beings that she doesn’t understand the barest fundamentals of a new media landscape that is all my two teenaged children have ever known. Doesn’t understand, and doesn’t care to understand.
These are the kinds of people who are making decisions in the most powerful government in the world: a gerontocracy with nothing but cold indifference to the generations it leaves behind or the way those generations live and communicate. They will suck the vitality out of the world like the Skeksis in The Dark Crystal and leave it a used-up husk if we allow them to.
Call me ageist if you want; Feinstein is too goddamn old and too goddamn insulated from the world to be doing her job correctly. It’s a combination that results in bad decisions, and Feinstein’s uninterrupted streak of supporting imperialism and oligarchy proves this. But this is exactly the sort of warped, life-leeching mummy that is elevated to one of the highest leadership positions in the most dominant and influential government on the planet. This is the sort of soulless death cultist that needs its fingers pried the fuck off the steering wheel of our world before we’ll ever be in any position to steer it toward health.
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