What is the essential man? This is a person that sees himself as the only one with the answers. The answers to what? The questions always involve society, and what ails. They range from why a country is backwards… why are they taking advantage of us. Or why is it that things used to be better in the past? If some of this sounds familiar, it should. They also tend to be the generalissimo figure familiar to those in developing world nations, or people like Vladimir Putin.
Essential men tend to be cocksure about themselves. They do not take criticism well, because they are always right. They do not think anybody else can understand anything the way they do. This is why President Donald Trump issued this command to his followers, which is Orwellian to say the least.
“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” He was directly speaking about the heating trade war, that is costing farmers market share around the world. Indirectly, he is speaking about all the media is exposing. He is telling you that you should not trust the free press.
This is a well known pattern.
Essential men attack and diminish institutions. Anything that can question the essential man is a problem. They are, after all, the fountain of all knowledge and authority.
These are people who see themselves in a millenarian way. They are saviors, who came to the world to set things right. It is them, and only them, who know the answers to every problem ever presented. They are the sole purveyors of truth.
Some of these men are incurious, and poorly read. Others have abilities acquired though professional careers and study. All have something in common: A disdain for professionals and what they call elites. They are the only authority that you should listen to.
What we are seeing though is the next step in the essential man. This is the man who concentrates power in himself. This is a power grab, and it is going according to a well known play for power that we have seen around the world.
It is not unprecedented in American history. After all, Andrew Jackson famously told the Supreme Court Justice “JOHN MARSHALL HAS MADE HIS DECISION; NOW LET HIM ENFORCE IT.” Jackson had a problem with the court. He believed, right or wrongly, that a decision recognizing Cherokee rights was wrong. Why? He intended to remove all American Indians from East of the Mississippi, and this directly led to the Trail of Tears. The court ruled against him, but had no means of enforcing the decision. Jackson knew this, and Jackson forced the issue.
What matters to our story is that a populist, one that President Trump admires, questioned the role of the courts. Jackson went after an essential institution. This is not unlike Trump going after judges who were assigned to sit in judgement over him, such as Gonzalo Curiel. Or for that matter, judges that found his Muslim ban to be unconstitutional. He, of course, applauded the Supreme Court, since they found the right way in the case of the executive order. In other words, they agreed with him, the millenarian leader who is the fountain of all that is good.
What we are seeing is extremely familiar to people who study history. It is also very recognizable to any who grew up in a dictatorship. In this environment you quickly learn not to trust the media, because the media is contradicted by the essential man regularly, and preferably controlled.
I grew up in a country where the press was a joke. I remember getting the New York Times when I could, and trust me it was not cheap. The irony will be funny to those who think the old lady is a sham. The admonitions from Noam Chomsky about how the US press creates consent were not even a conscious thought. In fact, as a teenager, interested in the reality and not the fiction that was my country, Chomsky was not even a person. His works would have never entered any discussion, even at the university level. We knew that the New York Times was a window into our own country. We knew that we could not trust the news readers on TV, radio, or the news papers. A free press was not something we had.
Yes, they were excellent during disasters. They were very good covering crime and other minutiae. But none dared doing something that the American press does: Investigative reporting. Exposing the dirty war, or mismanagement of government funds could and did get you killed. In some ways it still does. So when I see local news devolving to what we used to call the police blotter, I shudder. They should be covering local government, not police chases. But one of the attacks on the press involves funding. News rooms are far smaller than they used to, and let’s be honest, police chases bring eyeballs to the screen in droves. This favors the essential man as well. This means that the news devolves into the minutiae that does not affect your life, instead of covering what matters.
With all its defects, and there are many, the US national Press is still fighting. It is still exposing the essential man, and telling us something we could not find out in that other country of my youth. This is that the American president has dictatorial tendencies, that he wants to control what you read, think or hear. That he wants to transform the American system of government into a one man show. One that has no limits on the essential man. One that does not question the essential man.
This is dangerous. If you are not afraid, you are not paying attention.