On the American Upside Down
While the beltway press, the pundits, the influencers, the organizers, and the cogs that compose the political machinery at large desperately cling to those norms and precedents with which order has so long been coaxed from chaos, the unprecedented leaves breadcrumbs for the fresh-eyed to trace towards the trailhead, near the clearing within which it has planted itself openly as invitation for observation.
The history of our nation lives (as did we all up until some undefined moment transpired last decade) within the realm of what I will come to define as the Upside Up. The ideological spectrum has always been a wide band; but, historically, its entirety lay within a single shared reality. It is within the framework of this common reality that we would squeeze that band between the jaws of civil discourse until, all having tired of being squeezed, common ground was found upon which all might rest.
When social media supplanted print media as a news source within our information ecosystem, the system itself was bifurcated (how this happened is beyond the scope of this post … but it's all there, held in my head … perhaps I'll let it out someday). Dissonance discouraged inter-ecosystem messaging. The glass we clasped when seeking to quench our thirst for knowledge now held even parts snake oil and water.
The two systems developed into echo chambers (again … I have the how … but this isn't meant to be the how post). The feedback within each chamber delivered the requisite energy for conjuring concrete realities for chamber occupants; and, America's dual reality bubbles were birthed.
For the purposes of this post we will call the first of these reality bubbles (some may refer to this bubble as Earth One) as the Upside Up …
we will call the second of these reality bubbles (and yes … all Earth Two queries shall be redirected here) as the Upside Down.
What the norms-and-precedents crowd have seemingly failed to witness (disbelief, fear, incomprehensibility … there is perhaps a reason uniquely tailored for each entity by employing measurements drawn from their pre-bifurcation base of knowledge and experience) was the mass exodus of nearly half the ideological spectrum out of the Upside Up, choosing to resettle within the Upside Down.
We are become now a nation near equally divided betwixt two distinct realities. Between these realities nearly every message-able characteristic may be matched to its inversion within its dual.
The exploitation of these realities has engendered a general disposition of the Upside Up housing what we have historically referred to as reality and the Upside Down housing its inversion. I have, however, recently stumbled upon a slice of the Upside Up wherein the inversions are themselves inverted.
But, I digress. Where were we? Fabrication. Okay … so, having the infrastructure in place for encapsulating portions of the ideological spectrum within closed information ecosystems greatly frees up the range of platitudes, vulgarities, and propagandic material one might pluck from one's cap to be fed to one's constituency without penalty. Any pushback constitutes an inversion of the morsel fed … and this inversion, by its nature, will reside outside the closed system within which it was served.
Confirmation bias greatly aids in dampening any crosstalk between the two ecosystems.
If there is a better atmosphere for encouraging tribalism than the segregation of a populace into two distinct realities, I haven't thought of it. Tribalism also works wonders where dampening crosstalk between the two ecosystems is concerned.
What might we find were we to look at the ideological spectrums within the Upside Up and the Upside Down as self-contained reality constructs rather than as a continuous spectrum divided between dual realities?
Doing so shall require a method for sorting the ideological spectrum across this additional dimension. This is where the principal characteristic of message inversion may be exploited. We can pick out specific dual reality message pairs and sort the messengers by the reality within which the message they deliver originated.
So which messages might we want to consider for such a purpose? The most valuable message / inversion pair will be that which carries maximum magnitudes for both inherent dissonance and societal significance.
How about The Big Lie / Stop the Steal as our first message / inversion pairing? The Upside Up message might consist of something along the lines of,
The 2020 election was the most secure ever to be held for the office of the President of the United States; therefore, Joe Biden is the duly elected leader chosen by the people. Claiming something to the contrary without evidential certitude constitutes a große Lüge intended solely to serve a propagandic purpose in the subversion of our democracy.
Inverting this message to generate the Upside Down message might read like so,
The 2020 election was the most insecure ever to he held for the office of the President of the United States; consequently, ballots were tampered with, counts were falsified, and Joe Biden is a leader installed against the will of the people, subverting our democracy.
Certainly, we can all agree that both of the above messages may be found in the wild (at least in sentiment). Note that for our legislators, the binary choice of selecting one or the other of these contradictory assertions was preserved within the congressional records in the form of the confirmation or rejection of the electoral college counts that were submitted by each state in our union. We have a definitive data point for any legislator serving today that gained office prior to November of 2020.
Let's find one more, one with which we might sort our legislative freshmen. What about the Insurrectionist / Tourist message / inversion pair permeating any and all discussions exploring the events of January 6th, 2021.
The Upside Up message might read a bit like so,
Insurrectionists aiming to disrupt the transfer of power (from the demagogue desperately attempting to install himself at the head of an authoritarian regime rather than cede the office to the leader a nation chose for his replacement) launched an assault upon the Capitol (during which gallows were raised, mortal blows exchanged, and mortalities incurred) that was ultimately foiled by the brave men and women sworn to protect these sacred halls (and its occupants) from the threat of mob violence.
The Upside Down inverse might go something like,
Patriots gathered together at the Capitol for the purpose of preventing the theft of a presidential election from a leader the people had re-elected (during which this peaceful gathering, of what one might almost describe as a gaggle of tourists, were subject to the physical abuse doled out by traitorous men and women forswearing their constitutional oaths) only to find this patriotic display twisted into a distorted narrative to serve as grounds for their persecution by the invisible machinations of the deep state.
Again, I propose that both of the above messages may be found in the wild (at least in sentiment) and that a binary choice supporting one or the other of these messages was documented for all our current legislators (freshmen included) in the form of January 6th commission votes.
With our additional dimension of data points collected (sourced from GovTrack), what might the bifurcated ideological spectrum reveal? For our freshmen, the reality with which they associate will have to be our only data point as we await next year's ideology score card. An asterisk is used to denote the absence of a traditional ideology score.
For everyone else, we get two data points: an ideology score in the range of 0.0 through 1.0 (most politically left through most politically right) and a reality association (bubble one or bubble two).
Here is the bifurcated ideology spectrum for sitting United States Senators:
With so many House members, labels were necessarily condensed to districts (and color-coded caucus affiliations were added). Here is the bifurcated ideological spectrum for sitting members of the House of Representatives:
It's the addition of the caucus colors that drew my attention. Look at the caucus groupings when the reality bubbles are viewed in isolation.
Here, in the first reality bubble (a.k.a. Earth One … a.k.a. the Upside Up), we find the two-party system with which we are all familiar (and that the norms-and-precedents crowd still believes to be operational).
What might we find in the inverted reality bubble?
A sea of red. A one-party system. If you, too, were captivated by the size of the flames being emitted by that 2020 dumpster fire … something just audibly clicked between your eardrums.
What might a map of these United States look like were reality associations under consideration? Well I set out to make one … and kinda haven't stopped making them. Let's look at a handful (the whole collection (more or less) may be found here).
Understanding our bifurcation into dual realities does not, in itself, bring any understanding as to how we might halt the societal devolution we are witnessing as its consequence.
I would postulate, however, that a failure to understand prohibits any such solutions from being brought forth.