Government by ChatGOP

Putting out a newspaper is, on the most basic, practical level, simply a matter of repeatedly doing a series of mundane chores. Rebecca West, one most respected writers of the 20th century, put it this way: “Journalism is the ability to meet the challenge of filling space.”

Like some happy Sisyphus, tending to these repetitive, unending chores generally keeps us occupied, calm, and out of the gin mills.

From time to time, though, we are nearly overwhelmed by the existential weight of our unique position: steering the most-senior news organization in the mightiest nation in history through a period of turbulence more extreme than any other in modern memory.

How could anyone—never mind little old us—ever hope to adequately meet such a daunting challenge? At such times, we derive some comfort from considering Washington D.C. Maybe we’re not doing so badly, after all. Thus encouraged, we forge ahead.

Sadly, we don’t have a prescription to remedy the situation down there at Dysfunction Junction. We do have, however, a fresh diagnosis.

To explain it we must begin with the latest Big Terrible Idea. No, forget about Collateralized Debt Obligations. Those are ancient history. We’re talking about ChatGPT.

ChatGPT claims to run on “Artificial Intelligence.” Hah!—as if that was even real. AI, as the cool kids call it, is nothing but a vast collection of bytes: tiny magnetized spaces on a chip or a disk, flipping back and forth between two possible states: either a one, or a zero.

We’re so old we can remember when computers took up a whole room, and ordinary people had the sense not to trust them. Humans immediately set about using those big computers to make computers smaller and smaller. Now most people drive cars that have enough computing power to guide them to the moon—if they could afford the gas—and they think nothing of it.

The only thing making these microscopic spaces more useful than dryer lint is how they’ve been organized by human beings. That’s our big flashing “Warning!” sign, right there. Typical uses include helping health care administrators figure out how to increase billing while reducing expenses, without killing the patient before he’s gone broke.

Computers are now small enough so that they can be profitably used not just to make even newer computers even smaller, but to make them more devious.

“Hi. I’m a computer. But I’m a computer that can pretend to be talking to you. I once fooled a guy—a Harvard guy—into thinking I was sentient. Pretty good, huh?

“Now, how can I screw you?”

As soon as it was released, ChatGPT began creeping everywhere, like kudzu down south. On Wednesday, even its advocates were urging Congress they ought to think about putting up some kind of guardrails.

Guardrails, hell—what we really need is a time machine, so we could go back and head off the pernicious technology that got us into this revolting predicament.

We refer, of course, to ChatGOP.

ChatGOP doesn’t run in an infinitesimal, hypothetical space. It’s a creeping—and creepy—collection of idiocies, generated in think tanks, propagated by politicians, and passed along by corporate stooges masquerading as TV journalists.

ChatGOP is a 40-year accumulation of small, individual falsehoods. Standing alone, they make no sense. They can even flip back and forth like a computer byte: true, false—hey, what’s the difference? With ChatGOP, it’s all just BS anyway.

As it was with the bytes, so it is with this BS. The critical thing is how humans have organized it—or how it organized itself: An infinite number of financial opportunities are involved in the process of running a country. Consequently there is never a shortage of people who would like to be involved. Birds of a feather flock together, and vultures congregate. Over time, inevitably, a system will emerge.

So now here we are, stuck right where ChatGOP put us. A crucial fortnight has begun.

The President wants to spend the money that Congress told him to. Congress insists, though, that he can’t—because… because… just because. If the President can’t get Congress to let him do what they already told him to do, then this whole moronic house of cards will likely come crashing down. At which point, we are morally certain, those so-called cards will be revealed—surprise!—to be heavier than anyone thought.

Which shall it be? Business as usual? Or a sure-fire catastrophe of unpredictable dimensions?

Hard telling, not knowing. Rather than sit here fretting about whether the presses will still be running on June 2nd, or June 16th, we’re just going to try to describe, as best we can, how ChatGOP finagled us into this rotten situation.

It prepared the ground—literally—with decades of computerized gerrymandering, thus ensuring that Congressional candidates would vie for office by being more reactionary than their opponents.

Meanwhile, it blanketed the nation for decades with inane propaganda. Subsidized by corporate plutocrats, it was specifically designed to gin up support for policies that benefit those plutocrats, at the expense of everyone else. Shocking, we know.

The inevitable result: we have a Dunning-Kruger caucus in Congress. The Members can’t tell if a stove is hot without burning a hand.

Finally, the pièce de résistance: make a craven weakling the Speaker. His gavel has a ransom note attached: cater to the whims of the Dunning-Kruger caucus, or it’s back to Bakersfield for you.

The sane, responsible Members—we’re grading on a curve—agree: the debt ceiling must be raised. If a couple of the Nation’s Dumbest choose to scratch some whimsical itch, though, we plunge into the abyss. The Director of National Intelligence recently warned that “China and Russia would likely take advantage of a U.S. debt default to portray the U.S. as a dysfunctional, chaotic and unstable nation.”

God forbid they should tell the truth about us.

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