“Twenty-first Century Minds: A Guide for Future Historians”
Cultural observations on contemporary American commentators, who shaped the spirit of the times.
©2019 By Darryl John Kennedy
I have spent much of my life overseas, and have studied diverse cultures, as a composer and independent cultural ambassador. I share an American viewpoint, however, with a more detached global view. The following individuals are culturally interesting, as they exemplify leaders in contemporary American media thought. Many of their philosophical approaches and opinions might be dismissed, for example, in China, Nigeria or Turkey. They are all of American types.
They have a certain intellectual cohesion in describing human endeavors, which I found similar. My observations should not be interpreted as a critique or endorsement of these people, their politics, or their accomplishments. Although there are others in the media, whom some would consider more culturally interesting, I found many to be too involved with their career aspirations, political loyalty, or were not open-minded to opposing viewpoints. Those individuals, whom I chose, were fiercely outspoken, and not usually caught in their own dogma. They are, as we all are, prone to regrettable misstatement.
As an alchemist, I view them through a soft human luminescence, much like a pilot looking at the landscape below, without any specific focus. Therefore, any attempt for readers to cherry-pick derogatory soundbites, spoken by any of these individuals, to prove defects in their character, as a way to attack my global observations, is repugnant to reason. These particular Americans all exemplify an Emersonian intellectual self-reliance, making them culturally divisive. I view them as modern American Neo-Platonists. They are analyzed, and each described, as a cultural phenomenon within contemporary American discourse. As the Romans described the spirit of their times, I have also attempted to provide readers in the future a better understanding of our raison d’être in the Twenty-First Century. In this way, future historians might better understand the crumbling world in which we lived, and how humanity allowed it to happen.
This month I chose: Bill Maher, Tucker Carlson and Ted Koppel. I will be adding to this list regularly.
Bill Maher is a man of Epicurean design, whose perceptions sometimes border on the profane. His comedic approach is alchemic in nature, blending juxtapositions of verbal ambiguity, sexual overtones, philosophical and historical relevance, with political interpretations, into a focused context of humor. It is exposé in nature. Powerful financial influences usually despise such inquisitive boldness, and attempt to suppress controversial ideas in these kinds of individuals. Although his speech may sometimes include the vulgar, his accomplished skill at the craft of comedy, is not.
His guests often provide a launching pad for Maher to ignite his insights. At times, they reveal their hidden agendas which, although he might agree with emotionally, he despises intellectually, as he sees the fallacies in their arguments. His recent decision to tone down rhetoric against the President, as it could inflame civil unrest, is an example of his rising above the dogma of his followers.
He tries to show a willingness to support a political ideology, which, at the pragmatic level, may solve immediate issues, yet cannot redefine exactly, what a non-conformist’s proper code of conduct might look like in a long-term, Americana-geopolitical reality. He has the intuitive ability to uncover cross-references into human nature, through the lens of today’s society. He typically uses traditional and predictable methods of comedic tactics for response. When he debases language for entertainment support acceptance, he loses logistical and ethical credibility. When he searches morally within, to hyperbolically describe the ambiguity of today’s “Brave New World,” through a higher categorical imperative, he is credible and at his best. It is then, that he can, like few others, express the complex and intellectually profound, with piercing humor and devastating eloquence.
Tucker Carlson’s character seems to stem from a childlike curiosity, which gives him a youthful image, regardless of his age. He begins discussions, frequently, with a “some people say” type dialogue, to lay a foundation on which to build his interpretation of beliefs. It is Aristotelian in approach; induction is his preferred method for attainment of truth. When confronted with different paradigms of human experience, he is sometimes confounded, as guests frequently debate through emotional character justification. He sees this as a false threat to his argument, yet some of his guests win points emotionally, through misinterpretations from his audience. The nature of live television does not permit time for logical rebuttal, forcing him to rely on utilizing emotional tactics, which he despises, as it makes him feel he has lowered his intellectual acumen. This is his Achilles’ heel, as he does not easily adapt to nonconformity.
When traditional values and proper historical conduct are paramount, or a recognition of Americana is necessary, he is a force to be reckoned with, as his strong patriotism is never in question. When psychological norms are ambiguous, he is vulnerable, and out of his element. He quickly shoots for a defined moral high-ground, which he naturally misses, as that mystical target is quickly dancing in a politically correct, “Twenty-first Century” sociological construct. When at his best, he can unleash a verbal sword, which ruthlessly cuts away the ridiculous and nonsensical. He values superior character over intellect. Some view him as conservative, but that might be inaccurate. His kind is more related to discovering a redefinition of what is proper in a moving humanistic environment. He creates closing statements, which are synergistically heart-felt, intellectually defined and, many times, ethically self-evident. Therefore, his summaries can be thought-provoking, and impossible to dismiss.
Ted Koppel is an American icon of journalism. His “Nightline” talent lies in the ability to grasp the complexities of news, and filter stories into a layman’s connotation. He is a wordsmith of ruthless accuracy. The vernacular of ammunition in Ted’s quiver of English, is targeted and fired with the slow steadiness of a sharpshooter. For an interviewee, to assume that Ted’s slow, and quiet demeanor is a reflection of intellectual hesitation, will find it to be a death sentence imposed on the guest’s mental fire-power. Ted’s questions are frequently the best moves on a chessboard of inquisition. He controls the interview, as if being an honest referee. He allows the guest to dive into the abyss of ego-gratification, whereupon Koppel attacks the argument’s flank, and, through an intellectual envelopment, forces the dogma of the guest into resigning before checkmate.
As a transitory stoic, with fifty years in the industry, he’s become a “Seneca of Soundbites.” Therefore, his vulnerability is the coming to terms with a new liberal news flux, where definitions of journalism are at the whim of a Twitter feed. When terms of engagement like these are not agreed upon, Koppel is a wounded messenger, as his expertise is not accepted as fact, in today’s Orwellian society. When, at his best, he reminds us of the paternal soothsayer, who, given his worldly travels, journalistic awards, and sophisticated eloquence, shames contemporary society into cultural mediocrity.
Darryl John Kennedy is an American composer and multi-instrumentalist, who performs in concert and on recordings throughout the world. He’s a traveler to over 50 countries and student of numerous languages. Kennedy also travels the world as an independent cultural ambassador, and has been an invited keynote speaker, as an expert on cultural relations to organizations, including the United Nations / Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, World Affairs Council of America, National Council of International Visitors, University of California, Los Angeles, Public Relations Society of America, and has worked independently in cooperation with the US State Department’s Educational and Cultural Affairs, Citizens Exchange, and US Embassies. As an Independent, he has no affiliation with any political party. He speaks as a well-traveled American.