Journalists on the Trend-spotting beat are always searching for questions, facts, or fads that indicate a quick and significant shift in the national cultural scene has begun. When a new man is sworn in as America's President, that usually unleashes a tsunami of journalistic pontification about how henceforth things will be different, accompanied by sanctimonious efforts to make specific predictions.
Sometimes such a trend-spotting story displays a remarkable level of accuracy such as the time in 1943 when New York-based media (and Newsweek in particular?) focused their attention on some innovations being scored by local jazz musicians, such as Charlie "Bird" Parker. Perhaps the most notable examples of accuracy in trend-spotting can be tarnished by allegations of the "self-fulfilling prophecy" kind. Look at the incredulity that greeted the simultaneous cover articles done by Time and Newsweek on the then obscure musician named Bruce Springsteen.
Close counts in certain endeavors such as pitching horseshoes, hand grenades, and (as some curmudgeons maintain) love, but it has no validity when it comes to trend-spotting.
To illustrate the point -- back in the late 60's, a buddy and I went out on a reconnaissance "bird watching" mission. (Back then young ladies were yclept "birds.") In the process, we went to a night club that was popular with the college crowd. In a moment of quiet reflection (Schaeffer's is the one beer to have, when you're having more than one), I focused my attention on the band and was struck by the thought that the young folks were so intent on the "body exchange" aspect of the place, that they seemed oblivious to the possibility that they could be ignoring a band destined for greatness.
Did the young folks in Liverpool's Cavern Club focus on the potential of the house band, or were they concentrating their attention on the mating rituals of the human species? Could it be, we wondered, that the young people in that Jersey bar were overlooking a band with the potential to sell out arena venues?
The place where we had that thought, we later learned, was the very same place (the Erlton Bowl in Cherry Hill) where Bruce Springsteen and his band worked for years as the house band and polished their musical skills. Were they the band that inspired a comparison to the Beatles? Maybe, but it could also be that Springsteen & Co. got their gig at that place the week after we were there. We'll never know how close we came to being a few years ahead of Time and Newsweek in their admiration for Springsteen.
The inciting incident for this maudlin example of "wallowing in nostalgia" was a question about the concept of "point of no return." I first encountered that notion when the John Wayne movie "The High and the Mighty" was released.
Some car-crash victims have reported that the event seemed to have taken place in "slow-motion." If that is true, isn't there a second in time where thing snap into focus? Isn't there one particular moment when the mouse's perception of the cheese instantly morphs from seeing it as a desirable, easily accessible reward to realizing that it is a parcel of treacherous bait that has been used for an ambush? Some mice may never have enough time to appreciate the St. Paul's moment. But a smarter, more observant mouse may have a blitzkrieg quick moment where he (or she) can (to steal a line from W. C. Fields) take the bull by the tail and face the situation. The mouse notices that things have become unmanageable and that "this isn't going to end well." The cheese doesn't move, but the mouse's perception of it does.
I am not the only American who has been fascinated by the history of the Third Reich. Didn't "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" make the best seller lists when it was published? Our (apparently autographed by the author) copy of the English translation of Klaus Hildebrand's book "the Foreign Policy of the Third Reich" indicates that we aren't alone in regard to an interest in that academic topic.
About a year ago, while savoring a hot white chocolate drink at the Cow's End Cafe in the Venice Section of Los Angeles, we started chatting with one of the locals. When he was informed that we write for this website, he became antagonistic in his attitude about America's first President of Pan-African heritage and eventually we counter-attacked with an allegation that the Republican playbook relied entirely on concepts plagiarized from "Mein Kampf." That incensed the fellow and he challenged our basis for making that comparison -- "Have you read it?" When we said "yes," he resigned the game, snarling that his personal ethics dictated that he couldn't hold a conversation with anyone who had read that book. Republicans, it seems, only wish to debate people who are not well informed about the topic to be discussed.]
Initially, approval in Germany for Herr Hitler was sufficient to give him a basis for an attempt to form a coalition government. Thanks to some subsequent tricky political maneuvers, the influence of his party grew. Ultimately, Hitler's approval ratings plummeted in early 1945. We have often wondered -- at what point did the German people have their "Mousetrap Moment Epiphany"?
The teabaggers are steeped in unqualified admiration for the Republican agenda. Will they ever experience a "Mousetrap Moment"?
Have you noticed that lately all the Republicans are calling the USA a Republic and not a Democracy? What's the difference? Does it matter? Will that subtle bit of semantics provide the basis for a teabag party mousetrap moment some time in the future?
Some curmudgeonly pundits are making dire predictions that the USA will follow the German path to national disgrace. If They are accurate in their trend-spotting prognostications, then the Americans will, like the Germans, have a Mousetrap Moment when the majority (some party stalwarts will be enthusiastic about using the cyanide pill) of Americans will have a change of heart about the Republican stealth efforts to scrap the Social Security program and cater only to the welfare needs of the super-rich.
What small (relatively unnoticed) bit of contemporary American culture will future historians say marked the turning point? Will it be the fact that Bill O'Reilly lost his radio show? Will it be the slide in Glenn Beck's numbers? Will it be the contemporary spin that denied that President Reagan was suffering from dementia? (Didn't the Wall Street Journal run a feature story about emphatic denials being a symptom of guilt, just before the O. J. trial began?) Will it be something that Rush lies about too blatantly?
I have been assessed as being out of touch with reality for expressing the opinion that future historians will someday determine that the Mousetrap Moment was when JEB Bush was inaugurated as President in 2013.
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