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How in the world did we get here?

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By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Just go back 25 years with me. For some of you, the under 30 crowd, that seems long ago. If you are my age, 73, it barely seems like yesterday.

So, I have taken you back to 1998. We had only one scandal-laden politician then, Bill Clinton. Everyone knew their gender. The national debt was “only” $5.5 trillion (vs. $34.5 trillion  – and rapidly increasing today). The climate seemed just fine. Of course, you took the SAT or ACT to be admitted to college. And if you had college debt, you knew you had to pay it off. 

The internet and websites existed, but were primarily for business uses. Cell phones existed, but were of the flip-phone variety, and none of them had cameras.

Today, we are facing a presidential election with two candidates that couldn’t have gotten on the stage back then. They are both too old, yet just this past week, they both won their respective primary contests. One is under indictment, and the other one likely should be.

In those days, we thought we could trust the news. Today, the news is indistinguishable from the page where this column will end up – the Opinion Page.  

Today, we are collectively running around with our hair on fire. It is hard to believe that conditions could have deteriorated so far so fast.

What caused this?

For all my adult life, I have been quoting the Canadian media philosopher, Marshall McLuhan, who titled one of his books, “The Medium is the Message.” Quite an insight – he wrote this in the 1960s.

Today, the medium is all around us. The medium is dirt cheap, and we fill it with even cheaper content.  

A hapless, innocent young man stopped by our house the other evening. He had on a shirt that said “GPB” on it and was soliciting contributions for that organization, which happens to be Georgia Public Broadcasting. I was fairly nice, but likely confused him.  

My salutation was, “Oh, Georgia Propaganda Broadcasting.” I let him state his business. Then I told him that 60 years ago, when we had three commercial television stations, it probably made sense to have public television. However, today, when there are more ways to deliver content to my home than I can comprehend or count, public broadcasting is as inefficient and useless as Amtrak. I feel the same way about NPR – National Propaganda Radio.

(Sidetrack about Amtrak. I recently checked the schedule from Atlanta to Chicago – 36 hours one way and costlier than an airplane.)  

The poor kid was probably born around 2008 or earlier, and left mumbling about the crazy old man he had just encountered.

I do think the easy and cheap media delivered to us each day has a lot to do with our hair on fire condition.

So does our lack of a willingness to work a real week – and Bernie Sanders just proposed dropping the work week to 32 hours while leaving pay the same. More time to get in trouble.

These are the reasons why we are running around with our hair on fire.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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••• Publisher's note: A free press is critical to having well-informed voters and citizens. While some news organizations opt for paid websites or costly paywalls, The Highland County Press has maintained a free newspaper and website for the last 25 years for our community. If you would like to contribute to this service, it would be greatly appreciated. Donations may be made to: The Highland County Press, P.O. Box 849, Hillsboro, Ohio 45133. Please include "for website" on the memo line.


Matthew (not verified)

20 March 2024

Jim, I gave that hapless, innocent young man 50 bucks and the t-shirt to go knock on your door. He forgot to hit record on his smart phone, so he didn't get the other 50 bucks.

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