Political Science as a discipline to me is what the Internet to those Millennials. In the face of Analyzing politics, An Introduction to Political Science by Ellen Grigsby, it is a new chapter for me to step my foot into a new frontier, in every sense of that word, but hopefully, so far, everything has seemed so peaceful when those topics, as well as terms, come into my sight. During my reading in the first and the third chapter, I reached a consensus with Robert Dahl on his point that politics touches everything. Therefore, there is an unstoppable stream full of instant questions popped out of my mind, for example, what are the goals of the political science, does corruption necessarily comes with power, or can I identify Syria on a map without a blink? Also, there’s a lot of simultaneous memory flash-back in the midst of my reading between the lines when it comes to topics concerning power. In April 2017, Trump’s government launched a military strike on a Syrian government airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack. When force merely serves force as its only purpose, personally, that’s no other than a rape without any white lies.
It is impossible to think straight about power without talking about George Orwell, especially when he was trapped in a had-to situation and seemingly forced to shoot an elephant afterward. His story reveals the reactional force of power, which can perfectly mirror the common sense with Newton’s theory of universal gravitation. Those texts covered in Chapter Three, also remind me of the story told by Shirley Jackson in her short story “The Lottery,” and the article titled “You Say Begin, I Say Commence -To the Victor Belongs the Language” by Rita Mae Brown. Those two women writers, with courage, unfolded a real power territory as they witnessed and brewed a sense of challenge to the abyss of power, trying to wake up people on their pilgrimage towards the so-called “dream power.” Sometimes, however, telling too much information means nothing told at all. The most attractive puzzle to me is the “Rubio and the Age-of-Earth Question” case on November 19, 2012.
The age of the Earth, so far, has been kept in suspense until today, but the fact that Senator Rubio’s response made headlines is more than evident. Why did such a “gotcha” question set off a wave of public criticism as a big deal? Is mass media that powerful to make a difference, and how about those potential side effects? Based on my reading and comprehension, I will try my best to observe power from different perspectives and outline the power-shift mechanism behind the “Rubio and the Age-of-Earth Question” case.
“How old do you think the Earth is?”
It quite makes sense if you are having a science class and come across this or a similar question. In 2012, Michael Hainey, the deputy editor of GQ magazine posed that question to Marco Rubio, a U.S. senator who sits on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Before diving into Rubio’s response, if you were him and there, what would be your answer?
To be honest, as much as I can, I have no idea about that question, and I might say I am sorry, but I do not know. Apparently, the point of this trick question is not about the scientific and correct answer, but how to avoid the edge of the unknown with a detour strategy so as to deliver a satisfying voice. Because civilians have some positive expectations for Senator Rubio, when he failed, they booed.
With Power Comes Volition
Power serves volitions and vice versa. Everyone has a fantasy in power now and then, mostly because their wishful minds convince them that power is so dominant that it can help achieve their great expectations, usually in a not-have-to-work-so-hard way. According to etymology online dictionary by Douglas Harper, in c.1300, power stood for “strength, vigor, might, especially in battle” (Harper 2018). Undoubtedly, such power is always dominated by leaders or lords in their communities and kingdoms. Even in today’s political empires, the charm of power stills works while many politicians and civilians are crazy about it, and they all hold different motives. Different from the ancient time, power in the modern world can be shifted both theoretically and technically in a very peaceful and silent way, in which sometimes the government wins, and sometimes not.
In Rubio’s case, as a member of the authority with power, when he gave a powerless answer, and people did not buy it, chances were that power became easily taken over. That is where the media’s story begins.
The top 5 results on Google after searching Rubio’s case are remarked with negative reflections, which to some extent has been fierce to Rubio’s political career since 2012. In other words, when the mass media took the lead and took over the power to spread news, their volition becomes super sturdy, and as readers accordingly, we should be cautious. In Joshua Swamidass’s article “Rubio and the Age-of-Earth Question” published in the Wall Street Journal in November 2012, for example, he pointed at least two loopholes in Rubio’s speech very logically, which is enough with a silent force to persuade or perhaps manipulate some readers to believe it that way. Although Joshua’s article did not include Rubio’s whole conversation but became the most influential report on this case among others, for he put more strength on detailed argumentation against Rubio’s viewpoints and named it Rubio’s words as the rejection of evolution (Swamidass, 2012), which I show my respect a lot.
Power can be harmless, but power points hurt. Rubio’s answer at the same time was framed as part of the Republican “war on science,” and the most relatable name rings my bell is Star Wars. The peak of this debate has shown its cheek, and it is a war between those political or non-political parties. Again, as Dahl once said, politics touches everything. (Dahl, 1969) Behind the headlines, there are blended powers and complicated situations. This way, I start to believe, political science is not about right or wrong, but more about old and new. Politicians come and go, but their volitions stay alive. Joshua’s volition is to criticize Rubio’s answer and defend the truth with the power he can reach out with his best, but the scale of political rhetoric is another story.
With Power Comes Violation
If we see the political rhetoric on newspapers in Rubio’s case as a sort of violation to the power, it is the prestige imaged by United States Congress that was challenged. It is known to us all that where there is a villain there shows up the rebellion. By the same token, can the violation of power be escapable? My answer is No. As following is a diagram to help me illustrate my reasons.
The diagram above may seem non-sense and straightforward, but I draw this with my interpretation of Aristotle’s saying that reads “we are political creatures.” Regarding what I have known about human for at least 20 years, they cannot get enough of making rules or laws, believe it or not. Ironically, most of them are rule breakers, maybe which can be attributed to the spirit of adventures. Also, this way, people tend to show less tolerance to Rubio’s answers than it was supposed to be because of their attitudes no matter which shows respect or disrespect to the current game rules.
Nowadays, civilized people with prestigious social statues are more likely to pursue their power through peaceful methods. For instance, people working in the mass media industry persuade readers with their magic skills of compelling discourses. The communication model issued by Harold Lasswell describes an act of communication by defining who said it, what was said, in what channel it was said, to whom it was said, and with what effect it was said. (Lasswell, 1948) Reports concerning Rubio’s interview can be far-reaching enough to generate a chain reaction. Most people believe that Rubio’s presidential prospect was severely plagued by his comments on the age of the Earth. I wouldn’t agree that Rubio’s case is a witch hunt, but it is a lesson that every individual can learn something. Below is Rubio’s reply to the question of the age of the Earth.
“I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created, and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.” (Hainey et al., 2012) To be frank, I feel unconvincing with his sentence patterns and structures, and I doubt everyone would like this tone and style with a series of simple positive and negative sentence structures. Media is like a hurricane; when they get a source, they will work hard on it until disruptive.
With Power Comes Victory
Most people may think power is the final destination, but as far as I am concerned, power is like a tool, which helps its owners to succeed in their ambitions. Rubio owns power, or at least his identity represents the power in one way or another, but he lost his battle in this case. As to mass media, however, hold the public rhetoric and rise it to a peak where people realized their power to make a difference in the community.
Then, who is the winner of this power race? Most, in this case, misled readers to concentrate on the age of the earth and decorated the whole thing as if a scientific debate, where experts and non-experts cared about our planet. The volition of such power behind the mass media is more than education but tells a mechanism about the flow of power, which I believe is called manipulation, an advanced variant of power control that beyond most people’s surveillance. Usually, it is impossible for us to track or prove it when we are currently experiencing the event, but with the zoom of time and space, everything will be crystal and revealing. Again, when you read these kinds of stories now or later, the mass media is almost the only service and window you can rely on.
As there is no way to escape from power, the mass media industry has nowhere to hide from the suspect of manipulation since recent history has demonstrated that social media has a very powerful impact on politics and its scope continues to broaden as the actors on the political stage discover new manners in which this valuable tool can sway opinions, trends, options and, most importantly, votes (MATEI, 2016). Is there any way for us to tell when the power is cloaked? If there is a solution to such puzzles, I won’t buy it because I know with volition comes power, and power blindfolds eyes of those innocent and even immoral, which sound like the tragedy of political science.
- Dahl, R. (1969) Two Hundred Million Americans in Search of a Government. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. p. 4, for a discussion of the university of politics and political institutes.
- Hainey, M., & Riedel, J. (2012, November 19). All Eyes on Him. Retrieved from https://www.gq.com/story/marco-rubio-interview-gq-december-2012
- Lasswell, Harold (1948). Bryson, L., ed. The Structure and Function of Communication in Society. The Communication of Ideas. New York: Institute for Religious and Social Studies. p. 117.
- MATEI, M. (2016). Social Media in Politics. Case Studies on the Political Power of Social Media. Bulletin of The Transilvania University of Brasov, Series IV: Philology & Cultural Studies, 9(2), 143-148.
- Swamidass, S. J. (2012, November 30). Rubio and the Age-of-Earth Question. Wall Street Journal - Eastern Edition. p. A13.