Reveling in my freedom in our Age of Communications Revolution, I found myself rummaging through the bowels of YouTube (best not to say for what). In the process, I discovered an exotic foreign past time: “mudlarking.”
Pursued in a nation purporting to be a United Kingdom, properly licensed royal subjects amble along the banks of the Thames at low tide and scavenge through the aquatic detritus and muck to find historical and literal gold. Usually, though, the mudlarkers cull lesser treasures from the foreshore’s mire—animal bones, buttons, and pipes. (It is unrecorded if they’ve yet found any bongs.)
Yet, in infrequent, fortuitous instances they unearth valuable coins, jewelry, pottery, and other artifacts, some dating back to the Londinium of the Roman era. Thus, despite the preponderance of paltry hauls and the dangerous nature of the Thames’ rising tide and hellacious current, intermittent reinforcement, the hope of enhancing historical knowledge and, perchance, modest remuneration, and the simple, scintillating thrill of the hunt spur the mudlarkers’ quest.
Watching a gaggle of mudlarkers combing through the muck, I experienced déjà vu. I’d seen similar behavior somewhere before, but where . . . ? Then, as a Brit yanked an unexpended World War II bullet from the mud, it hit me like the cannonball another mudlarker stubbed his toe upon.
It was D.C.’s “opposition researchers!” These are the hired bums who sift through the sands of time and sin looking for that golden nugget of “gotcha” to ruin candidacies and careers. And, unlike the nobler mudlarkers trying to enrich the study of history, D.C.’s swamplarkers, delving into the muck to make a buck, are getting fat and sassy mining a motherlode of misinformation.
Well, American politicians and reporters do—lots of money, in fact, for any tawdry bit of innuendo depicting a targeted public figure less favorably than the Antichrist. So, while a mudlarker takes any find that is 300 years or older to the British Museum for analysis (and potential purchase), the swamplarkers’ alleged “finds” need only be fobbed off on an eager outlet for remuneration and recognition to ensue and accrue.
Political smears and negativity aren’t new to American democracy, of course; but in today’s cyber-celebrity journalism, the surest way to raise one’s profile is to increase one’s “hits” by putting one out on a public figure for fun and profit. In sum, the communications revolution has put political smears on steroids; and enabled the swamplarkers’ dirt purge.
Convinced they are safe to mine the mud at a low tide in American public discourse, the swamplarkers dig dirt in search of the first stone they can throw at anyone whose demise speeds their rise—like the tide they, heedless, still refuse to hear from the American people.
The oblivious swamplarkers don’t fathom that the sovereign citizenry loathes the arrogant and incompetent political class that includes the swamplarkers. Heads in their assailing, the swamplarkers don’t see “deplorable” Middle America’s schadenfreude as the Dirt Purge turns on them, claiming pillars of the swamplarking establishment from Washington to New York to Los Angeles.
Like Tom Sawyer, who was happy to idyll away the day watching his gullible friends do his chores for him, the citizenry will stomach the swamplarkers and their Dirt Purge, for it speeds the swamp draining—and, ultimately, the swamplarkers’ own demise.
As for that, all I can say is, “Dig it!”
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