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Who controls your bandwidth?

January 31, 2017

During the Reagan years, we were treated to “Dense Pack,” a proposed solution to dealing with the threat of incoming Soviet ICBMs. This quote from the above Wikipedia link gives a brief description

“According to the Dense Pack strategy, a series of ten to twelve hardened silos would be grouped closely together in a line. This line of silos would generally run north-to-south, as the primary flight path for Soviet inbound nuclear missiles would be expected to come from the north over the North Pole. The rationale for this thinking went like this: As the first inbound warhead detonates over its target silo, it would throw a large cloud of debris over the entire missile field. Every other warhead targeted on that missile field would have to travel through that debris cloud to reach its target, and it was theorized that the act of traveling through that debris cloud would “trash” the warhead before it could detonate. Every successful explosion over the missile field would throw more debris up into the air, increasing the chances that each successive warhead would be destroyed before it could trigger. Due to the hardened nature of the missile silos, the military believed that the silos could be destroyed only by a direct hit from a nuclear warhead; warhead air bursts were believed to be ineffective to the task of penetrating the armored silos, as were any “near-miss” ground bursts that might occur from an inaccurate ballistic trajectory. The strategy was mentioned in a speech by President Ronald Reagan in 1982.”

Dense Pack was never implemented. The idea, the theory, however, is useful for examining today’s political climate. Back in 2014, PJ Media published an article that relied upon Dense Pack to explain a series of scandals, or issues depending on your political leanings, during the Obama years. The idea was that if there were enough scandals, if enough things came to light in rapid succession, no one critical of the Obama Administration would be able to focus on a single thing, thus overwhelming their ability to mount an effective attack. It’s an interesting, if cynical, idea.

Segue to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has, in just over a single week, aroused an amazing amount of controversy. The internet, especially social media, is awash with rumors, allegations and strongly worded (and often fact-deficient) statements of opposition. From a Dense Pack perspective, it’s rapidly reaching the point of being too much for his opponents to cover. Instead of picking a target they have, thus far, tried to go after everything.

This is not limited to the US. Nope. There have been anti-Trump marches in many parts of Europe, too. From a Dense Pack perspective, this has to be like receiving a late Christmas present, if you’re a candidate like French populist, Marine Le Pen. She could, perhaps, be elected in part because people in Europe, like many in the US, are caught up in anti-Trump hype.

All of which brings us to bandwidth.

I have written, previously, about the Left’s meltdown over Trump’s use of social media, especially Twitter. They are, I believe, reeling from both the election and Trump’s ability to dominate what they had thought was largely their exclusive playground and bully pulpit. I also think I overlooked something.

A man whose opinion I value (and who despises Donald Trump as much as he does Hillary Clinton) shared his thoughts with me (paraphrase follows).

“Everything Trump does gets reported. He tweets everything. He’s been busy doing a lot in his first week and the Left is losing its collective mind. I didn’t really understand the implications of this until someone explained Dense Pack Theory to me. The Left forgets that Trump surely has computer people working for him. See, most leftist computer geeks think of the internet, including social media, as primarily a social or psychological thing. Some rightist computer geeks recognize it is also a practical or physical thing. Electrons are real, physical things. In terms of the internet and social media, they can only do one thing at a time. Bandwidth is limited. What Trump has done, so far, is determine what people, especially his opponents, do with their bandwidth. They’re bouncing all over, flitting from this Trump outrage to that one, never able to focus on a single thing, but filling up their bandwidth. He’s playing them now just like he did before the primaries and again going into the general election. And they either can’t see it or refuse to admit it.”

I had never considered Trump’s actions in terms of Dense Pack Theory and the physical nature of the internet. It makes sense, though. Here is a man, who at least as far back as the 1980s, indicated he’d really like to be President. Unburdened by traditional political baggage, he has had decades to watch politics. He’s had years to ponder questions like what might happen if a sitting President promises “no new taxes” and then raises even one of them. He can ask how a junior senator with no real political history manages to become President of the United States. So many questions and the freedom to answer them from the perspective of someone not immersed in traditional politics. And he has arguably come up with some answers. That they have worked thus far is indisputable. Whether those answers will continue to serve him well, and whether they will serve the nation well, remains to be seen.


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  1. Good points all, we were talking about that very thing at dinner the other night. He’s got them stumbling around trying to react to his posts, rather than actually doing any real reporting. The best analogy I can come up with is that he’s doing the old slight of hand. While they’re watching his right hand (tweets), his left (EO’s, appointments, etc.) are moving through Congress.

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