Looking Forward: The coming stupidity

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Tiassa, Jan 18, 2010.

  1. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Something's a bit odd about calling work "specialization".

    My suspicion is of a combination of overwork (commuting and support activity counts) and a (concomitant) degraded sense of responsibility.

    Somewhere along the line people were persuaded that daily, routine politics was something an adult could take or leave, without affecting their self-respect as a responsible adult; that outside of emergencies holding down a good, steady job fulfilled a grown man's role in the world.

    Then the powers that be expanded the influence of work - it encroached.

    It's a deliberate, overt practice, for example, to design and justify public education solely as employment preparation - political preparation is omitted completely. As if it were a hobby.

    This isn't overspecialization, as in focusing too hard on something; it's oversimplification, as in amputating limbs you don't need this week.

    The mystery of events for which reality is excluded from any explanatory role is not mysterious.

    W started without a majority vote, a background of personal skill development, or an adult's intellectual conception of his role, and proceeded to fuck up from there. From a citizen's point of view he did a very bad job of running the executive branch of the government, in every respect, both by incompetence and by bad intention. What needs explaining is not W's unpopularity, but his occasional popularity - the peaks, not the pattern of peaks and valleys.

    He was not a victim of half the country getting steamed from intrinsic moodiness. The half of the country that is "always ready to get steamed" is more like 27%, it is the same identifiable fraction every time, and it supported him throughout.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2010
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  3. countezero Registered Senior Member

    You missed my point entirely. Or you simply used it to launch into another rant. I don't care what you think of W or his policies and I wasn't talking about either. My point was that I believe W would eventually have become unpopular with half the electorate regardless of his obvious fuckups, just the way Clinton did and Obama is. My point is that it may well be that America is so large and so diverse that building major consensus is now impossible, no matter who is in charge.

    I'm not interested in having a debate about the Media, either.

    The fact you single out two issues and complain about coverage does not change the fact that there is more media now and more information stored online about candidates available to more educated people than at any other time in history. We know more about our candidates than the voters who picked Lincoln over Douglas, so blaming it on the information doesn't work for me.

    No shit.

    Again, we are smarter and know more about our candidates than the voters who picked Lincoln over Douglas, so blaming it on the information doesn't work for me.

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  5. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    And my point, counter to yours directly, was that W's unpopularity was of a different kind and had a different cause than Clinton's or now Obama's. You are attempting to remove considerations of actual job performance from "unpopularity", and ascribe it to various irrational factors in a "moody" or otherwise unreasonably fickle public.

    Clinton's unpopularity, such as it was, was due to a concerted political and media assault of lies, slander, and harassment designed to destroy his ability to function as President, damage his Party and other associations, and thereby obtain Republican partisan control of all three branches of government.

    Obama's unpopularity is from similar causes, with racial bigotry added.

    W's unpopularity was and is from so badly performing his duties as President - both symbolic and executive, by both error and intent - that the country was put at serious risk, damaged to the point of crippling, its citizens afflicted with disasters and burdened with hardships for decades to come.

    These differences are not well described as a country unable to reach consensus because it has become too large and diverse. Something else entirely is going on.
    Instead, "moods" and "diversity" are preferred approaches, when pondering causes and effects of the ignorance and irrationality of the American public despite its apparent access to all kinds of information.
    Off hand, I would want to verify that. That might not be true.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2010
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  7. countezero Registered Senior Member

    Whatever, Ice. I made my point. You don't agree. I don't care. I'm not going to debate you about what you think of each of these presidents and deal with your myopia and bias. I see no point in trying to disturb the pattern of your broken record.

    Ignoring the irony there, I ask you to consider the level of education of the country, the access to media and the amount of media. Heck, just look at literacy 100 years ago. I mean, surely, this is something that is rather self-evident?
  8. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Not really

    People don't seem to learn from TV and video, so that apparent source of info is mostly empty - or even damaging. The internet requires curiosity and effort, involvement in difficulties, seeking the alien and interpreting it - that's rare. We are left with books, magazines, and newspapers. And who reads 'em? Sure people can read, in higher percentages, but they don't.

    I would not be a bit surprised to find that in an age of books and readers, in an age of frequent political discussion and larger circles of social life, in an age in which newspapers were hawked outside factory doors and multiple mastheads competed for buyers among the most menial factory hands, in an age in which Lincoln's speeches were sold and read and long letters were welcome and read as carefully as written, in an age in which field hands brought books to read at lunchtime, cigar rollers hired readers to declaim the news and the classics on the factory floor, preachers published their sermons, the eighth grade final exams required the student to calculate mill rates based on property values and expected percentage increases in county expenses,

    that people might have been better informed about their political candidates.

    Partly, I do not see how they could be less informed.
  9. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    This and that

    I might suggest six of one, half-dozen of the other. I'm trying to think of where to start. I mean, the correlation between the Orb of Steven Brust's literary fantasy world of Dragaera and the fact that he once worked as some sort of computer programmer is not lost on me. In the twenty-five or so years of his literary career, the Orb has come, more and more, to resemble a sci-fi computer: a globe of stone that can translate huge amounts of raw energy into practical effects. I think it was Issola (2001) that finally set me on that notion, as out of the seventeen (to date) books pertaining to the Dragaeran Empire, that one includes the most "technical" description of the Orb and its origins.

    Likewise, his parents Bill and Jean, were well-known in Trotskyist cricles for sixty years, and Steven describes himself as a sympathizer of the movement. Class consciousness permeates the Dragaeran novels, emerging overtly as early as Teckla (1987), the third of the twelve novels thus far published in the planned nineteen-book Taltos cycle.

    Habits permeate. That Dragon (1998), for instance, showed off some of what he had learned from recreational study of Civil War letters and journals, and other older, primary documents concerning the art of war, did not obscure his growing expressions of class awareness. Indeed, the novel is a flashback in the timeline, telling a story alluded in asides in, I think, two prior stories. (He does this from time to time; the eleventh book, Jhegaala tells a story first referred to in 1993, even though in Iorich, published earlier this month, his character still lies to everyone about what happened.)

    But I digress. Sort of. A literary examination of twenty-five novels is a bit obscure, but even the 1997 epistemological Freedom & Necessity, written with Emma Bull, couldn't purge his leftist commentary from future works, and Friedrich Engels appears in that one as a character.

    With more mundane labors, the same is often true. It's just rarely so accessibly displayed. But I've never known a lawyer who could give their kid a simple answer to a question of principle. My own father, once upon a time, was a biology and phys ed. teacher, as well as a football coach; even well into his years as a salesman, retail manager, and, eventually, manufacturing business owner, it was always frustrating to learn something from him, as his form of instruction sounded like a teacher and followed a coaching-style regimen.

    My brother writes XHTML for a hardware firm, and often forgets that not everyone knows markup. A good friend is a structural engineer for an aviation company, and there isn't a damn thing in the world he looks out without trying to figure and discuss how it works.

    Me? I'm an artist and philosopher; we see the results of that even in this post.

    What people do regularly or habitually doesn't just shut off because they're nt about that particular activity. A friend of mine who works for Microsoft, back when Vista was still in development, would tell me how great the OS was going to be when it got to market. And when I would ask about his projection of the end user experience, he would always and exclusively reply by telling me how great it was for software developers. Sounds great, but I'm not a developer, so things like the reduced number of some sort of tag a programmer had to set had no real effect on me. For all the people I know in software, not a one of them has yet explained to me why it's the twenty-first century and reading text from a Windows machine is so painful.

    And all of that comes around to—

    —the idea that if we habitually "amputate", such as it is, we demonstrate over time reduced reliance on and familiarity with the functions we don't use.

    My mother worked for almost thirty years in the pharmaceutical field. This is enormously helpful to me in matters of pharmacology. She can give me detailed explanations of why a particular drug trial went bad, or why a criticism of a pharmaceutical study misses the point. But in issues of conscience, she is exceptionally vague. It's not that I don't get why she still goes to church, or has the conscience she does, but her explanations of perspective in such issues are, comparatively, exceptionally simplistic. My former girlfriend can tell me much about cooking, or the inner workings of the foodservice industry, but she couldn't give a coherent explanation of why she bought a Glenn Beck book.

    Additionally, in terms of specialization, I would again contrast the notion with the idea of a well-rounded education:

    I'm not sure what happened to that portion of a young person's education called "civics". I went to a Catholic high school and graduated in 1991; I had civics classes, albeit by different names. Yet, once I moved to Oregon, I heard nothing about civics. Indeed, I was puzzled by the constant debate over journeyman programs in the high schools. And after a political disaster in Oregon recalled vaguely by its ballot name—Measure 5—the state spent years arguing over accountability in schools and so forth, and one of the results was an increasing focus on preparation for the job market. Not college, not a well-rounded education, but vocational focus. When I moved back north several years later, it was much the same in Washington state, albeit without the journeyman cards; we still reserve that sort of thing to voc-tech schools.

    I might go so far as to suggest that the justification of public education as employment preparation is a fairly recent compression of the argument; public education in the U.S. has always been about preparing one to be a citizen, but as we focused more and more on production and economy, so also did we focus our sense of duty.

    And look at our political arena today. The idea that one should have a clue what they are talking about in order to be taken seriously is nearly anathema. If we don't take bullshit seriously, we're oppressing someone and violating their free speech.

    I mean, come on. We are still, somehow, expected to take Sarah Palin seriously.

    • • •​

    But what are we smarter about? Knowing more about, say, physics than our nineteenth-century forebears doesn't necessarily translate to an understanding of politics, history, psychology, religion, &c.

    Insofar as we consider the impact of information availability, I think it has an effect. It's a lot easier today for the average citizen to read through a Supreme Court decision, or a proposed bill, than it was even twenty years ago.

    At the same time, there is a lot coming from all over the political spectrum that you or I might denounce as propaganda. Quite clearly, this has tremendous influence, as the Dittohead and Tea Party movements suggest. But, at the same time, if this sort of increased influence isn't counterbalanced by an increased familiarity with real facts, what is the outcome?

    I don't have to remind you that I'm a leftist. But I would remind, in general—because people often overlook this aspect—that I'm very familiar with vociferous propaganda. While it's puzzling to me that what was anathema coming from the left is somehow respectable coming from the right—and we can set that bemusement aside for the moment—I'm very much familiar with the rhetorical devices used by Limbaugh, Palin, and other high-profile hardliners. Hell, I had a subscription to Workers' Vanguard (Spartacist League), and still read WSWS (ICFI) from time to time.

    If, for instance, one relies solely on the partisan propaganda, they might be outraged at the American government for "blocking relief efforts in Haiti". But if one does even basic research, anything more useful than just nodding and thrusting a fist in the air to condemn the imperialist Americans, one sees that "blocking relief efforts" is an editorial posture; even reading through the WSWS article, it becomes clear that the American effort to "block relief efforts" is nothing more than the fact that, despite our best intentions, there is no such thing as sorcery, and thus we cannot magically make everything that needs to happen occur at once.

    Perhaps if "news" outlets weren't desperate commercial ventures, and thus the people getting more reliable information at the outset, the effects of people's lack of further research about issues would be comparatively mitigated to some significant degree. But as long as the information people do get is tainted like it is, the failure to better exploit the tremendous information availability we enjoy will continue to contribute to the decay of our civic processes.


    "Steven Brust". Wikipedia. January 14, 2010. Wikipedia.com. January 21, 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Brust

    "Ten years since the death of Jean Brust, veteran Trotskyist". World Socialist Web Site. November 26, 2007. WSWS.org. January 21, 2010. http://www.wsws.org/articles/2007/nov2007/jean-n26.shtml

    Lantier, Alex. "US military operations block relief efforts in Haiti". World Socialist Web Site. January 21, 2010. WSWS.org. January 21, 2010. http://wsws.org/articles/2010/jan2010/hait-j21.shtml
  10. countezero Registered Senior Member

    So you're really going to argue that voters in the 19th century knew more, had access to more information and were more intelligent voters? I think that's an indefensible position...

    You mean people don't reach the same conclusions you do, so there is a problem?

    More books, newspapers and magazines exist now than at any other time in history. Somebody is reading them, Ice. So once again, reality makes a mockery of your argument.

    Whatever, Ice.


    I think propaganda and partisanship were worse in the 19th century, when you had papers owned by politicians essentially towing the party line and the majority of commentary -- ie pamplets -- was even more biased and one-sided than it is today. If you look above, Ice cites them as some sort of "education," when in fact many of the sermons and papers were just party drivel, written to incite and castigate (read real examples some time).

    Are you actually denouncing WSWS? That's Ice's favorite site! And I would have thought yours?

    But partisan propaganda is what it is -- no matter what era we are dealing with. I caught a few minutes of Maddow last night, whom you have cited before, and was disgusted. She used a non-issue (a drone over Haiti flown by a corp that might have CIA ties) as the basis for an entire segment that bashed private security firms, largely for their involvement in Iraq and elsewhere, and in doing so, recycled the sort of inane anti-imperial motifs that I recently saw Chavez espouse. If she wanted to bash them (and I am no big support of them, either), then she should have used a context that actually mattered, rather than speculate and link things and make suggestions that play on the fringe's fears and stupid biases. But that is not her aim. Like all TV presenters, she wants to get you outraged, and so the more coal she can throw in the fire the better.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2010
  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    No. Nothing about access, nothing about intelligence, do try to follow the argument.
    That isn't true in percentage terms, for newspapers and political magazines - or books properly counted.

    It looks like a lower percentage of voters is reading them, a lower percentage of them contains serious political information, and a lower percentage of them is being read.
    I mean most people seem almost completely uninformed about their political candidates, major issues, and recent history - even without subtracting the mis-information, which should go on the ledger as a negative quantity.

    I mean that the political rhetoric and arguments found in mass circulation in the past, the presentations intended to garner votes from regular folks, seem often more complex and presume a broader base of knowledge than the modern ones. Compare Lincoln/Douglas with Bush/Kerry transcripts.
    But there was a lot of variety, different points of view were actually present in people's field of attention, common knowledge was presumed that is now presumably absent (apparently you can take advantage of its absence with confidence).

    Biased and one-sided is not the same as uninformative or uninformed.

    I've never been to it.
  12. countezero Registered Senior Member

    Did you miss the question mark in my statement?

    That denotes I was asking you something, but apparently, in a rush to be snide and behave like an asshole, you've chosen to ignore it. But then, you don't answer questions, do you?

    OK, this has been fun, but we've entered the realm of utter speculation on everyone's part, including mine. I think it's time we both either cough up numbers or shutup.

    I think something is fairly obvious, but as usual, you are disagreeing and arguing for an alternate reality. There are more people reading more material now, which you seem to accept, but you've sidetracked into an argument about the percentage of people? Come on, you have nothing to base that on and I'm at a loss how it's even relevant.

    I don't think that changes. I think it's an argument of degree.

    I think that's because 19th century candidates were appealing to a smaller pool of voters (no blacks and women in Lincoln and Douglas, example). As a whole, the voters they were seeking out might have been better educated and wealthier than today's pool, but they had problematic media sources that cannot compete with the wealth of information available nowadays to a kid who goes to his school's computer lab.

    It informs you of a viewpoint, little else...

    Oh, sorry. It's the other socialist bullshit you cite. My mistake.
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The question is not one of theoretical access. The question is one of actual knowledge and information possessed.

    If we presume that the political pros of the past were bright and alert and knew what they were doing, we see pretty clearly that they were assuming a broader base of knowledge and a greater ability to handle arguments based on it, than the modern pros assume of the general voter.

    And they were not assuming great holes and blank spots in the voter's familiarity with the facts of well-known events of the recent past.
    You're at a loss as to how the percentage of well-informed people might affect matters of voting and elections and political power?
  14. countezero Registered Senior Member

    I'm no assuming anything. That's your job. I took a class on Media and Society and we discussed the 19th century press quite extensively. It was not some bastion of enlightenment.

    No, I'm at a loss how you pulled some claim about percentages out of your ass and put it forward as a legitimate point. You don't know the percentages. Or at least, you haven't shared them. Then, for your argument to even be relevant, you'd have to tie those percentages to votes and performance of candidates in office. That's several big leaps I'm not prepared to make with you. Sorry.
  15. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    (Insert Title Here)

    It seems you're mixing Iceaura's argument with mine, which is fine, I suppose. I mean, it's your right to do so.

    I would only remind two points: the permeating nature of propaganda in our era of information access and, possibly, overload; and also that myth and reality existed much closer together in the nineteenth century.

    Well, I am aware of the limitations of revolutionary leftist press. Your apparent surprise is a result of your own presumption.

    Didn't see it, but there are two issues that seem to be worth considering here. First, it's probably a more complex argument than you're giving it credit for. Also, it's entirely possible that she's pushing the boundary, as that happens from time to time.

    Remember, though, that MSNBC isn't a news outlet. It is "The Place for Politics". I remember that whenever I'm watching the network's programs. It's a matter of context and perception. Just like when I read a revolutionary leftist newspaper; I know what I'm reading.

    But, you know, that's part of the reason I sometimes pick on your time as a journalist; many of your arguments seem to overlook basic points about reading, writing, and journalism. If it hasn't occurred to you that some people do know how to read critically, or understand the context of what they are viewing, I don't know what to tell you.

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