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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Those who do not remember four years ago are doomed to repeat it

Something has happened in this country over the last twenty years, something very bizarre. I'm not sure if it's some effect of TV or internet or education or the "new style" of news coverage, but we, collectively, seem to have lost any sense of anything besides now.

Politicians, corporations, celebrities seem able to make wild assertions not borne out by an examination of fact, and yet in this hypermedia world, it passes without only a rare or distant challenge.

But it's not only that. That's too simple. It's not only that they "get away with it." It is that these assertions then enter the cultural narrative and somewhat function as fact. Viewpoint is treated as fact.

People are able to functionally generate their own narratives and that has an impact on our politics and society. It costs us. It costs us alot.

Perhaps it has something to do with the modern iteration of "the news cycle" where most of people's news experience is now just headlines and bits. It could be a function of the "channeling" of news where you can now consume your own "news" reality which enables you to reinforce whatever you want to believe. (Not just FoxNews/MSNBC, but also websites, news aggregators, and blogs. Drudge and Firedoglake are entirely different realities.)

I don't really know what it is, but it is hugely dangerous as these fractional realities occasionally catch fire and contaminate outside their normal sub channel.

Look at the genesis of the Iraq war as an example, or perhaps the cultural craziness that led to the economic crash. In both cases, the "reality" facts were right there, but were ignored.

And this (sort of) brings me back to my starting point. With a declining sense of true fact or history, even very recent history, our society is frighteningly vulnerable to manipulation by those with the money or mechanisms to generate their own "fact" whether it's the very rich denying healthcare on a deficit claim while ignoring their own tax cuts or those pushing for military action on Iran despite our recent experiences with the facts on Iraq.

(How do the Republicans get away with George Bush's economic answers when it led to where we are today? How is anti-evolution/anti-gay treated as a valid viewpoint?)

We have become frighteningly credulous. And I really worry as to what that means.

(Sorry for the ramble. It's just been on my mind. It'll probably refine and come out later in a more concise form.)

Later: I think Sarah Palin kind of represents a watershed for this sort of a-reality. Not that she's the only one, but she's almost archetypal for a politician in my argument.

(And, frighteningly, Palin represents just an early version. Someday soon, someone better, more polished, and more qualified will do the exact same thing, but much better.

Think about that.)


  • Excellent post !

    By Anonymous Squamous, at 12:03 PM  

  • I agree and often wonder if there is a good ending...
    Is this phenomenon confined to the US or has capitalism (not democracy, as if we actually have a democracy now!) evolved to a state where the powers create their own reality/truth?

    likely ending will result in quasi-fascist/religious parlimentary style but gets called democracy. Plus US has all the powerful toys (and China) so it's not like it would end without a big bang. Not in my lifetime...maybe 100 years from now.

    where can we go/flee to to escape? where will my grandkids seek shelter from this? our political system is a joke for all to see if they want to. democrats cannot be this weak/stupid/afraid...either they're corprotists in disguise or serious blackmail is rooted in.

    Dallas 1963 echoes continue...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:50 PM  

  • Anon 2, I see a possible endpoint as second world nation kind of like a banana republic.

    As for where to run, I'm not sure there's an answer for an American with China and India looking to be the new 100 year axis.

    If I were giving advice, it would be to run to education because good doctors, lawyers, MBA's, etc do pretty well in second world countries.


    And, just as a personal question, I wonder how much long term exposure to advertising has affected our ability to discern truth/reality and out ability to separate feelings from judgemnet.

    I mean, advertising is designed to affiliate emotion with decision making....

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 5:33 PM  

  • I find that the farther the "facts" get from the truth, the louder the presenter has to yell.....

    By Blogger Lew Scannon, at 6:45 PM  

  • Certainly.

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 9:54 PM  

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