Overweening Generalist

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Missing Public Discussions: A "Reality" Problem

Continuing from yesterday: check this out:

"In fact, the wealth gap in the United States is wider than it has ever been. In 2009 alone, the pay of America's highest earners quintupled, while more Americans found themselves on food stamps than ever before. Wealth inequality in the United States had already hit its highest level since 1929 two years before that. Throughout the recession and its jobless aftermath, that gap has only grown bigger. Andbigger. And bigger. We're now roughly on par with China."

That's from Larry Womack's article "Where 30 Years of Real Class Warfare Has Left America," which can be read in its entirety here.

Why do only "we" see this? How can the Far Right Tea Baggers actually believe that we need to lean on the poor more?

My best read on this is that the public has been dumbed-down by an increasingly atrocious public school system (I am NOT attacking teachers!), coupled with the vastly underappreciated knowledge that watching moving images in one's own home is akin to self-brainwashing if one has not been educated to understand how electronic media - or better, all media - "work." In this case, TV "information" has been overwhelmingly non-progressive (putting it mildly) in that area that purportedly seeks to "inform" the public via "news" or "the issues."

So, what we have...is a failure...to communicate. I don't like it anymore than you do!

Aye: the Right has been so brilliant at framing information about the economic/business/political/social sphere on the Idiot Box (because it's all owned by giant corporations, what would you expect?) that we now have enormous numbers of people who believe in innumerable aspects of phenomena which I consider baseless; they were made up a long time ago. These ideas are "facts" to their adherents, because they've heard them  repeated so often, for years on end. We have a large segment of Unistatians who believe in a almost completely fake "reality" that was dreamed up mostly in right wing think tanks, and they mostly did it via manipulation of the fear response by an ingenious use of language and images. And this is a humongous problem.

Call this my Conspiracy Theory, but the rise of Rush Limbaugh and his clones was tailor-made for the Five Percenters: with NAFTA/GATT, etc: the jobs in middle America were going to disappear extra-quickly; they needed an amped-up Noise Machine that made up "facts" and developed a Big Narrative so that men who suddenly couldn't make their mortgage payments had someone to blame: homosexuals, "liberals," women, poor people, people of color, educated people, people who consumed items like latte or Volvos, "rap music," heavy metal, Hollywood, the Great Society programs of the 1960s, people who thought a background check before buying an automatic weapon was a good idea, and...everyone but Jedd and his friends! Blame! It's an underrated drug. 

It's a narcotic, methinks.

I could catalog my own list of non-realities that a large number of the population believe in, but I would use up too much space. Here's a list of 23 dippy realities that Tea Partiers tend to believe in. Each, I consider, patently absurd. Apparently these ideas "really are" believed by folks who somehow think that Bachmann, Palin, and Rick Perry are fit to take helm.

This is not a "difference of opinion." I know an opinion when I see one. This seems far more like a DELUSION. 

Here's a morbidly fascinating problem: among epistemologists, it's been long discussed that a bad social idea, if it gains enough adherents, becomes "real" even if the Idea In Itself seems baseless. We must deal with human beings who believe things that have no base in "reality." 

That's an unpleasant philosophical problem we must deal with, but I must admit: it is interesting. I only wish I was reading about it in some ancient history text, not current politics.

Even more fascinating: "reality" bites back. If I believe I can fly off the roof of this building by flapping my arms, a "reality check" is fast approaching, at 32 feet per second per second. Likewise, in the social-political "reality" sphere: how long can the Ruling Class continue to feed extremely sophisticated garbage about "reality" down most peoples' throats? Because the business class surely must feel the sting when people are too stupid to manage their interests. Having a load of crap in your head to try and think with in "reality" is not good for business, at a certain point. Now: some of my friends think it can go on like this for much longer, because the Five Percenters who own most of the land, businesses, banks, etc, have enough smart college-educated people to manage their concerns; the Idiocracy will just lap up more and more and more Trash and blame anyone but the Five Percenters for their own squalor. 

But I do wonder. I sincerely do not believe Unistatians are born stupid; they must be made that way. And what can be made can be unmade. Or altered in interesting ways. But WHAT will actuate this process of change?

I put the word "reality" in quotes because one of my favorite philosophers, Robert Anton Wilson, convinced me that "reality" seems a very dodgy concept. I do not claim to know "reality." I strongly doubt any one person alive has a direct hotline to True "Reality." But I am saying what I think is close to something truthful. I am giving my truth here. "Reality," I strongly suspect, is a great example of a word that, because we can creatively conceptualize that such a "thing" exists, that It must somehow "really" exist. But I think that whatever it "is," it isn't a noun, and doesn't exist as much as that big fat hunk of government cheddar we might have to subsist upon if more of us don't get smarter, quicker. Indeed: "reality," in almost all of the semantic senses in which we encounter it, may not have much of an ontological status at all! 

[What I mean is: it might help to de-conceptualize the idea of "reality" and work on better definitions of whatever it "is" or whatever dynamic processes we are groping toward when we attempt to say anything about "it."]

And my truth is: there are some ideas that are widely believed, that, if I were allowed on national TV with enough time, I could make a very persuasive case that much of what is believed as "fact" by, say, the Tea Partiers (see link above), has ZERO basis in "reality." 

I do, however, admit that when enough people believe in a package of patently absurd, idiotic ideas, that "reality" comes into some sort of "being" and it's quite unfortunate, but the rest of us have to deal with it, and it's a difficult problem, because part of the delusional "reality" is that anyone outside their delusional "reality" are the ones that are delusional!

Here's one of the biggest Morons I've seen in a long time, a Murdoch-Fox "News"- Tea Party favorite, Sarah Palin, who does a version of Josef Goebbels's "big lie," accusing others of doing what she herself does: makes things up: (2 mins, and videlicet):

I leave you with the High Drama of Anonymous! Vive ANONYMOUS!


Anonymous said...

Bang on.

Psuke said...

I know this is *years* after this post and you've probably moved on...but did you ever hear of the Textbook Wars? A fascinating, disturbing and unfairly obscure bit of Murrrkin history, given what it seems to have unleashed in it's wake.


Do you remember (and I wonder what became of it?) the controversy over Texas' rewriting the history books? This was like that, but more so - with bombs!

michael said...


I welcome comments on olde blogspews; if I saw fit to write about it "back then" I'm almost certainly still very much interested in the topic/idea/issue, even if I may have altered my views a bit since then.

I've read a bunch of maddening stuff on the textbook wars, a very open conspiracy to keep kids ignorant. It's the same old Authoritarian game from here to eternity.

Lies My Teacher Told Me, by Lowen: good place for anyone to start on this.

I read Th. Frank's article on TED the day it came out, and it harmonized with one of my main models of the status of intellectuals since the Cold War began: the scientists (geeks), who are personally more conservative or Libertarian, use math as their main rhetorical discourse. What they do to culture - via the technology that spins out of their basic research - is truly revolutionary, even if any one scientist feels like he's working on a small set of physical problems every day, and isn't concerned all that much about the big picture.

The older intellectuals - the Humanists - have always used revolutionarily rhetorical language in order to bring about change in culture, but they've been losing out in funding, prestige, and status since 1945, and now many of them seem desperate. And I think Th. Frank is one of the most astute commentators on this scene. Although I have watched and enjoyed at least 100 TED talks, there does seem to be a Pretend World that animates a lot of it. There was a sort of libertarian entrepreneurial dude - whose name I forget at the moment - who gave a talk about "middle-out" economics that I thought was surprisingly "radical" or "real" at TED. And then TED pulled it.

I started investigating TED after that. Protests about his talk were heard, and the TEDsters reinstated the talk, but I'm not sure if it's still up there. Graham Hancock had problems with them for different reasons.

There are some TED talks that seem very much worth our 15 mins; I've seen a whole hell of a lot of others that seem like some very hi-tech culture's version of Cargo Cult.

When the so-called Creative Class actively joins Graeber and Rushkoff, when the I Have A Degree administrative "knowledge workers" in universities and think tanks join Rebecca Solnit and Glenn Greenwald, when the opera lovers and other dogma-prone bildungphilisters actually get involved, instead of thinking It Can't Happen Here...then we have a chance at averting catastrophe and having some sort of sane, creative society.

The "creative class" seems really lost to me, and I once again tip my hat to Th. Frank, a most astute cultural diagnostician.

[Or so I see Things as of Oct '13]

Psuke said...

LOL, I think I posted the wrong link...several pages open at the time, and I also posted that to my G+ page, although I'm sure it's lost in the overwhelming noise that is mass sosh media. I had actually meant to link to an archived radio program, which is how I found out about it (the Textbook War).

I've seen some fabulous TED talks (my favorite being Sir Ken Robinson's) and I've seen some where I thought...really? Someone thought that was worth sharing? Or had anything close to content? (Such as anything Bill Gates has said there.) And I have to say it's probably 20-80 pro to con.

michael said...

Another big front on the textbook wars has wingnut revisionist David Barton at its center. Oy!


Psuke said...

Yowza. I find it amazing how little some of these people understand of their own history. Or (and?) how much they *refuse* to understand.

michael said...

If you take a cosmopolitan outlook, check out Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria:


I wonder if the Tea Baggers had complete power, how far would they go toward this level of repressed, stupid lunacy? (They ELECT people like Louis Gohmert and Michelle Bachmann, so...my guess is this stuff percolates in the semantic unconscious throughout Texas and the Deep South...)

Whenever I read about enforced stupidity I can't help but think of Wilhelm Reich's ideas.

Hey: for a hilarious take on the Creation Museum in Ohio, seek out Marc Maron's bit on it. I found it on his CD _This Has To Be Funny_.

michael said...

Oops! Sorry to tarnish Ohio: The Creationist's Museum is apparently in Kentucky:


Psuke said...

I can't remember if I actually listened to that episode or not...about two years ago I followed his podcast regularly and I remember the episode, but not if listened all the way through.

Have you listened to any of Greg Proops "Smartest Man in the World" podcasts? I think you'd enjoy them.

The funniest thing I saw in Kentucky (aside from some Amish driving by in a buggy...don't see that in the Western Half so much) was the Golgotha Fun Park.

No, I did not go in. We were on our way to the caves, and didn't stop, but I've often wondered (shuddered?) over what was in there.

Psuke said...

And to be fair to the "South", I think it percolates in small and out of the way towns all over Unistat. I lived in a small "community" in Northern California, and another just outside of Bakersfield, and in the Downriver Suburbs of Detroit, Michigan (which is so North it's next to Canada) and the same idiocy can be found there.

I don't think it's stupidity as much as a lack of outside ideas "in the air" such as one gets in larger towns, or ones with more outside traffic. And the brain can be damned lazy.

Have you read "Mistakes Were Made but not by Me?" it talks about cognitive dissonance and why it can be so hard to "live with", and thus it gets squashed by most.

Personally, I love it. I love to "feel" my brain expand. But then I'm kinda weird.

michael said...

Psuke- I've seen Proops (sp?) on TV but haven't listened to his podcast.

Maron wrote a book called, IIRC, The Jerusalem Experiment, mostly autobiographical if not solely...and he writes about being mindfucked by Illuminatus!

I've never been to Kentucky. You're right about my "the South." I've spent time in San Bernardino ("San Berdoo! YEE-HAW!) enough to know there are pockets of...that...all over the US.

Ever see a film called Gummo? I think it's set in So.Ohio, a probably faked historical backstory but plausible enough...O! The humanity!

Your ideas about local-think and the effects of passive information-intake addresses a fascinating topic I wish you or others would write about: how do we accept the passivity of fellow humans, or if not accept: what sort of metaphysical project is it to get people to think about media in some mix of McLuhan/Rushkoff/Thomson...way? Or is this more easily addressed by a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine? Or wot?

One of the most solid ideas in all Urban Theory and writings on the sociology of The City in history: the concentration of minds and diverse viewpoints tends to foster a far more open-mindedness and as vortices for creativity. I think people interacting in meatspace does this; the claims for cyber seem at the moment oversold.

You ARE weird. You're just the person to comment wittily at the OG. Thanks!

I have not read "Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me" but you make it sound worthsomewhiles. I like cog.diss. under most conditions, if only because it jars me out of one "reality" into another.