Friday, November 21, 2008

Experts? Everyone Can Be One!

Jim made a comment that I started replying to, and thought it could become a new post.

People still believe the talking heads. They watch the same news. All over the country people are getting together having the same conversations. Our dialogue is shaped and built around tidbits given to us on television and radio.

I've found that I can often tell what shows that people listen to or watch from their views on politics and the economy. Especially if they follow Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly. Their talking points and logic are so knee jerk and illogical, that they can only come from hours of having them drilled in by the sermons, of those circle jerks.

But even in more mainstream society, when the talking heads are saying deflation, people in the checkout line are saying deflation. It's as though we're all parrots, mimicking what we hear on the media. I guess we are.

Those of us that are driven to pursue personal lines of inquiry and delve deeper into a story, find that there's very little we can we relate to when talking to people that skim the news and watch reality TV. When I step outside the bounds approved by the media, I get blank stares or I'm told I'm wrong. When I ask how I'm wrong, I get no explanation, just that this is what people say. If it's a Limbaugh fan, I might get a diatribe about how Democrats are terrorists that eat their own children, after I make a comment about the bailout.

On one prominent blog, there's a long time member that prides himself on his ability to make people think in new ways. Over and over again, he repeats the media line and exhorts us to obey and trust our leaders, for they are wise. When I use simple math and concepts to clarify points, we get back to the idea that I must trust Paulson, because if he wasn't wise and caring, we wouldn't trust him with all that money. I'm called a nutter, because I argue that there's no reason to trust anyone that hasn't earned it.

Now he's an extreme case. But he finds comfort in trust, because he knows he's uneducated on many topics. Still he makes the mistake in believing that that Paulson and friends must be smarter, wiser and more educated, because he doesn't understand them. Now I might give Lewis Carroll the nod on this, but not an economist. He's an excellent example of a person well molded by the public education system. I still remember when I thought that adults were smart and wise, simply because I was a child. If our public education system does it's job properly, most of the graduates have such a low sense of self empowerment, that they never outgrow this.

I'm in the process of reading 'The Federalist' for the first time. I skipped the gigantic intro and went straight to the papers. The pompous style that John Jays writes in, is tough to get past at first. Soon though, between him and Hamilton, I'm getting a very real sense of just how much we have in common people of that time.

I'm seeing the same personalities, same rationalizations, and many of the same arguments echoed in today's dialogue as is discussed in the papers. I think that I thought that I was going to be transported into a different world when reading them, but I wasn't. It was just a slight shift in culture. Any free thinker or bigot in today's culture would settle in just fine in their social life.

From this line of thought, I'm struck by just how ignorant the arguments are that the framers didn't foresee times like these, and so the Constitution is no longer relevant. The times aren't so much different as our romanticizing makes them out to be. If anything, I think we'd all agree that we have it easier now.

And even then, much of the public dialogue was centered around news and opinions presented by the press. John Jays and Alexander Hamilton were evidently knew this. Where as writers, both of them were exploring new ideas and new thoughts, they were aware that people would read what they wrote, and their words would frame the thoughts and conversations of others.

Now I was taught all of this stuff at one time. I know teachers in school had explained it to me. It's only been the last few years though that it's really been soaking in, what all of the ramifications are.

Now I think my subconscious has been ahead of me. For years I've been dismissing the idea that Americans will rise up and fight off tyranny if it crosses one more line. But only now am I coming to understand the absolute control the media has over our culture, our thoughts and our conversations. Even as we slip into a Greater Depression, the public is still by large, buying the media stories and accepting them as the greater truth.

Those of us that read, listen, learn, write and speak are a small community. We're no threat to the apple cart. Anyone who can keep predicting events and economic trends is after all tinfoil hat conspiracist. After all, we don't parrot the media talking points.

These days, when I try to discuss anything past the surface on economics, energy politics, etc..., with anyone outside this community, I feel like I'm in a Monty Python skit. I can explain what parallels we're facing, what this likely means, and be right over and over again, and people will still tell me that I don't understand the topic, because on Channel 11 news, the anchor said something different. He after all is on television so he must be wise.

Following is a Monty Python skit from the Meaning of Life. It was the best I could find of this scene. The person who clipped it, left out the lead in. In the lead in, the couple sits down, and the waiter asks them if they would like to start out the evening with a nice conversation. He then gives them a choice of topics to talk about and they choose philosophy.


At 3:15 PM, Blogger an average patriot said...

Experts of the past are worthless. They have proven they are only experts so a party line can be followed.
We are ignored but we are the new experts. Those of us in the trenches of life in the search for the truth which is only found by listening to all sides ignore what they say and figure it out for yourself.
Funny but my favorite Repug line to throw in their face was when I use to be told you can not be a Christian because you are a Democrat. I said great that means all those child molesting priests are Republicans!

At 3:02 PM, Blogger Bukko_in_Australia said...

Your paragraph about children hit it for six, Weas. Lots of people have a childish need to believe in the "Good Father" who will protect them.

Being a strong believer in sociobiology, I think this is hard-wired into our neural psychology. In the aeons when our ancestors were living in tribes, they'd have to put their trust in the smartest, strongest warrior to lead them to the new valley with lots of wooly mammoths to eat, or to devise a battle plan to defeat the hostile tribe that was migrating into their happy hunting grounds. The tribe that had a smart enough leader to trust got to prosper and pass along their genes, and the free-thinkers who said "Fuck this, the chief's an idiot" wandered off in a different direction and got picked off by wolves.

This hard-wiring also explains the lasting reverence for royalty and humankind's belief in various gods, IMHO.

But we're operating in a world with more information now. The herd sometimes marches off a cliff. (I don't want to slur lemmings by using them in that metaphor, because Walt Disney's brother staged that scene, to the eternal damnation of the rodents' rep.)

It's not easy to head in a different direction, because you lack the safety in numbers. It's why schools of fish, or herds of zebra on the African veldt, can feel safe when there are predators about. The lion might get one, but if you're one amongst a thousand, what are the odds that it's gonna be you?

I talk to people about what seems to be coming all the time. My family thinks I'm a nutter, even though I've been proved right time after time. My investments are doing OK, my job's relatively safe and I live in a society that's not freaking out like the U.S. seems to be. They're scared now; I sleep easy.

Oddly enough, most of the Aussies I'm friends with are better able than Americans to comprehend that the situation is dire. I think it's because they know they're from a pipsqueak country that's had some bad, bad times, so they're not so full of hubris as to feel like "nothing awful can happen to us."

Your pleasure should come from the fact that you're trying to help others by enlightening them. Builds good karma, even if the message doesn't always fall in fertile soil. And every now and then, you can get through to someone whose life will be improved by your views. Thus do we make each other wiser and stronger.

At 6:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 1:35 PM, Anonymous edgar said...

You can tell bernanke is uber-smart by the shape of his head. I know a lot of those Rush, Bill O, NPR listeners. I am always surprised that anyone can repeat that nonsense.

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Middle Ditch said...

I'm always intrigued when a commenter comments on my comment as you did on Jim's blog. Jim knows that I am a political nincompoop and I don't always know what to say even though I always learn a tremendous amount reading his posts.

As I did here. It was a most interesting read and I shall heed your words you wrote to me on Jim's comments. Thank you for that.

I find the British politics confusing enough as it is and to read about the American one is always a great discovery for me.

It's good to meet you.

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Middle Ditch said...

Oh BTW, I saw that sketch several times. It's hilarious. Have you ever seen the philosopher sketch? Where the Greek philosophers play football against the German philosophers. They all walk around the pitch rubbing their chin, wondering what to do with the ball. Until .... Eureka!

It's great fun.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

Welcome Middle Ditch!

Yes, I've seen the Philosopher's Football match. :)

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Dave Dubya said...

And there's my equation: Mass media = mass madness.

Humans are a herd animal and would rather cling to a common belief than think for themselves.

Unfortunately we are a predatory herd animal, and that is where our self destructive programming comes in. We are always integrating our ignorance with aggression.


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