Sunday, May 14, 2006

Study: Most People Weary of Media Manipulation, Self-aggrandizement, Demagoguery

Ever since the days of Watergate, every journalist dreams that if s/he could write just one article to bring down a sitting president, their glory, fame and legacy would burn brightly in the hall of American Idols. In this way, every reporter, no matter far removed from the White House, is detailing the every move and nuance of the President, as though they were eyewitnesses to history rather than a “lifer” at third rate newspapers far removed. It never occurs to them that they could write about something they actually know something about instead of speculating like the Big Boys who do so because they AREN‘T privy to what is going on and think they should be, because they are the self-anointed watchdogs for society.

And that is the real value of reporting and journalism -- not writing fifth-hand speculations about opinions speculating on opinions conjecturing on every imaginable variation of a non-fact. People no longer have the time and interest for such things -- particularly when the writing is so obtuse and obscure that nobody can really understand what is being discussed beyond the bold headline. In fact, the story could be just about anything else, because it won’t get read -- beyond the inflammatory and accusatory headline. That is the purpose now of that kind of writing -- to imply what is known and to obscure what is not known, and so the writing lacks that clarity.

It still remains true that the simple truth is simple to understand -- and is not rocket science of hack writers trying to make rocket science out of nothing. That is the impression one gets reading the Sunday papers anymore.


At May 14, 2006 10:25 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Helen Thomas:
"Me first, Always me first! Or I'll write something bad about you."

Doesn't this capture the mentality of these people perfectly? -- the icon of American journalism.

At May 14, 2006 3:01 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Terrorists, not the NSA, are the real threat

Vast troves of information about ordinary Americans are being collected every day.

Internet companies place "cookies" on our home computers to track which Web sites we like to view. Each time we shop with a credit or debit card, our list of purchases is recorded by retailers. Our Social Security numbers are connected to a huge number of transactions that have nothing to do with the government benefits we receive. And, as USA Today revealed last week, each time we place a telephone call that bit of information is collected by the National Security Agency.

The revelation prompted predictable cries of outrage from congressional Democrats and the usual demands to rein in the "lawless" Bush administration. But a less fevered analysis of the situation suggests Americans should be vigilant about government's collection of such data, not paranoid.

Does anyone imagine the NSA is interested in what the average American said to his grandmother on the telephone last night? In fact, the NSA is not eavesdropping at all on the average American's conversations. It is collecting records of which phone numbers placed calls to which other numbers and when. No names, addresses or details of conversations are included.

The NSA says this anonymous "data mining" allows the agency to study patterns of calling, the better to identify who may be involved with terrorist groups. If Number A places a lot of calls to Number B who likewise calls Number C frequently and then Number C places a call to one of Osama bin Laden's minions, the people registered to numbers A, B and C might be worth further investigation.

What matters is not that the data is being collected but how it is being used. It is rather like the old slogan, "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." This data is the gun. It can be used for good or ill.

Civil libertarians are raising an uproar about the supposed violations of our rights and the creation of a police state. Where then are the prison camps full of American citizens who did not take up arms against our country but merely made telephone calls to the wrong people? The NSA has been collecting this data since 2001. Should there not be dozens of Guantanamos scattered across the landscape by now?

We are engaged in a war against terrorists, people who use the very freedom we hold dear to slip through the cracks and do us harm. While we ordinary Americans gaze innocently at our navels and ponder the threat posed by the lint therein, our government is seeking innovative ways of tracking and finding terrorists short of simply stationing machine-gun-toting guards at every public building and setting up military checkpoints along our highways. That's how some nations have had to deal with the threat of terrorism. We'd prefer the data mining method any day.

The NSA's system of data collection indeed has the potential to be abused. What aspect of government does not have such potential? That's why it's important Americans remain vigilant. Let's give our government the tools it needs to catch terrorists and insist it does not use those tools for any other purpose.

There isn't a single bit of evidence that the NSA has misused its data collection methods to the detriment of ordinary Americans. As long as that remains the case, there is little cause for worry. Let's remain focused on the job at hand — winning the war on terrorism.

At May 14, 2006 3:49 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

It doesn’t matter how many people can be manipulated into thinking something is true, that isn’t.

Unfortunately, that is the measure of media’s effectiveness and value -- precisely this capacity to manipulate people’s opinions no matter what the facts are, or if there are any facts at all. It’s a perilous time that causes some people to be more discriminating and discerning than people have ever been before, while the unwary will be easy targets for those looking to deceive, manipulate, control. While the average may be about the same, the range of experiences and capabilities in information processing and discovering the truth, have expanded greatly -- making generalizations more invalid than they ever have been.

That’s the greatest challenge to the thinking of these times. Some are evolving to unprecedented high levels of awareness and competency -- which in the past, has been isolated and unconnected so that, it would often take centuries for ideas to take hold and gather critical mass that became the new reality. But now, intelligence is not disconnected, isolated, alienated and in competition with every other.

New truths can blossom literally overnight. But there will still be repositories of misinformation and backwaters of disinformation. In a previous time, they may have even been the vanguard of information -- but now, are the rearguard. It’s the role of the popular media now -- because their understanding is limited by the reporters understanding -- while refusing to let the knowledgeable explain it themselves. There might have been a time in which those who were experts in one field could not communicate to an audience at large but because of a well-rounded education, they now possess those abilities.

“Professional” writers now may actually be the most difficult to decipher -- rather than the easiest. They have overspecialized to the point that those they can be understood by, are five people -- like in the graduate schools. So these people have no ability to communicate to those who don’t already know what they are talking about. Which means they are already predisposed to seeing things the same way -- rather than being a really objective judge. All these judges are looking to hear their own previous knowledge reconfirmed. So these academic exercises become meaningless. They have pre-agreed to see things the same way, whether they realize it or not.

That is the great danger of the universities now that the major selection criterion is politically and socially correct viewpoints. The value is conformity of viewpoints rather than originality and usefulness of insight. It becomes a suffocating vicious circle. New ideas are no longer tolerated.

At May 14, 2006 3:56 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

It’s always been that way -- how new ideas come into being, and how they are fought by the old establishment that owes their expertise to that knowledge that now threatens to become worthless.

At May 14, 2006 4:10 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The amazing thing is that these are the people who fancy themselves "liberal" and open-minded. That might have been true forty years ago -- but they've aged badly since then, and are not aware of it, becuse they only live in their faded thoughts, knowledge and memories now. Life has passed them by -- just like they accused a previous generation of doing.

At May 14, 2006 4:21 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

They've become the people they despise the most -- and it is no wonder that all the money in the world cannot wash the stink off of them -- which they project on to everybody else.

At May 14, 2006 4:57 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

I’ve never thought that the Democrats were so bad -- or the Republicans were so bad, as I thought the ultimate evil was the press trying to set each other up against each other, in order for themselves to assume power and control of society.

At May 14, 2006 5:20 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

It’s called usurping power -- when everybody else is killing each other off on the battle lines, in the war they have created.

Shakespeare wrote a famous play, maybe his best, about such a person who destroys by misinforming his liege (Othello).

The power of information can be used for good or for ill -- to cause one to live in suspicion and distrust, or harmony and goodwill. They’ve chosen to turn that trust we could have in each other -- into a cancer of perpetual distrust, controversy, contentiousness, and conflict. That is the great problem of this age. Every other problem pales in comparison -- is a minor, petty problem.

So it was that I first suggested that there needed to be a new information network that was not dominated and controlled by the old powers that be (who wished to remain so) but was authentic communications of citizens to each other and their government. That is a more perfect society.

It would have been preferable to see the danger and address it deliberately and constructively -- but it evolves eventually to what it has to be. That is the reason for the explosive growth of the alternative media -- beyond its undoubted entertainment value. A lot of people could sense that the old media communications and information left a lot to be desired, but it was not thought that there could be another way -- that would subsume and supplant the old ways.

But once that momentum is underway and reaches a point of no return (critical mass), it takes on a life of its own and the outcome is no longer uncertain. The old media is dead, long live the king!

At May 14, 2006 6:42 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

It’s called a “power trip,” or abuse of power -- that we often only associate with political leaders -- but is really what any person in a position of trust and power is susceptible to. It depends on the personality and opportunity. Some people think the only reason you’re nice to them is because you’re stupid. So if you extend goodwill to them, they regard that as an invitation to abuse you -- until you finally, if ever, catch on.

It’s much like the liberal regard for terrorism; if you keep on letting it happen without reprisals, they get worse -- because we’re not dealing with sane and healthy people. If they were sane and healthy people, they wouldn’t be terrorists -- except in the minds of the liberal apologists who believe that if we ignore it just this one more time, it will be as though it never happened, and will never happen again -- because we wish it were so.

Anybody who’s worked with the criminal personalities and the mentally-ill realizes one has to deal firmly with these abuses or they are “rewarded” for their actions. I think it is wrong to kill people -- but I think if someone must be killed, it should be the perpetrator and not the victim. That’s just me; I don’t think it should be random, not discriminating against violent perpetrators in favor of their victims. Even criminals understand that. To me, that is mental illness and not political correctness -- no matter how many editorials they want to write about it, blurring any distinctions for an equal opportunity fate.

One person’s right to live, trumps another person’s right to hide their bomb. It’s not a close call, as the ethical relativists will argue -- eloquently, I’m sure. At some point, they become totally incapable of making any distinctions at all -- or the bad will be preferred to the good. Ideas that create a problem, will be selected above ideas that eliminate the problem completely. The dysfunctional mind is addicted to problems, delights in them, enflames them. That is their only delight in life.

I once had a chance to do home care for an individual who devoted his entire life to spreading as much ill will throughout the community as his calling in life. The rules of the program were that we were to assist and not attempt to change in any way, the course of life they had chosen for themselves. We were to enable and not interfere with their lives.

The subject was actually one of the first on the Internet in the ‘80s -- instigating the vicious flame wars that gave such communications a bad reputation early on. The rest of the time was spent calling every agency he could think of just to abuse them for as long as he could. When I answered such calls earlier working for the Internal Revenue Service, I wondered about these people who seemed to have nothing better to do than make abusive phone calls all day. And then of course, there were the abusive letters to the newspaper editors he wrote prolifically that were actually disproportionately selected as representative of voices in the community -- by the editorial staff that seemed to revel in such communications that a person of good sense would choose to omit. After all, nine out of ten letters were, so that these were selected disproportionately must have been some kind of sick criterion.

Power and trust is this kind of occupational hazard that many are not well-prepared for. In that way, success can be as destructive as any failure. But those living without consequences, in sinecures no matter what, lose their sense of balance, fairness, integrity.

At May 14, 2006 6:49 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The reason we were called in as a quasi-public service, was that although this fellow had a wife and many grown-up children, they all would have nothing to do with this hateful person -- and one quickly came to understand why.

So when one reads the hate, the insults, the resentments, the bitterness, the abuse -- one fully understands the motivations and personalities behind such people -- who wish to share their perspective of reality with the community at large.

But that's not the whole story -- only what they want us to think!

At May 14, 2006 6:59 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

To a clear mind, the difference between authentic information and propaganda, is very distinct; what is true, inevitably rings true -- while the convoluted, piles one improbable on top of another, and things don’t seem to logically follow but contradict every other bit of information. So in the end, it is hopeless to be able to arrive at a logical integration of all the information. Thus, one has to be told what to think rather than be allowed to think about the facts on his own -- and arrive at his own conclusion. Instead, the editorialist, will demand that you must think his way as the only conclusion possible -- under penalty of some kind of horrible sanction otherwise.

Can we see the other voices, please?


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