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How Can You Laugh at a Time Like This?

Gypsy and Willy

No. 455

And now, the news of the day...

May 10, 2010

In the last blog, we mentioned how the media tend to cover up the faults of the ruling bodies. While it's not clear that this is deliberate, the unspoken rules of broadcast media serve that purpose just as if it were deliberate. A very recent example will serve to illustrate this point.

Right now, John McCain, facing a tough challenge from the right in his reelection campaign in Arizona, invited comic actress Sarah Palin to speak on his behalf at a campaign rally. He has to get by the Republican primary before he can run against his rival in the Democrat party. So, his political positions these days have tended toward the strain represented by the "crazy" right, those who feel that the administration of Obama has led us down the path to ruin. Since a big portion of this segment of society is represented by the fringes of the so-called tea-bag movement, and Sarah Palin is the darling of that group, he believes that her endorsement will carry a huge amount of weight in the primary, despite her general lack of personal plausibility and electability with respect to the general population.

There was a long discussion of this event on Countdown...a clearly ultraliberal and presumed "muck raking" program hosted by Keith Doberman on MSNBC. Olbermann and his guests started by pointing out that McCain seemed very uncomfortable with both his recent "conversion" to the far right and with "having" to invite Palin to promote him. Previously, McCain was renowned as a war hero and as a maverick. Despite losing to Obama in 2008, he was generally liked and respected by both liberals and conservatives. So, the participants in the MSNBC discussion went on and on about how much it must distress him to "have to" take the direction he is now taking. We put the words "having" and "have to" in quotation marks both because they are actual quotations of the participant's words and because of the conspicuous lack of any challenge to the notion that McCain is somehow forced to do what he is doing. Left completely unsaid was what appears to us to be the most obvious conclusion, that McCain either has no principles or has one overriding principle...get elected at ALL costs. As for being forced to behave this way, the implication was that "circumstance" of the election campaign is the only force of importance to this man. Still, that was never spoken by any of the guests of by Olbermann. Instead of using McCain as an example of the absolute corruption of U.S. politics, he was given excuse after excuse. The worst result of this is that even "targeted" media like MSNBC and Fox can not bring themselves to tell the truth about anything. Instead they spew the "conventional" wisdom of their respective audiences. So much for principled journalism.

Ironically, the rise of these types of biased "news" shows has been driven by fringe radio with its huge audience of automobile commuters and, more importantly, the Internet. So what about the Net? Isn't the Net also biased when it comes to political reporting, Yes and no, depending upon which sites one visits. Liberals decry the fact that "so many" sites are devoted to untruths and half truths about them, while conservatives speak of the liberal bias they see infecting ALL media. Which one is correct? Neither and both. Freedom of the Net allows any and all opinions, no matter how off-the-wall or stupid, to compete with all other opinions on a more or less equal basis. The truth is not a requirement.

"Equal basis" it is not quite true either. There is a concept called the "meme" that describes any concept or idea that spreads through an information based medium much like genes are transmitted from individual to individual plants and animals. What seems to be forgotten is the notion of natural selection, which among living organisms tends to winnow out those genes that are less prone to survival, also applies to information. The famous book, The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins, makes a clear case that evolution of species is entirely due to genes "trying" to reproduce themselves. Similarly, there is a notion of the selfish meme, an idea "trying" to reproduce itself. Those genes that are of must use in the survival of a species tend to win out, in the sense that they crowd out all their competitors. So it must be with memes as well. The Net is the perfect place for this struggle to go on. Rest assured that those memes that are of most use to the political survival of societies will win out in a similar manner.

Won't the powers that be find ways to use the Net to advance their particular memes or to suppress those of others? Well, they certainly are trying. China and Iran, for example, are taking draconian measures to try to control this new out-of-control medium. Politicians and celebrities in all countries attempt to spread their particular biases via this medium as well, their "control" being basically name recognition. For example, there has been a recent rush to Twitter, the online universal chat room, by celebrities all over the world. The good news is that none of this is producing the monopoly of ideas that the users intend. Attracted to the medium by the fact that so many others have already gone there, they still have to produce information of some value to their "followers" to stay in the limelight. But, trying to control this medium or attempting to monopolize it with particular biases has been singularly unsuccessful, the more prevalent and popular the Net becomes, the harder it will get to control. Nothing short of completely shutting it down will satisfy the desires of the control freaks. How likely do you think it is THAT will happen?

As we continue this series, keep in mind that the only thing of real value we own is our time. All other "wealth"...our properrty, our firends,our moeny...all are worthless when our three score and ten...or so...runs out. Indeed, we "sell" our time in order to get these other things. This will ecome crucially important when we discuss how we can get from our hopelessly corrupt system to one that is truly democratic.

Talk to you later...

To contact Gypsy or Willy and comment on what they have written...or anything else...write to (Willy Chaplin).or (Gypsy)


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