The Power of Ideology over Empirical Information

•September 25, 2008 • 1 Comment

Jonathan M. Gitlin of Ars Technica posted an article today explaining the fundamental reality of the modern information landscape. Ideology, Gitlin asserts, consistently trumps empirical facts as the form of information accepted by the general public. I feel it is important to note that the term “general public” unfortunately includes both working class and intellectuals alike. (For a link to the entire study, click here.)
So what is the implication? Why does it matter that more individuals will openly accept ideology over empirical information as the matter from which they will inform their decisions? What if politically charged ideologues are the moderators of public opinion? Why should individuals take the time and effort to become informed and check the validity of the claims themselves? Why question authority? Why questions misinformation, misdirection and ideology? And what does such studies say regarding the apathy of the public?
I am frustrated because of the hubris that in embedded in the subconscious of the entire North American population. We claim the rights (and I use the term “rights” lightly, because they are neither guaranteed nor inherent) of “freedom”, “democracy” and “justice” and then piss these glittering principles away due to our grandiose orgy of personal indulgence. We see this in the political arena. We witness it in religious intolerance. We feel the stank of apathy penetrate our conversations, movements and families. We are so surrounded by this apathy we no longer recognize it for what it is, and allow other aware individuals to decide for us. Enough is enough.


Fall Reflections

•September 24, 2008 • 1 Comment

I remember an experience from my childhood, memories that are shrouded in mystic and imagination, and yet as poignant and realistic as if it were a captured image directly in front of my eyes. Being a son of the Okanogan Valley in beautiful British Columbia, it was quite acceptable, during the summers of my childhood adolescence, to retreat into the mountains for days on end. Sometimes these retreats would be organized through scouting groups, other times as father/son expeditions or as friendly excursions with schoolmates. One experience in particular stands above the rest.
On a quite afternoon midsummer, I managed to convince my parents I was off on another camping trip with some friends down the road, and, as we happened to live near the wilderness, in a rather smallish town, I was neither questioned on who I was going with, nor when I would be back (these were different times). Instead to heading to friends across town, I took my sleeping bag, knife and water bottle with me over the hills, across town, to Rattlesnake Point, a jagged peninsula sticking out into the middle of Kalamalka Lake. There I found myself a quite, secluded spot, and set about arraigning wood for a fire, pine needles for a mattress and cedar branches as a lean-to. With darkness quickly settling in, I lit a fire, and roasted the hotdogs I had packed with me, a rewarding meal to satisfy an enormous hunger from the hard days expenditures. Then, refreshed, in a world of safety, and extremely alone, I curled up under my protective canopy of leaves and warm cocoon shell of a sleeping bag, and quietly slipped into the approaching darkness.
At this point, it is fair to relate that there was already a healthy relationship between myself and nature, primarily based on fear and respect, with a smattering of wonder and a pinch of awe. I had spent many hours alone in the forests and valleys of the interior, hiking, exploring and discovering. However, there had always been the ever present companionship of the sunshine, a reality I had completely overlooked in my haste to explore the world alone. Which brings us back to the tale at hand. I was completely alone, in a world that dramatically transformed as the sun went down. The friendly companionship of squirrels and chipmunks was replaced with the ominous advance of unseen creature. The gentle lapping of water on the shores of the lake morphed into a mask, cloaking distant sounds from my ears, thereby allowing a greater sense of abandonment and isolation. The shadows of the fire danced, creating gruesome pictographs in the air and on the ground, mocking, advancing, and retreating in infamy. My young mind soaked up each transfigurement, and impressed meaning upon each and every subtle nuanced change.
Although at the time I felt profound fear, my memories of the experience no longer hold any shred of fright or trepidation. In retrospect I can only remember awe, enlightenment and an experience of the “other”. Eventually I awoke, remembering the feelings of the previous night as if it were nothing more then a dream. But as I fully opened my eyes, and relaxed around my again familiar landscape I began to recognize the dramatic change that had indeed transpired. The woods were no longer static, devoid of meaning, simply stoic statues in time. Although the physical objects had reverted to their original shapes, there now appeared to be an alternate meaning behind the bark, just out of sight of the naked eye illuminated by the sun.
I packed up my equipment later that afternoon, returning the site to the original state it had existed in before my arrival, as I had always been taught. But for me, the area would never be the same.
This experience remained in my memories of childhood, but quickly was overlapped with other memories of summers, winters, parties and travel, and eventually was relegated to the dusty annals of mythological imagination with the rest of my childhood. Relegated, that was, until the second week of Liberal Education. But I will return to that in a moment.
When Bruce told me about the concept for this semester’s edition of the Liberal Education program, I was skeptical of the possibilities for development and discussion that could arise from such a theme. However, as I gave the concept more thought, I realized the grand importance of the land. The land can cover issues in economics, biology, history, literature, art and especially politics. I began to be excited about the possibilities that would present themselves with an involved community of students. I was sure that debate, frustration, enlightenment and introspection would be rampant, and would present me with several opportunities to exercise a liberal mind. But I was not expecting to experience anything fundamentally new. Theoretically, I understood the politics of the land, if not the more subtle nuances of science and art. As an avid fan of nature, how could an academic examination of it bring anything new? In a very accurate sense of comparison, I had taken the tools with which I was familiar, was armed with the knowledge of the landscape, and had the unbridled excitement of a young man as he wandered into the recognizable on a personal journey for selfish reasons.
Before the discussions of the first official day of classes (which were actually the second day of class), I had the opportunity to read the two required readings for the course, The Wheatgrass Mechanism and Wild Stone Heart. The scientific and esoteric themes were familiar and expected, and, as I had assumed, presented no fundamental shift in paradigm. It was the same world which I was accustomed to.
Then, from absolutely nowhere, the darkness of night settled in, and the world changed.
Let me qualify this point. The darkness did not bring fear. It did not cause me to be concerned from the shifts in reality. But it did cause me to reexamine the fundamental realities which I assumed could not shift. The proverbial trees where no longer stoic statues. The shadows no longer remained in place, but were malleable and full of meaning. How this change came to be is still a mystery to me. But as I reread both text, nuances began to appear which caused me to question what I thought I knew about the politics of land, about the relationship between the arts, and the actual geographic location of its creation. The symbiosis that I assumed existed between the familiar cultures of farming and the physical land of the prairies slowed, sputtered and ceased to exist in my mind as a obvious reality.
The land moaned for me, with a voice unheard, untested and unrecognized. But a voice nonetheless. I fully expect this voice to develop, and become recognizable before the end of my journey. Not a tangible voice, but rather a form of communication that speaks for the desires of the land, irrespective of the demands and wishes of humanity. I first heard the unknown voice some days after that fateful first class, as I sat in Indian Battle Park, a regular stomping ground for reflection and synthesis. The voice unheard spoke of strain. As I watched the controlled water of the Old Man, I understood the desire of man to dominate nature. But I also heard the voice of unacknowledgement of the labels, desires, theories and themes man has placed upon the land. Quietly, and without much concern for my presence, other then the occasional glance to assure my proximity had not become threatening, a beaver continued to gather the materials necessary for the construction of a damn. The propaganda of humanity had no bearing on nature.
I recognize this as a simple anthropamorphization of the land, but not without precedent. Religious theologies of all cultures have acknowledged the reality of a cognizant earth. Perhaps I have begun to believe it too.

I Love The World

•September 19, 2008 • 2 Comments

It is amazing how when one examines politics for too long, one quickly forgets that there is beauty in the world. So, in an effort to bring a little smile, along the same vain as my posting of Matt Harding’s World Dance, here is a little video from the Discovery Channel. It exists as a cute little reminder; I love the world.

Hope your smile is as big as mine now 🙂

“Anonymous” Post New Viral Video Challenging Scientology

•September 12, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Anonymous, a self-styled protest group, fashioned on principles of Internet memes, released a new viral video yesterday challenging the hierarchy of the Church of Scientology to continue their propaganda lobbying efforts. While the history between the Church of Scientology and Anonymous is long and involved, it is not complicated. Due to the traditional system of retaliation commonly utilized by Scientology against its detractors, i.e., legal suits and illegal financial and informational tampering, a group undertook a longstanding idea found through the anonymity of the Internet, and formed a group dedicated to revealing the facts regarding the procedures of Scientology. Due to their anonymity and lack of hierarchy, and their completely legal activities, Anonymous has quickly risen to prominence, and has greatly assisted bring the realities of Scientology to the general public. Take the time to watch their video. It is a powerful challenge, one that no doubt is not going unnoticed by the impotent leadership. Take a look.

Republican Strategist Caught In The Party’s Lies

•September 12, 2008 • 7 Comments

There has been somewhat of a theme the last few postings, and for the sake of continuity, I thought it prudent to continue in this vein. Previously, I had explored some examples of journalistic integrity that sought to clarify skewed and misleading statements of political leaders. I was sent a video link in response that I feel accurately continues the conversation in the obvious direction, from the misrepresentation of the politicians themselves, to the outright lies, misdirection and fallacious information presented by the political strategists.

In this particular video clip from MSNBC, two American strategists, Ari Melber and Brad Blakeman, square off on a matter of campaign prevarications and disingenuous reports of character representation. In the clip, Melber notes and decries the canard commercials approved by McCain which allege Obama’s education bill, Bill SB0099, was designed to promot teaching kindergarten students matters of sex education. Before you watch the two strategists square off, watch the original ad here.

I have had individuals repeat the same line here on this blog, as well as in personal conversation. So I did some hunting, and read the proposed bill myself, to properly understand the nature of the argument. The detractors who use such blatant misinformation are mistaken; hopefully out of ignorance and laziness rather then out of malice and purposeful deception. The interview on MSNBC can be watched here.

The legitimacy of the position championed by Ari Melber is verifiable and accurate, and if you are so inclined, you can fact check yourself, by taking the time to read Bill SB0099 here. The deception and double speak of Brad Blakeman personifies, again, the machination and duplicity of an established political party such as the Republican Party. It is high time we as a public take up this torch, and decry all malicious falsification designed to lull us to either a state of complacency, apathy or outrage for personal and political gain.

Hard Questions, Evasive Answers: McCain and Layton put to the Test

•September 11, 2008 • 8 Comments

Here on this blog, I have often remarked on and attempted to draw attention to the frightful state of the popular media, and the disgusting pandering, fear mongering, and propaganda that is spewed from their airwaves. However, from time to time, I come across examples which allow me a respite, and offer a light in the darkness. In these brief moments of legitimate liberal engagement, as mental atrophy is halted with the exercise of critical thought, important issues of personal and political value resurface with reinvigorating results. Today, on a day of memorial, two such examples of investigative cross-examination solidified the grand opportunity we have as citizens of free nations, to question the imposed realities around us through finely tuned critical lenses.

The first example comes from Anna Marie Tremonti, host of the CBC Radio One program, the Current. This morning Anna Marie had the opportunity to interview Jack Layton, leader of the National Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada, and asked his pointed questions regarding his economic proposals, and the legitimacy of his criticisms. As Layton attempted to sidestep fundamentally important flaws in his initiatives, flaws that in my opinion are expressly designed to shore up political capital through criticism of the ruling Conservative Party’s agendas without an expectation of success in their own NDP agendas, Anna Marie vigorously and repeatedly drew Layton back to the examination floor. Tremonti, with what appeared to be a fixed objective of garnering a clear, concise and forthright answer, relentlessly pursued the NDP leader until his exasperation and frustration was evident, and the hypocrisy broke through. (Listen Here)

The second example comes from the great U.S. of A., our oftentimes journalistically stagnate neighbor to the south. In an interview with Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, Rob Caldwell of WCSH6, an NBC affiliate in Portland, Maine, repeatedly had to reiterate his questions regarding the qualifications of McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, as McCain gave evasive and generalized answers. In one profound moment within the interview, McCain expresses Palin as one who “knows more about energy then just about anyone in the country” due to the fact that second greatest export of her state is oil. Caldwell continues to question the importance of such minimalist qualifications with regards to national security, an issue that McCain repeatedly pronounces as “the greatest threat” to the traditional way of life. Caldwell’s refusal to allow a sound bite without substance or qualification forces McCain into a logistical corner from which he fails to emerge. (Watch Here) (If that link not working, you can watch it here)

Regardless of your personal preference on the political spectrum, or your cynical view of the political leanings behind either CBC or NBC, you have to admire the tenacity and determination exhibited by both Anna Maria Tremonti and Rob Caldwell as journalists. If we are willing to pay attention to the hypocrisy exposed through legitimate investigative journalism, and avoid the spin of politically charged pundits, we have the great opportunity of objective judgments based on rational facts. The more we support such individuals, the greater their influence will be within their respective media centers, and hopefully, the more like them we will see.

For a different and equally instuctive view on the issue, click here to see what another Canadian thought of this mornings broadcast on CBC. It just goes to show that there is a wide variety of opinion available, and no one opinion is better then another.

Palin’s Fallout

•September 4, 2008 • 11 Comments

I was curiously interested by the amount of response I have received from my last posting regarding the non-political decisions of Gov. Palin, and the effects I forsaw as fallout. I have written in the past about homosexuality, Iran, American Hubris, abortion, Oil and the ridiculous pandering of American media. But never had I received so many explicitly angry responses (of which I erased all, as we don’t need such language on this site) and some well thought out frustrated responses as well (of which I am grateful for).

So I desired to write an editorial regarding my audacity at examining a shortsighted choice, in which I felt I saw several immediate problems. But instead, I am going to provide a link to an apology in POLITICO by Roger Simon. He states

“On behalf of the media, I would like to say we are sorry.

On behalf of the elite media, I would like to say we are very sorry.

We have asked questions this week that we should never have asked.

We have asked pathetic questions like: Who is Sarah Palin? What is her record? Where does she stand on the issues? And is she is qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency?

We have asked mean questions like: How well did John McCain know her before he selected her? How well did his campaign vet her? And was she his first choice?

Bad questions. Bad media. Bad.

It is not our job to ask questions. Or it shouldn’t be. To hear from the pols at the Republican National Convention this week, our job is to endorse and support the decisions of the pols.

Sarah Palin hit the nail on the head Wednesday night (and several in the audience wish she had hit some reporters on the head instead) when she said: “I’m not a member of the permanent political establishment. And I’ve learned quickly, these past few days, that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone.”

But where did we go wrong with Sarah Palin? Let me count the ways:

First, we should have stuck to the warm, human interest stuff like how she likes mooseburgers and hit an important free throw at her high school basketball tournament even though she had a stress fracture.

Second, we should have stuck to the press release stuff like how she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere (after she supported it).

Third, we should never have strayed into the other stuff. Like when The Washington Post recently wrote: “Palin is under investigation by a bipartisan state legislative body. … Palin had promised to cooperate with the legislative inquiry, but this week she hired a lawyer to fight to move the case to the jurisdiction of the state personnel board, which Palin appoints.”

Why go there? What trees does that plant?

Fourth, we should stop making with all the questions already. She gave a really good speech. And why go beyond that? As we all know, speeches cannot be written by others and rehearsed for days. They are true windows to the soul.

Unless they are delivered by Barack Obama, that is. In which case, as Palin said Wednesday, speeches are just a “cloud of rhetoric.”

Fifth, we should stop reporting on the families of the candidates. Unless the candidates want us to.

Sarah Palin wanted the media to report on her teenage son, Track, who enlisted in the Army on Sept. 11, 2007, and soon will deploy to Iraq.

Sarah Palin did not want the media to report on her teenage daughter, Bristol, who is pregnant and unmarried.

Sarah Palin thinks that one is good for her campaign and one is not, and that the media should report only on what is good for her campaign. That is our job, and that is our duty. If that is not actually in the Constitution, it should be. (And someday may be.)

The official theme of the convention’s third day was “prosperity,” but the unofficial theme was “the media are really, really awful.”

Even Mike Huckabee, who campaigned for president this year by saying “I am a conservative, but I am not mad at anybody,” discovered Wednesday night that he is mad at somebody.

“I’d like to thank the elite media for doing something,” Huckabee said, “that, quite frankly, I didn’t think could be done: unify the Republican party and all of America in support of John McCain and Sarah Palin.”

And could that be the real point of the attacks on the media? To unify the Republican Party?

No, that is simply the cynical, media view.

Though as Lily Tomlin says, “No matter how cynical I get, it’s just never enough to keep up.”

I couldn’t resist that. For which I am sorry.”

How dare the media actually question the qualification of an individual? FOX news is justifiably upset with the “Liberal Media”. Those horrible Liberal minded sissies are not catering to the whims of the Congressional Republicans. Shame.

And this leads back to the Republican Party, and the Bush strategy of attacking rational media (i.e., not FOX, CNN, MSNBC). In fact, it can be argued that this indeed is McCain’s “new” strategy. Not so different then the past eight years.