No Penalty for Synthetic News – Voracious Media Swallow Anything

For quite a while, papers such as the National Enquirer were the only place a reader could find out about the conception and birth of the extraterrestrial, alien children of movie stars.

“Enquiring Minds Want to Know,” led supermarket and drugstore shoppers to buy the tabloid for gossip and secrets of the rich and famous, celebrities, along with eyewitness tales of the occult and UFOs.  It only took a dozen or so specious or craftily worded articles per week to keep the America Media publication flush with advertising revenue.  No one cared about journalism, or retractions, or misspellings – entertaining fiction was all it was.  They had a big enough budget to settle lawsuits and keep printing.

Now the ever-widening maw of the internet has spawned info-fantasy outlets to compete with reality.  Exempli gratia:  The recent articles about a couple of California “Breatharians,” who claim to live on “energy that exists in the universe and in themselves” and that they are sustained by “cosmic nourishment.”  This must put the National Enquirer in the backseat of audacity.  No fewer than six news outlets on Google News published the articles; YouTube videos of the couple and their two children have hundreds of thousands of views.

I will not honor this idiocy with more details, but I will shake my head at what the word “news” has come to mean.  I shudder at the thought of how many people might believe such unfiltered, synthetic, mental trash.  Our children are already screen zombies with waning connection to the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual worlds they inhabit.  The gullible, undereducated, and socially diminished cohorts of the future may have little reality on which to build their lives.

The comedian Gallagher quipped, “I wish there was a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence.  There’s a knob called “brightness,” but it doesn’t seem to work.”  That was before cable TV and the Internet.

Advertisements

Stephen Hawking 100-Year Horizon – Human Nature Will Not Let US Survive

The most sacrosanct assumptions in projections of the future pertain to the uninhibited “right” to have children.  Arguments galore might pan the notion that having children is not a right, it is a luxury the future may not afford.

Ask yourself:

What is the source of pollution?
What is the source of famine?
What is the source of war?

The answer to all the problems posed by fatalists is simple:  people.

People, from birth to grave consume and emit.  Without technology, with technology, it does not matter.  Being alive adds to the problems we work so hard to offset.  Yes, you and I demand food, water, clothing, shelter, and many products and services that require resources.

In the extractive era, all we had to do was harvest.  We fished, hunted, drank water, felled trees, built fires, made tools, developed agriculture, and diverted rivers to allow us to harvest even more from nature.  And what did we contribute in exchange for the bounty we consumed?  Effluence.

So vast was the trove of resources, we had the energy, tools, and bodies to plant and husband, delve and drill, sail and dive, smelt and forge ourselves weapons and consumptive infrastructures.

The constant threat of extinction was real and constant.  The rate of mortality for mothers and babies was daunting.  The mortality of hunters and soldiers was also constant.  Not only was procreation allowed, it was demanded of women by men, relatives, and religions.

Numerous times, depopulation was significant, through wars and diseases.  The specter of extinction haunted our species, and still does in nuclear and cosmic ways.

It is ironic that the solution to our fears is the source of our threats – more people. Preserving resources ranks lower than species’ survival.  Increasing consumption of resources, and the byproducts that creates, threatens our existence.

Our nature demands that we dig our own graves, rather than curb our breeding.  Is it wrong?  Define wrong.

Free Press – Free to What?

Is a free press free to use public forums to promote their own adversary, political agendas?  Are public figures free to eschew blatant attacks, avoiding angry public exchanges by picking and choosing news sources, and using more moderate press pools to communicate?

Managing news coverage has been an important strategy for recent presidents.  The news media has paid a great deal of attention to President Trump’s conflicts with them.  However, the press has a short and selective memory when it comes to which presidents used such strategies.  President Trump is far from the first to employ the tools about which they complain.  Here is what the Atlantic said in an August, 2014 article about Richard Nixon’s, George W. Bush’s, and Barak Obama’s relationships with the “media.”

“… the Obama White House has used new media to take image control to new levels. It sends a stream of tweets, Facebook posts, and YouTube videos directly to the public while bypassing journalists. Last year, (July 8, 2014) in a separate letter*, 38 news organizations complained to Obama’s press secretary that photojournalists are often barred from public events. They said the White House prevented photographers from covering presidential meetings with congressmen and Middle East peace negotiators but then released its own photos of these events using social media.

 Obama also avoids interviews with White House reporters, preferring appearances on The View and late-night talk shows where easier questions are asked.”

 https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/08/nixons-revenge-his-media-strategy-triumphs-40-years-after-resignation/375274/

*http://www.spj.org/news.asp?ref=1253

The proliferation of “news” media has been exponential since 24/7 CNN.  The internet has allowed anyone to pose as a journalist.  At the same time, the public has become enervated to violence, scandal, and weirdness.  The competition for “eyes” has fomented “Jerry Springer” news.  Now the media is dominated by “breaking news,” and blatant, personality-driven opinion/commentary/spin/attack entities (e.g. Fox, CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post, New York Times), versus the few remaining sources offering dull, objective reporting of events from balanced, professional, factual reporting (e.g. BBC).

This evolution has turned “news” into espionage, and propaganda.  That means idea wars; that means information combat.  No intelligent person would stand still for their enemies to strike them.  Hence, defense and offense to offset the attacking forces.  Now we watch and listen to accusations, threats, partisan presentations, and ad hominem attacks.

Through such perspectives, we no longer have well-meaning people making bad choices, we have evil people making sinister choices.  We have rampant, belief “racism.”  We have created unthinking, philosophical camps with labels for “us,” and “others.”

Why do we decry racism, ethnic hatred, and other generalized biases?  Because it keeps us from knowing each other as people; it causes us to treat other people with contempt without knowing anything else about them.

How do we create these idea-based “races?”  We assert that all liberals believe “X”, all conservatives believe “Y”, all evangelicals believe “Z”, all millennials believe nothing, etc.  With this context, we form “righteous” cohorts of like-minded people to oppose other “inferior” or “evil” cohorts.

This intellectually lazy “groupthink” replaces critical thinking; this dissuades individuals from developing personal, unique, diverse combinations of beliefs, which they form over time, from life experiences, education, discussion, and research.  It also inhibits real exchanges of ideas.  Conversations, and discussions become unchanging, competing monologues.

The press is free to publish and broadcast what they will, but pernicious ideologues need not be ushered through the gates of those they despise.

Don’t Be Fooled by Media’s Silver Tongue

Civilized humans are susceptible to manipulation through language.

Benjamin Lee Whorf championed the idea that people think in words and cannot think of things for which they have no words.  “Whorfism” has proven less than absolute by scientists in various experiments tied to specific words.  These experiments show that concepts are more important than words.  (Interesting that some scientists take Whorfism literally.)

George Orwell’s 1949 novel 1984 holds prescient, dark images of a dystopian world.  Orwell illustrates the impact of interpretation on thinking with three ideas: “Newspeak,” “doublethink,” and “thoughtcrime.”

Newspeak refers to redefinition of words and verbal construction to promote a single view and eliminate conflicting views; e.g. substitute a favored word for an out-of-favor word; insist on “illegal immigrant,” or “undocumented worker,” in place of “unregistered alien,” or “unauthorized foreign national,” or even “migrant.”  The connotations of “immigrant,” vs. “alien,” “migrant,” or “refugee,” are emotionally powerful, as millions of immigrants are here legally, either registered aliens, (Green Card), or naturalized citizens.  Conflating “immigrants” with “unregistered aliens” stirs up resentment among immigrants, and sympathy for unregistered aliens.

The “code words” and euphemisms used by politicians and activists often fall into this “Newspeak” category.  Recently, “Fascist,” “Collateral Damage,” “Justice Involved Individuals,” “Climate Change,” “Affordable Care.”

Extracts from:  http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2014/09/george-orwell-newspeak/  George Orwell’s appendix to 1984

“The primary aim of Newspeak is to reduce the meaning of language as well as the number of words possible.  The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible.”

(Doublethink – resembles Japanese Zen koans in that illogical ideas are juxtaposed, combined and represented as truth.)

“war is peace 
freedom is slavery
ignorance is strength” 

(Today, “illegal is legal.”)

thoughtcrime, a word used in the novel to describe the act of thinking socially unacceptable thoughts or holding opinions that are ideologically distinct from The Party’s. This word has its origins in a Japanese term; however, Orwell’s novel popularized the term.”

(Today, we call this “politically correct,” and “hate speech;” this makes dissent heretical, even criminal.)

Thought police, the term for the group in Nineteen Eighty-Four that monitored the populace for any signs of unorthodox thought or action, has also become popular to signify any organization that attempts to suppress freedom of thought.”

(Mobs, media and social media serve this function today.  Think “Black Lives Matter,” “hate crimes,” and “Illegal immigrants”)

Look for examples of these ideas in the news.  I think you might be surprised how much others are guiding your thoughts and words.

The March? -Fog of Vague Purposes

Remember “Occupy Wall Street?” More currently, “Black Lives Matter?”  And the latest example, “Women’s March?”  They have this much in common:

  • Loose Organization
  • Diverse Membership
  • Aggregate Complaints
  • Unfocused Intentions
  • Non-Specific Proposals
  • Outdoor Meetings
  • Catchy Names

“Occupy Wall Street” was pretty much just news items about their encampment.  “Black Lives Matter” fails to note that Federal statistics show that 80-90% of murdered “black lives that matter” are victims of black killers.  Half of all murder victims, nationally, are black; blacks are less than 15% of the population.  Where is that protest and call to action?

In the context of this protest, do they mean “Black, Mexican, Muslim, LGBTQ, Women’s Lives Matter?”  Or do they mean “Black, Young, Men’s Lives Matter,” but this just happens to be a women’s march?  Just what do they mean?

It seems that the “Women’s March” was all about disappointment, fear, and frustration transformed into pink anger.  Disappointment that Hillary did not win, fear that women’s rights will be undermined, and frustration that women do not receive equal pay.

Trump became the effigy to blame for everything.

Misogyny:  How many participants, do you think, could cite specific instances when President Trump recently disrespected women who were not attacking him?  Where is the acknowledgement of the nonchalant treatment of wives and women by iconic presidents such as JFK, and Bill Clinton?

If the marchers are promoting equality for women, his business organizations reflect great respect for women by hiring them, promoting them into management and paying them well; sounds like equality to me.  Why not ask women who work for the Trump organization how they feel about their misogynist boss?

Immigration:  First, Trump got trapped in the “Newspeak” of the way we use “immigrant.”  Many foreign nationals, from many countries, apply for visas, “green cards,” and citizenship every year.  Those who gain permanent residence or citizenship can rightly be called immigrants.  A great number of Americans are immigrants or children of immigrants.

The proponents of unlimited immigration and aligned journalists fought to not use the legal term “alien.”  They insisted on substituting “______-immigrant” until it became commonplace.  The problem is that non-hyphenated, legal immigrants heard these “_______-immigrants” being criticized and threatened, and felt included in that group; they took personally the anger, fear, and distain.

By verbally lumping the “_______-immigrants” together with immigrant citizens, they built support for their open-borders philosophy.  If we had stuck with “aliens,” and “foreign nationals,” the citizens would not have felt combined with them.

Exactly, what did he say about Mexicans?  Not just the clips, the whole statements. He said that among the illegal migrants were, drug smugglers, human traffickers, fugitive criminals, including murders, and rapists.  Is that true?  Yes.  Trump’s opponents extracted this description and implied that he meant ALL Mexicans fit these profiles.

Muslims:  Trump wants to limit and vet prospective refugees entering the US from Islamist countries tied to terrorism.  He wants Muslim communities to help identify and thwart jihadist terrorists.

Women who live in Muslim countries might not be sympathetic with the complaints of the marchers; certainly, they would or could not march on their capitals protesting.  Why not ask Muslim-American women what they would face if they went home to Arabia and Africa?  What would you face going there as a Christian?  Count your blessings that you live here in America.

There are no government proposals or actions right now that threaten women; he just took office Friday.  All the rhetoric is about what could happen; what rights they fear might be lost; what affronts they fear they may face.  Fear is a factor, but not fact

The one thing that stands out to me is concern about reversing Roe v. Wade.  I understand opposition to abortion challenges.  I support safe, informed, reasoned choice for every woman.  So, focus on defending that right or you risk people writing you off as generally disappointed with the election results, and righteously irritated at the challenges of being a woman.

The last point is this:  What do you propose, aside from replacing Donald Trump?  Many commentators have shrugged their shoulders about the purposes of the march because the marchers are not clear about what they are championing.  It was a shame that all the time, money, effort, and commitment it took to get people on the streets ended in a fog of vague purposes.

Inequality? – What Does It Mean?

The Power of Words

Ayn Rand authored several books that captured the attentions of whole generations of rational American readers during a cataclysmic battle between individualism and collectivism.  She was born Jewish in Russia in St. Petersburg, in 1905; prophetically, this was a year of Revolution that began with the tsar’s Imperial Guard firing on a peaceful workers’ demonstration, killing 200, wounding 800, and ended with the formation of the first Duma (lower house of parliament).

The turmoil continued with the people and the aristocracy battling over the supremacy of the tsar.  Ayn grew up during the First World War, the rise of the Bolsheviks, the fall of the Tsar, the death of Lenin, and the union of the communist soviets.

She graduated from Petrograd State University in 1924, 2 years into the formation of the Soviet Union.  She came to the United States in 1926, and became a US citizen in 1931. She witnessed the collectivism of the USSR, and the rise of Stalin, from America, as the global depression suffocated economies and hope; as the world precipitated into war.

Her plays and books advocated reason over emotion, and individualism over collectivism.  Among my favorites are “Anthem,” and “Atlas Shrugged.”  “Anthem” describes a world in which there is no word for “I” or “me;” “mine” or “yours.”  All personal pronouns are collective.  She demonstrated the power of language in controlling the minds of people.

The Myth of Equality = Good

“Atlas Shrugged” tells the story of talented, creative, productive people whose individual efforts and contributions benefit average citizens; they profit personally from their efforts.  When these people are hounded and what they produce is confounded, and impounded, they escape to a hidden, peaceful, prosperous place populated by others like themselves.  They were “inequal” in the parlance of today.  Their society lost the benefits of their gifts.

George Orwell wrote a book, “Animal Farm,” which was required reading in my high school English class.  It tells the story of farm animals taking over the farm because of inequality.  They establish 7 commandments of “Animalism,” the seventh of which was “All Animals are Equal.”  The operation of “Animalism” proved very unequal.

A Call to Collectivism

Now we have lots of vague talk about “inequality.”

Question:  Where and when have equalities ever existed among humans?

Certainly, humans have been born all over the globe and across a wide spectrum of attributes, but nothing has ever been equal on any measurable attribute.  The only “equality” experiments I know of are utopian communes, and communist governments, none of which have had durable successes, except perhaps, to spread poverty and suffering equally among members and comrades.

The most glaring example of equality today, is North Korea.  I am sure the average American pines and prays to have that thrill of starvation and repression in the name of equality.  Oh, and some comrades are more equal than others.

The Absence of Definition & Context

The term “income inequality” is not a recent invention.  Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men, in 1754.  He describes two types of inequality:

Natural, Physical– differences one human’s body and another

Ethical, Moral – wealth, nobility, power, personal merit.

He proposes that natural, solitary man is a savage who lacks language, reason, and society. He is not motivated by fear of death, because he cannot conceive of it. He is only corrupted by social association with other men, causing:

  • Competition – best dancer, singer, strongest, fastest, handsomest, smartest
  • Self-Comparison with Others – ranking, e.g. second-best, IQ, “the Joneses”
  • Hatred – envy, jealousy, covetous, fear, anger
  • Urge for Power – dominance, entitlement, control

This led to the source and basis of inequality:  private property.

Angus Maddison, a respected economic historian tracked global income inequality of 25 nations since 1820.  His findings show increases in globalization were the major factor in disparity of incomes.  Retreats from globalization resulted in lower inequality.

The recent rants about “inequality” sound like envy to me.  Envy is not constructive.  The authors neither define equality nor any acceptable level of inequality; they also omit the context, methods and means of achieving less inequality; the ranters do not appear to have a clue about the sources of wealth, business success, or any idea what they are proposing.  This is evident from the example they have chosen to shock the reading public.

The Eight Richest People on Earth have wealth equal to half the people on Earth.  Sounds amazing, until one does the math or looks at who these men are.  Wealth is defined as: $Assets – $Debts.  It does not mean income.  These eight men have $485 billion dollars’ worth of valuable assets more than what they owe*.

Who What Arena Billions**
Bill Gates * Microsoft Computer Software           91.0
Amancio Ortega* Zara and Inditex Fashion Retail           71.2
Warren Buffett* Berkshire Hathaway Investments           73.6
Carlos Slim Helu* America Movil Telecom           49.4
Jeff Bezos* Amazon Computer Retail           67.2
Mark Zuckerberg* Facebook Computer Social Media           50.8
Larry Ellison* Oracle Computer Software           41.8
Michael Bloomberg* Bloomberg Investments           40.0

*Created their own companies

**Bloomberg reports as of 12/31/2016

I am not astonished at these numbers, nor that six of the eight are Americans, nor that five of the eight are in technology.  Look at what they have built.  Think of the services and products they have created and distributed to willing buyers.  Their wealth is the result of creating value for others.  All of them created the companies that represent most of their wealth.

What astonishes me is the fact that 3.6 billion people, (including children) own an average of $135 each.  Who do you know who has $135 total wealth?  Think; who owes more than they own?  Anyone who has a job, rents an apartment, has no savings, uses credit cards, and borrows money to buy a car, or go to college.  During the recent recession, plenty of people were “under water” on their mortgaged homes.  That is here in America; I am sure Asia, the Middle East, India, Central America, South America, and Africa have plenty of poor people with no prospects for improvement.  Whose responsibility are they?

It is unclear what the article is suggesting, but the point is lost on me.  It sounds like envy.

The only thing this article suggests to me is, that if you took every penny from the world’s 8 richest people, and distributed it among the 3.6 billion poorest people, they each would have $135 more than they have now, and we would not have the services and goods these eight produce.

Our Glass House

One thing that stands out about the debate over equality is the way Americans limit their geographic boundaries.  We seem to talk about inequality only within national borders.  Income and wealth disparity is greatest among nations.

If you want to silence a discussion of inequality, mention this: The USA has 4.5% of the world’s population and owns 33.2% of the world’s wealth. We Americans would have to give up 86.4% of what we have, to equalize wealth with the other 7.2 billion people in the world.  Is that what the authors propose?  I doubt it.

One estimate of the total wealth on our planet is $255 quadrillion dollars.  That would mean about $36,000 per person when divided by 7.5 billion people.  However, infrastructure, education, access, communications, logistics, culture, climate, security, resources, health, age, and many other elements are not evenly distributed or available.  Some societies do not allow women to own property or have money unless it is controlled by a man.  Other societies are so corrupt that what they have is stolen from them at every turn.

History suggests that even if all assets were evenly distributed, the money would soon be redistributed to the few who provide the goods and services for the many.

Bloomberg’s listing of billionaires includes 197 whose total wealth is $3 trillion.  I do not know what percentage of the world’s population that matches, but it is about 15% of the $20 trillion national debt of the USA.  That would be $2.86 for every person in the world; $62,700 for each man, woman, and child in America.  What would be the average wealth of an American if we subtracted $62,700 from their net worth to pay the debt?

A Bigger Pie

Consider this:  those who decry inequality pose it as a problem, but offer no solutions.  What would the authors of the inequality protest recommend to raise the wealth of the earth’s inhabitants without confiscating the value created by others?