September 3, 2013

How TV models discussions of what to notice

Last year in a discussion following the London Olympics, commenter NOTA made an interesting point:
I'm pretty convinced at this point that one of the biggest powers of TV media (particularly the 24 hour cable news channels and the talking-head sports shows that so resemble them) is the ability to model the discussions they want us to have. I think for a lot of people, they never hear or have even a tenth the amount of actual in-person conversation on any issue that they hear/see on TV. That provides the model for what people are thinking about some issue, and how you should think and speak and react, in order to fit in.  
If you can make sure that those conversations *don't* raise some issues or *don't* point out some pretty-obvious-looking facts, then most people somehow leave them out of their model. That's not what people seem to be talking about. Must not be very interesting.  
Presumably, there is some explicit decisonmaking going on about what ought not to be discussed--things that piss off too many advertisers or viewers, or that trigger retaliation from sources in media or sports or entertainment, or that run counter to the interests of the media company you work for (like having commentators on the Olympics coverage opine that probably everyone competing with any chance of winning is doping) probably get an explicit rule. Similarly, some issues are sufficiently politicized to get a rule by media organizations, like not referring to the race of criminals when they're black, or not calling anything Americans do torture.  
But probably a huge amount happens implicitly--some topics just aren't discussed in the community from which their commenters are drawn, or are universally seen as improper for public discussion. Even if there isn't an explicit rule saying that you can't speculate about Americans doping, it's just a whole lot less acceptable to bring up the issue about American gold medalists than foreigners.  ...

A few comments:

- I seldom watch unscripted talking on TV anymore. I used to, but with the coming of the Internet, there's so much to read, and reading is so much faster than sitting, looking, and listening.

- The Internet, however, remains less influential than television. That's Putin's big insight: control television and you don't need to control the Internet. Maybe have a few writers you don't like turn up dead, but mostly just make sure the good-looking, personable people on TV aren't causing you trouble.

- Because I don't have cable, I only recently noticed that the vast explosion in the number of channels has likewise increased the number of individuals who could, with some plausibility, think of themselves as television stars. In turn, a not insubstantial fraction of the rest of the public thinks that they might be on TV someday too, so they should pay careful attention to how people who are on TV talk.

- I have this strange opinion that you should be pleasant and inoffensive to average people you meet, but the ideas of those who voluntarily put themselves "in the arena" are fair game. Many people, however, feel that the arena is not the place for debate, it's for affirming consensus values, and that the people in the arena deserve deference (because their hair is so nice, or whatever).

- I continue to be struck by the division between comedy and serious (i.e., boring) talk. For example, I had always heard Tina Fey's sitcom "30 Rock" acclaimed as liberal, but when I finally got around to watching it, I found it very much on my wavelength. A couple of jokes per episode tended to be distinctly iSteveish.

- In general, I like things that combine humor and serious analysis, but I seem to be missing an appreciation for the human desire to keep separate the Profound and the Profane.

38 comments:

Bill said...

TV is a significantly older medium. Not saying it has no influence amongst the young, but they are an afterthought.

You, Steve, are probably about the median age for TV news viewers, and yet your habits reflect those of people significantly younger. Perhaps you are more mentally and physically agile (not to mention technologically proficient) -- many TV viewers are sluggish people for one reason or another.

Perhaps the "arena" is about all these people have, and because of their reluctance/inability to get out of their easy chairs it's a far more serious matter to them when when etiquette is breached on TV.

When I watch the local news, I see the same people who have always been on the TV news throughout my life, and I count myself as middle-aged at this point (late 30s). TV is an extraordinarily conservative institution -- even more so than print media these days.

It reminds of the after-service kaffeeklatsch my grandma used to enjoy so much at our church some 30 years ago. I wouldn't expect controversy on TV any more than I would have in St. Pat's reception hall circa 1983.

Anonymous said...

"Take, say, a country which is at the opposite end of the spectrum from us domestically, the Soviet Union. That's a country run by the bludgeon, essentially. It's a command state: the state controls, everybody basically follows orders. It's more complicated than that, but essentially that's the way it works. There, it's very easy to determine what propaganda is: what the state produces is propaganda. That's the kind of thing that Orwell described in 1984. In a country like that, where there's a kind of Ministry of Truth, propaganda is very easily identifiable. Everybody knows what it is, and you can choose to repeat it if you like, but basically it's not really trying to control your thought very much; it's giving you the party line. It's saying, "Here's the official doctrine; as long as you don't disobey you won't get in trouble. What you think is not of great importance to anyone. If you get out of line we'll do something to you because we have force."

Democratic societies can't really work like that, because the state can't control behavior by force. It can to some extent, but it's much more limited in its capacity to control by force. Therefore, it has to control what you think. And again, democratic theorists have understood this for 50 or 60 years and have been very articulate about it. If the voice of the people is heard, you'd better control what that voice says, meaning you have to control what they think. The method Otero mentions there is one of the major methods. One of the ways you control what people think is by creating the illusion that there's a debate going on, but making sure that that debate stays within very narrow margins. Namely, you have to make sure that both sides in the debate accept certain assumptions, and those assumptions turn out to be the propaganda system. As long as everyone accepts the propaganda system, then you can have a debate.


Making an example of a heretic or two doesn't hurt (so he got fired for making comments about genetic differences? and he won the nobel prize for discovering the molecular structure of dna? message received, captain!)

Anonymous said...

Steve you are missing the second step of the syllogism that made 30 Rock liberal. Liberalism is cool. 30 rock is cool. Ergo 30 Rock is liberal. At this point liberalism is so reliant on cool factor as the supplement to kkkrazy glue or whatever you call it that they basically let Tina get away with what was basically a minstrel character in Tracy Jordan.


That said a lot of the liberal bashing in 30 Rock was just sucessful, professional lefties disdaining hippies that haven't like that aging left-wing comediene character that Princess Lea actress played. The core of 30 Rock was Bloomberg alpha dog liberalism and yet Fey obviously had a soft spot for earnest, non-alpha Kenneth. Has anyone ever seen Tina Fey and Maureen Dowd in the same place?

Harry Baldwin said...

I turned on my local public radio station today in the middle of a discussion about group violence. The host said, "I just can't imagine the mentality of people committing a gang rape or a mob attacking an immigrant."

"A mob attacking an immigrant?! Has anything like that made the news lately? Perhaps she is thinking of "Gates of Heaven," with redneck types attacking Eastern European Jews. Well, better that than the black mob attacks on whites that have been featured in the news so much in recent years. Her crimestop reflex are well honed.

Crimestop as defined by Emmanuel Goldstein in 1984: "Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity."

Anonymous said...

How TV models discussions of what to notice

Do NOT notice that the only thing which "The War on Terror" has accomplished [after more than a decade] is the absolute destruction of Christianity in the Middle East.

Do NOT notice that upwards of 1.5 Million Iraqi Christians were purged after the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.

Do NOT notice that Abdul Rahman was sentenced to death for converting to Christianity in Afghanistan, or that Bae Hyeong-gyu and Shim Seong-min were beheaded by the Taliban for attempting to evangelize the people of Afghanistan.

Do NOT notice that the Neocons wanted Mubarak gone in Egypt, and that almost as soon as Morsi rose up to replace Mubarak, the slaughter of the Coptic Christians commenced.

Do NOT notice that the Neocons want Assad gone in Syria, where Assad is all that stands between the Aramaic Christians and the Al Qaeda infiltrators who seek to annihilate them.

Given the rate at which "The War on Terror" is destroying Christianity in the Middle East, and especially the rate at which the "The War on Terror" is eliminating Middle Eastern Christians as viable Mercantilists, it won't be long now before 100% of the citrus fruit contracts, 100% of the fig & date contracts, 100% of the United Nations flour & rice & dried milk & medical contracts, and 100% of all weapons contracts - in the Middle East - have to pass through Tel Aviv.

Because there just won't be a viable Mercantilist competitor with Tel Aviv anymore.

But do NOT notice it.

PS: When the Neocons decide that it's high time to install a new gubmint in Lebanon, do you suppose that Carlos Slim Helu will finally flex his muscles and order the NY Times to put a stop to it?

PC Makes You Stupid said...

Modelling discussions of what to notice - just like what you do by deleting certain comments that notice things you don't want to notice.

Steve Sailer said...

"Liberalism is cool. 30 rock is cool. Ergo 30 Rock is liberal."

That's pretty much as far as reasoning goes right now.

Anonymous said...

To add to my point above at 8:46 liberalism better hope that the dearth of Hispanics in Hollywood holds up or otherwise the kkkrazy glue is going to start cutting into liberalism's hip factor as the movies Hispanics like aren't very much like 30 Rock. It is possible that collision of the hipster cool factor with demographic driven changes in pop culture might deliver the coup de grade to the kkkrazy glue koalition.

Matt Buckalew

Anonymous said...

"A couple of jokes per episode tended to be distinctly iSteveish."

-ish but not -ian.

It's the only way to be un-pc.
But just for spice, not the meat.

David said...

>I seem to be missing an appreciation for the human desire to keep separate the Profound and the Profane.<

Nonsense.

>the vast explosion in the number of channels has likewise increased the number of individuals who could, with some plausibility, think of themselves as television stars<

The bottom of the barrel is being scraped. I'm on TV frequently. I'm a supporting player (re-enactor) in many different reality crime shows, and the episodes are re-run constantly. The pay is small (non-union buyout) but it's easy lunch money, and when the director is a friend I'm allowed to ad-lib a few acerbic lines.

I'd wager that at least half the iSteve readership has appeared on TV at least once, and even forgotten about it because it's so common. In some US cities, it's hard to avoid being on TV if you're a pushy smart-ass.

I follow the late Gore Vidal's advice to posterity: "Never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television." Not at the same time, he forgot (?) to add.

>Putin's big insight: control television and you don't need to control the Internet.<

As (the real) George Carlin remarked: Think of how stupid the average person is, and then remember that half the population is even stupider than that. Every single one of these dolts is watching TV right now.

Anonymous said...

Take, say, a country which is at the opposite end of the spectrum from us domestically, the Soviet Union. That's a country run by the bludgeon, essentially. It's a command state: the state controls, everybody basically follows orders. It's more complicated than that, but essentially that's the way it works. There, it's very easy to determine what propaganda is: what the state produces is propaganda.

The closest analogy for us might be like working in a corporation. The execs set the agenda and propaganda about the company and the product it's selling is crafted and disseminated. Everybody understands and recognizes that it's propaganda. Everyone affirms the propaganda, but nobody really has to "believe" it in some higher sense.

David said...

(Didn't mean to imply the iSteve readership is pushy smart-asses. I meant people who actively seek out getting on TV can easily do it, & that affectionate epithet describes the least of those. Apologies.)

Peter the Shark said...

"30 Rock", like "Curb Your Enthusiasm" reflects a cynicism that has developed among smart urban liberals. They recognize that a lot of liberal tropes have failed, but for cultural and tribal reasons they won't abandon the ship. Liberal cynicism is probably good for the Democrats - it allows them to have a bigger tent since for the most part they are OK with being mocked from the inside as long as certain lines aren't crossed. I don't see that on the GOP where there is a constant battle to be "more true conservative than Thou!". The Dems are applying the Putin strategy to power and the GOP the North Korea strategy.

Cail Corishev said...

Young people may be more influenced by the Internet than their elders, but most of them aren't using it to seek out and discuss ideas outside the mainstream. Most use the Internet much like their parents use TV: select your favorite channels (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, whatever) and then sit back and absorb what they transmit. The left hasn't wasted any time in dominating those channels, so young people hanging out online aren't much more likely to encounter uncomfortable ideas than their parents watching the network news.

Maybe less likely -- TV talk shows usually present at least a token conservative to offer some mild dissent; sites like Facebook make no such concession.

Anonymous said...

Modelling discussions of what to notice - just like what you do by deleting certain comments that notice things you don't want to notice.

I had a pretty rough time over Labor Day weekend - went 0-fer-the-Holiday with Komment Kontrol.

Started getting worried that maybe onRay nzUay had banned my IP Address.

Or maybe that the NSA & Google had cut some sort of a censorhip-sharing agreement with the Mossad.

Not that there's much practical difference between Google and the Mossad - but I like to pretend that Google at least asks for formal permission from the NSA first before they do anything like that.

Anonymous said...

I'm more sympathetic than you are to the deference that goes to authoritative sounding people on TV. Most people don't have the time, aptitude or attitude to debate these issues in the vicious, all consuming manner that their importance deserves. Frankly, this sounds like the political wonks' surprise on discovering that most people don't care that much about the latest scandal du jour.

I don't have the spare time or energy to debate things like I used to in college. Then, I had the energy and the sense that This Is Vitally Important, as well as figuring things out in my own head, that could make me get into verbal and written brawls over political topics. Now...eh...I'm working (no, really), and I'm more sure of what I believe, and I honestly can't be bothered. So much of doing business with each other involves (1) not wasting time, (2) sticking to the topic at hand and (3) not needlessly antagonising one another.

I suspect that your continued freshness is down to the fact that this is your job. Most other people, even those who are smart enough for it, have other things to do.

Anonymous said...

I find I can't watch films or, to a lesser degree, TV anymore. If I watch TV, it's to take a boxset and spend a spare weekend luxuriating in it. If it can't withstand that kind of scrutiny, not interested. Those media (mediums?) just seem so slow - reading is so much more efficient. I'm not particularly smart; it's just a mixture of training and, well, have you seen recent films?

Marlowe said...

Or, as ol' Bob Whitaker likes to say: why was this information produced? It's very difficult to be funny and spout the standard party line at the same time. The jokes told in the Soviet Union were all about the terribleness of the governmental system.

He put it into historical context a few years ago:

In the faraway 60s I was driving across the South with a young English girl. We were watching a live TV show where young people were asked if they thought long hair on males was bad. She guessed almost all of them would say no.

She was barely older than the youngsters who answered, but it was, as I had predicted to her, about ninety percent yes. She had nothing to guide her but the American media and American commentators.

The Wallace Youth was huge, but I never saw a single picture of them until Wallace was shot and his stalker’s picture was among those wearing Wallace Youth hats. I don’t remember ever seeing a picture of even one Nixon Youth.

But Leftist Youth was on television nightly.

All Youth, then as now, was radical left. That is the reason the information about “youth” was produced.

At Kent State, the average age of the rock-throwers was higher than the average age of National Guard units who fired on them. By the way, the entire national media absolutely declared that no rocks were thrown. Now that it doesn’t matter, they admit it freely.

As Al Capp said, “It doesn’t take a college education to know that the easiest way to get yourself killed is to throw rocks at armed men.”

When the TV news interviewed students about the integration of the University of South Carolina, which had been delayed until me and my group left the school, one guy yelled, advocated violence, the whole bit.

Everybody knew that in this random sampling of student opinion, he would be left out. He was a student and he gave no doubt he had an opinion, but everyone assumed that it would be edited out. I like to go into that with people, precisely because they took it for granted.

When someone edits out offensive language, the decision is looked at closely. But we have become so accustomed to neatly trimmed news that we never THINK about the implications.

As one BUGS commenter put it, censorship is more about what is left out than about what is left in.
If that guy had been a LEFTIST radical screaming for violence, CBS would have featured him as “youthful dissent.” But I had to stick that under people’s noses to get them to NOTICE what they took for granted.

But this sort of unnoticed truth is what makes the world what it is. Not Conspiracies, not Big Money, but simply what the media are comfortable with.

It is important for me to repeat that right after the 1980 election, the media didn’t KNOW any of the people in the new Administration below Secretary level. They even put ME on the front page of the New York Times because my quotes were too good to leave out!

It took them a year to find out who was nice and who wasn’t. Can you imagine any other media in the developed world that wouldn’t even have a passing acquaintance with people who just took over in a landslide?

Anonymous said...

"I had always heard Tina Fey's sitcom "30 Rock" acclaimed as liberal, but when I finally got around to watching it, I found it very much on my wavelength."


30 Rock strikes me largely as knowing self-parody by the entertainment elites of the urban Northeast. The message, as far as I can tell, is "Yes, we understand that we live in a self-contained bubble and we're completely out-of-touch with most of 'normal' America".


"I'd wager that at least half the iSteve readership has appeared on TV at least once, and even forgotten about it because it's so common."

It's true- this post just reminded me of the time I was interviewed at length on public access television (I almost never think about it), and I barely remember anything about the time I was the center of a very brief story on the local news.

Edward Waverley said...

"I have this strange opinion that you should be pleasant and inoffensive to average people you meet, but the ideas of those who voluntarily put themselves 'in the arena' are fair game."

This is not a strange view, it makes a lot of sense. Notice that the opposite sentiment dominates our elites. Their idea is that proles deserve nothing but contempt, while the famous are entitled to deference. Our emperors have been naked for a long time, but the peasants viewing them on TV are clueless. They equate "he's on TV" with intellectual legitimacy.

carol said...

yeah...I do believe that what makes sports so popular is it gives guys something safe to talk about, gives them their lines ("the momentum has shifted" etc) with other guys. They even get PC points for team diversity.

what really surprises me is how powerful this attraction is in small local sports markets. in the last 2o years my town has gone over the top for the college team..ridiculous.

James O'Meara said...

"Do NOT notice that the only thing which "The War on Terror" has accomplished [after more than a decade] is the absolute destruction of Christianity in the Middle East."

No problem with that; too bad they didn't start 2000 years ago. Hey, then we wouldn't have PC Liberalism, would we?

Anti-Democracy Activist said...

Increasingly, the division between people who get their news and commentary from the internet and those who get it from television seems to be a division of the intelligent and/or sophisticated vs. the lumpenproles. To quote Fred Reed in a recent column on the subject:

"And so the bright drift to the web, leaving newspapers to clippers of grocery coupons and television to the semiliterate and below."

It's a good column, and anyone interested in the subject should read it. Fred spent 30 years as a reported in Washington, so he knows the subject well. Here's the link: http://fredoneverything.net/Microjourno.shtml

This is contra some conventional wisdom on the subject, and not just from the left - witness Taki's anti-internet screed from a couple of days ago. But that, as some have pointed out, may have more to do with Taki's age than anything else; even dapper Greek millionaires are, above a certain age, subject to shouting "Get off my lawn!"

Were I an intelligent, moral, sensible Roman of the first century AD, I would make a point of neither knowing nor caring what ghastly entertainments were being put before the plebs down at the Coliseum. It would be beneath me on every level. I am not a first-century Roman, however, but a 21st-century American; and neither know nor care what's on television.

Anonymous said...

A lot of public and private discussion now is performance art. The aim is to show the speaker is intelligent, interesting and enlightened rather than find out the truth.

AKAHorace

Glossy said...

"Maybe have a few writers you don't like turn up dead..."

Steve is rightly skeptical about US media's portrayal of America, but unthinkingly accepts the stuff that this same media is writing about other countries. KKK at Oberlin - sounds fishy. Putin killing journalists - if they said it, it must be true.

countenance said...

Re the disconnect between what people care about and what the media care about:

I was at the Missouri State Fair for its entire run last month. It opened on a Thursday, the "infamous" rodeo clown incident (nontroversy) was two days later, and the fair closed eight days after that. So the media had more than a week to make the rodeo clown the biggest story in the country and the worst thing that happened at the time. Meanwhile, virtually nobody actually at the fair cared about it.

countenance said...

Anonymous 9/3/13 8:54 PM

So the theory is that the Js are weaponizing AQ/MB against ME Christians in order to wipe out a commercial competitor?

That sounds like the kind of theory that someone who already blames Jews for everything would come up with or believe.

The big flaw in the theory is that the end result of the whole plan is that Israel's neighbors are run by AQ/MB regimes that hate Israel way more than the secular despots they replaced. It's a game so dangerous that I can't see anyone wanting to play it in reality.

I think our obsession with Syria has a much simpler and better explanation: The modern white western liberal hobby horse obsession with nuclear and WMD proliferation.

edsnods said...

A mob attacking an immigrant?! Has anything like that made the news lately

Sure, Vincent Chin was killed just the other day. Like Steve says, or almost said, every Dem wants to be part of the Generation of '68.

Glossy said...

"Everybody understands and recognizes that it's propaganda."

OK, I grew up in the Soviet Union. Practically nobody there thought that the news was filled with propaganda. The vast majority believed in the dominant narratives. I remember my aunt tellng us in the 1980s how grief-stricken she was at Stalin's death. The people who grew up after the mid 50s, after Stalin had been condemned, didn't generally view him positively, but everyone I've ever known who remembered his period first-hand gave positive reviews of him. During my youth the popular stereotype and observable reality of the demographics of Stalin's fans was that they were oldsters, the people who had been young while he ran the country. When people like that came across bits of shoddy work or bureaucratic inefficiency, you'd sometimes hear "oh, that wouldn't have flown under Stalin. Another Stalin is what this country needs." It went on and on.

What would have happened if the Soviet Union wasn't popular, if large numbers of its citizens didn't believe its narratives? It would have been overthrown. In reality it had to be abolished from the top. There was a referendum in 1991 on dissolving the Soviet Union. 77.8% voted for keeping it. It was abolished from above, by politicians that same year.

General lessons: try not to project your own time's and place's narratives on the past or on foreign-to-you cultures.

There are people who write novels about the Middle Ages in which all the decent people are horrified by instances of homophobia. I once saw an episode of the British TV series Rome where a character's utter villainy was established in a scene where he said some unkind words to some East Indian merchants. I'm sure that if the series was shot by the modern French, the role of the Indians would have had to be played by "les maghrébins".

There are historians who explain the conquistadors' motivations only through greed and racism. Those guys thought that they were giving the Amerindians a huge favor, helping them save their souls for eternity.

Medieval Christian writers retroactively recruited guys like Virgil into Christianity. If he wrote such great stuff, how could he not have been a Christian? How could any refined soul have believed in all that pagan crap? So they looked for quotes in his work that anticipated Jesus's message. And they believed that they had found them, not just in Virgil, but in lots of other ancient writers.

Imagining that Soviet citizens thought that they were fed propaganda is like that.

How to recognize that a narrative isn't believed by its intended audience? Easiest thing in the world. The people who promote such narratives are poor and powerless. They're viewed as heretics, dangerous extremists, haters by the majority. They're sometimes accused of being mentally ill. Does that mean that they're actually right about anything? Perhaps once in a while. Most people are wrong about most things.

David said...

Re Glossy, it's the democracy defense. The persistent strategy, since the English and French Revolutions, of couching a viewpoint or a political project in the language of "the will of the people." "The people," tho, as you point out, usually have little interest in what the talented minority avidly desires (art, the dictatorship of the proletariat, free trade, the pure Aryan race, etc.). Why the talented (or just pushy) minority anywhere believes it has to use the democracy defense is an interesting question. One theory is that it's afraid of the mob and must manufacture consent both to pacify it and to manipulate it. ("The Russian people despair of their chains and bitterly resent their dictatorial rulers" - this from a few ambitious guys with a printing press in a basement, or an internet connection at an NGO.) This would imply that the mob is especially powerful somehow, and even that it was the mob's power that led to the creation of modern democracy and not the other way around. Mencken had the theory that as population burgeoned, things grew worse for the minority of enterprising brights. He even theorized that the Renaissance received a decisive assist from the Black Plague. After the Plague there were fewer dummies around, so the smarties could roll up their sleeves and get to work without having to worry about coping with them.

Some American historians have pointed out that the general public at the time of the American Revolution didn't know from republicanism and Locke and wouldn't have cared if it had known. The sole interest of "the American People" then (as now) was in pulling down more money. Many were illiterate and the stories about the Declaration being read aloud to the population in the town squares to rapturous receptions are largely bullshit. Also see Daniel Goldhagen on Germany and Nazism. It isn't really true that every German was in the Resistance.

"The will of the people" is a classic cliche of all tyrants, for a reason.

Another theory for the existence of the democracy defense is, of course, that to have mass action one must enlist and inspire the masses. So one needs a "bandwagon" campaign, as it's called in advertising. Tell people that everyone else is on your side, so why don't they join, too? Get on the bandwagon! "Everyone in this country hates capitalism/communism/cultural Bolshevism, so you do, too, and you ought to help out in the battle and join the irresistible forces of history," etc.

But the bandwagon explanation of the democracy defense is logically subsumed under the fear explanation. Why not simply impose the will of you, instead of trying to get people on board with the putative will of the people? Or why not largely ignore the people altogether?

I'm going in a Borges direction here. There are so many people that sheer mass creates a certain alarm in rulers and innocent minorities. This mass is the real ruler, the 800-pound screaming baby in the room. So the active minorities of tyrants and patriots and innovative artists have increasing resort to hiding behind groups. Picasso didn't do a painting. Instead, he expressed the will of the people, as it emerged from the great mass movement of Cubism. Bill isn't killing John to get his hands on oil. Instead, the people are engaged in a moral project for the good of mankind. John isn't killing Bill to protect that oil. Instead, the people are expressing the will of history by resisting the evildoer.

It reminds me of the remark often made during large wars: "If Roosevelt and his people and Tito's and his (or Bush and Saddam, whoever) could duke it out personally with fisticuffs, like little boys bloodying each other's noses, the whole thing would be settled in minutes."

Anonymous said...

"I seem to be missing an appreciation for the human desire to keep separate the Profound and the Profane.'

Jibes at your opponents' cluelessness are fine. Just try to avoid crude stuff.

Chubby Ape said...

Glossy said...

"Maybe have a few writers you don't like turn up dead..."

Steve is rightly skeptical about US media's portrayal of America, but unthinkingly accepts the stuff that this same media is writing about other countries. KKK at Oberlin - sounds fishy. Putin killing journalists - if they said it, it must be true.


I agree with you on the need to be sceptical about claims made against Putin but I have to wonder why you have to be so rude to Steve Sailer? Actually there are quite a few snotty and prickly readers' comments around here and they're often posted by people who generally agree with our host on other matters. It's weird to me. Maybe it's the charmlessness of the high IQ, low empathy nerdocracy or maybe that famous American "realness" celebrated in your sitcoms and films?

David said...

>there are quite a few snotty and prickly readers' comments around here and they're often posted by people who generally agree with our host[...] Maybe it's the charmlessness of the high IQ, low empathy nerdocracy or maybe that famous American "realness" celebrated in your sitcoms and films?<

It's both, but mostly the latter. Jealousy of the alpha ape is a universal male characteristic, and Americans are characteristically uninhibited concerning rudeness and narcissism.

Especially in intellectual matters, this particular lack of inhibition used to be valued for its function in the puncturing of pretensions: "Professor, you can't even work a screwdriver, so what do you know." It was always coupled with a certain anti-intellectualism derived from British pragmatism and the experience or tradition of frontier hardship. All this used to be (and still is) considered endearing in some quarters, but it has soured with the decline of social capital and is now mostly unpleasant.

There's also a more benign phenomenon known to the Spanish as rough kidding. This is simply affectionate teasing taking the "rough" outward form of an insult. (For an extreme type of rough kidding, go to YouTube and view a few "roasts," dinners where the hosts compete in humiliating the guest to show their appreciation of him.) This rough kidding, too, is always in peril of becoming something more sinister and there's always the baleful (and stimulating) possibility that the target will take it badly.

In any case, anyone who in any way distinguishes himself among any group of Americans must be prepared for rough kidding, roasting, open resentment, malice, and the related phenomenon of "taking that sonofabitch down a peg," all of it expressed freely.

If you find this hard to accept, just bear in mind the image of an old West saloon full of lawless toughs and machos mocking their friends and their enemies to their faces, with an occasional wisecrack coming from one of the girls upstairs. That is the milieu in which many men, particularly many American men, even gays and swipples, finally feel most at home - and it has its good points. There is no hope in trying to change it; it is reform-proof. The only thing to do is to have a sense of humor and put on a white cowboy hat (i.e., be a good cowboy or cowgirl).

TheLRC said...

I've made a shift in the past few years to getting more news and analysis, and also popular history, theology, etc., from podcasts.

I see several advantages to this medium:

I commute to work on public transport, so listening is hands-free, and my aging eyes don't need to focus on small text on a moving vehicle.

I have a podcast player on my phone that permits listening at up to 3X normal speed. That's a bit too fast for me to follow, but I find 2.5X is no problem at all with American podcasts; Brits seem to talk a bit faster, so maybe 2X is okay. This makes it possible to get through lots of material quickly; it's nearly as fast as reading.

I also find that podcasts' unscripted nature means speakers regularly reveal what they really think. It's hard to maintain (or at least conceal) spouting a 'line' you don't believe in when conducting long discussions that are repeated on a regular basis.

Podcasting therefore seems to me a much more honest medium than TV or talk radio, and maybe than print. More truth is likely to spill around the edges of a podcast than in a TV broadcast, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

"I'd wager that at least half the iSteve readership has appeared on TV at least once, and even forgotten about it because it's so common."

It's true- this post just reminded me of the time I was interviewed at length on public access television (I almost never think about it), and I barely remember anything about the time I was the center of a very brief story on the local news.
-------------
First time I read the original comment, I thought to myself, "I doubt that's true. I, for example, have never been on TV." But then I thought a little longer and realized that I had been on a local news channel when I and a bunch of my law school classmates were broadcast live as we learned of the first OJ verdict. Some of my classmates were surprised. I, of course, knew what the verdict would be and if I could find that footage now, I have no doubt the video would show me with a knowing smile on my face.

Notchean

NOTA said...

The LRC:

The other critical thing about podcasts is that there is no gatekeeper deciding which podcasts will be allowed, and which will be taken off the air. If Rachel Maddow pisses off the management of MSNBC, or too many powerful people who can lean on the management of MSNBC, she will disappear from the airwaves. Podcasts don't work like that, at least not yet, and probably not ever, because they cost very little to produce and so don't need a huge audience and advertisers and a time slot on national TV or radio.

Also, I think the overwhelming majority of podcasters (like bloggers) have a day job. They aren't making a living podcasting.

The really wonderful thing about podcasts, though, is that they can be very narrow. No radio station anywhere could give a regular slot to a talk show about virology, say--there just wouldn't be enough audience members in the broadcast area to justify the use of scarce spectrum. But a podcast only reaches the people who are interested, and there is no practical limit to how many poscasts can exist.

NOTA said...

Thinking more about it, I suspect this also depends on the podcasts you listen to. This graph from the Monkey Cage blog shows the relative interest in Syria and Miley Cyrus.

Podcasts don't require me to even notice what crap other people are interested in, and likewise, nobody else has to flip past seven channels of the boring stuff I want to hear to get to their favorite football game or latest useless starlet news.

Svigor said...

I think our obsession with Syria has a much simpler and better explanation: The modern white western liberal hobby horse obsession with nuclear and WMD proliferation.

Right. That's why AIPAC is firing up their Gears of War against Syria as we speak; cuz they're white liberals. Now they just have to get the white liberals in the House on board, too!