Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Commenting on Baltimore

And then it started raining, but we missed it 'cause we were all in the back commenting on Baltimore.

It's so easy to do this--to take a "news" item, any news item, and apply your own little analysis to it. A news item from any time will do; doesn't have to be particularly relevant, because it's all generally relevant. Oh look, another instance of racist brutality by a low IQ violence-prone pig, when will people wake up and stop these low IQ violence-prone chimps from destroying the society white people built, when will people realize that they're completely misfocusing on distractions caused by unjustly subsidized energy interests who have created a system in which more innocents died today in car accidents than this one particular person who was killed by gun.

Omigod, more importantly, doesn't that idiot realize that, in this particular case, the officer was clearly in danger, and that's why the media reported on this one, of all the many available ones, to stir up riots that, from a historical perspective, would appear to have been unjust? Because if the media had reported this much on the times when cops shot actual little kids and a grand jury never even got involved, then all the white supremacists wouldn't have anything to crow about. Even the mob itself is being influenced--tricked into rioting over a semi-plausible narrative, instead of choosing to make a stand over one of the no-knock wrong-addresses where a child was disfigured and it's an absolutely clean cut representation. Don't they realize they're just tools, and that they're being teeveed into certain expressions of rage to play them off against onlookers both domestic and foreign? And why don't the other idiots, the racist ones, realize that this particular instance, like the OJ Simpson trial, isn't about the tidy little facts the teevee presented, but is about a sentiment running much deeper, and which would have 100% foolproof justifications behind it if the mob weren't being tricked?

Anyway, more importantly, isn't it so pitiful when the white people protesting this are always middle class ones who live in wealthy enclaves where they never have to deal with the kinds of casual physical intimidation that comes from living inside these poor populations, and makes you understand why the cops are there in the first place? You already voted with your feet and moved to a new zip code, so don't tell me about what it's like living in a high rise filled with those kinds of people. They will kick your ass, rape you, and shoot you over thirty dollars, and they do it all the time, but it doesn't get reported because the colors don't match. Stupid-ass diversity mob, don't you realize you're being tricked into betraying your own racism, and the cheap way you hide in the burbs and cherry pick your news?

But more importantly, why can't you morons realize that seventeen people died in completely avoidable car crashes, some of them minorities, on that very same day, and they'd still be alive today if we prioritized mass transportation a tenth as much as we do cars, which would not only save those lives, but completely restructure our cities into safer environments that made last week's tragic...

There's always something. What you've read about the French Revolution; some clip you watched on your phone; another bombed-out wedding in the Eastasian foothills; your imaginary Rousseauian or non-Rousseauian take on prehistory: endless validation, compliments the grand narrative. We look to the news in order to tell ourselves, "We were right." And we're never disappointed, no matter who we are. Even if we completely hate and mistrust the news, the news provides ample whispers within its very body by which we can enjoy the sport of disproving the news. With no small irony, it's the news itself which offers its worst critics the opportunity to themselves appreciate it. And so, no matter who we are, we're satisfied in our rightness, sleuthing our way past whatever, as we definitively prove that we were right all along.

The news is a saline drip connected to the terminally ill; the timeless sustenance of something stuck in the pipes, always on the verge of (but never quite actually) being swept away.

Without it, we might be nothing. We wouldn't know when to riot, what to wear or war, when to tax, or how to die. Kaczynski took to the woods, then wrote letters back to the newspapers. Even as self-imposed aliens, we can't seem to escape from it. The news is an endlessly-regurgitating instant classic: a terrible piece of endless prose that you have to endure just to know what everyone else is talking about. Can you really build that firewall? Or are you not as clever as you think you are?

Bloggers have taken over the function as individualized correspondents, repackaging the news into tasty morsels for varying readerships. If you want to read about corrupt tyrants, repulsive racists, treacherous darkies, delusional surgeons, or insensitive patriarchs, you know where to go. Opinions, like the bread aisle, have become an indecipherable variety of atrocious excess. You already know what kind you're going to get, but it's fun to glance over the other options anyway, sneering at the high fructose hidden away in that one brand with the fancy green-sounding name. Who buys that junk, anyway?

Like reading War and Peace, there's some value in having the occasional go at the news, but too much time with it can leave one dazed, weak, and convinced that, in some way, the experience was "worth it." After all, at least now, you can tell people, "I finished the news." And you'll know to either make plans to go see Thorina VI, or to threaten to boycott Marvel for a revised list of twenty unforgivable curses which they have visited upon mankind this time around.

The Point

is that it's too powerful for you to spend significant time with. Isolated communities may have once been able to resist the news, but for those who've left such places, or who've never had the chance, the drip feed is-gradually/has-already taken over. As to Earth 2015 specifically, most blogs have become copies of the overarching narrative of the news. Authors pick up some piece of information somewhere, then praise or criticize it, then praise or criticize the process by which it arrived to its current state. Just as major newspapers and television stations have eviscerated themselves into mere intermediaries between official government/corporate spokespersons, or AP/derivative news services (which are themselves usually only picking up government messages or human interest anecdotes), bloggers are sub-sub-sub-etc. spokespeople, criticizing one another's interpretations of interactions that happened in the context of a discussion over something that was, ultimately, a few official comments from some yahoo who believes that, because he went to Yale, he's qualified to give the government's report on occurrences in Nairobi last weekend. And he is qualified, but how much does it have to do with what actually happened in Nairobi last weekend? Maybe quite a lot. If we assume he's going to be an unwitting tool of some imperialist liars, we can probably read a lot into his blathering hearsay, and then we'll figure out we're right (not that it matters much except to validate ourselves).

Too much of this validation--applying our analyses to the news, over and over--is a dangerous addiction, in the sense that the ease of applying an existing narrative to the news is prone to stealing our own ability to produce. It's eerily easy to pick up any issue of the New York Times since its inception, match it against reality, and show what dross every single issue was. A team of a hundred journalists and a hundred historians could spend years working on such a project, and all they'd have to show for it is their own version of the Times. And that version, however amusing (and this one admits she'd like to flip through a few of those issues, even though they'd mostly be the same) would be no more valuable than the original Times itself. When you leave Terra, all the things that happened to you here can be rediscovered in clarity, yet that's just data. You can always get more, more, more data; that's not an issue. The ability to make such critiques is valuable, because it plays into something that can be used later.

Doing nothing (or "mostly") but critiquing in that way, though, is like re-taking the first grade, over and over, and over, and over. It's soooo easy. You know all the answers already. You and your friends can enjoy the problems, always get the right answers, and get your lollies. But don't live in first grade forever (or even for just "a few decades on Earth"). Sometimes you need to go back and help walk someone through a little arithmetic, and you can be kind and helpful about it, and even appreciate the elegance of the underlying ideas, but that shouldn't be a stopping point.

And on too many blogs, that's what it's being. To a vast degree, the most popular blogs have become identical to the news: they take raw data, shape it into a presentation suitable to their audience, then critique the data itself, along with the way the data reached them. So, then, does the internet host a thousand anti-patriarchy blogs, a thousand pro-patriarchy blogs, a thousand social justice blogs, and a thousand neoreaction blogs, all reacting identically in template to the exact same news item, all providing daily validation to whoever wants to see things a certain way.

There are little bits of correctness scattered about everywhere. It's sometimes pleasurable learning, and sometimes painful, that accompanies the strength to see and understand any given bit of it, if you find it in a place you dislike/ambivalike/like. Every so often, any given one of them might be mostly right, or even completely right as to that situation.

Dispel thy growing fear; we're not reaching for the banal point that "the truth is relative." Rather, we want to develop ourselves further than the ability which we might call, "to critically present." We want to move on to something which we might call "to create." That, like truth, is really easy and impossibly difficult to learn, in the sense that it's not tangibly verifiable here, so there are abounding "confidence" and "delusion" issues. You can handle critical presentation without necessarily doing it, anymore than you need to go write down your times tables now (if you really could but just don't wanna show off). If you can handle critically presenting, though--if you can experience and appreciate it, learn from it, etc.--then start demanding more. Don't fall into the traditional spiral around here, of enjoying the satisfaction of fanficking the news, and then never going any farther with however many years you have left. Everyone likes a Jester, but they shouldn't.

In more explicit local terms, bloggers "should" (assuming they're able; otherwise they should be doing just what they're doing) be offering something more than just the latest critical spin on anarchy v. civilization v. the flawed Enlightenment v. alien control. Even if it's all exactly the boring mess or staggering conspiracy you think it is, unmasking the material truth on Earth 2015 is hardly the pith of Sol, let alone anywhere else. No disrespect to first grade; just don't stay there if you're ready for more.


  1. Well, maybe there are only so many ideas to go around. Taking a broad enough view, all we really have is the mish-mash of pagan/mythological wisdom, and Christianity. That's pretty much it. One dude I like (not a religious person or scholar), calls Christianity "an apocalyptic event in the history of ideas", and I am yet to see (or imagine...) reasons why this is not true.

    Another issue is that the stream of commentary in the media-sphere is a comletely un-intelligent and unselfaware conversation with tradition. Most people spend their lives in complete unawareness that every word they say is a quotation of an ancient intellect.

    I can't really argue that properly acknowledging and understanding the limited number of ideas we have to work with is inherently worthy, but at a minimum insisting on it could put a break on the deluge of self-satisfied commentary that *thinks* that is is new, but it is not.

    1. This one's plan is to first be ironic, by making my next post about corporate taxation, followed by losing more readers with a return to evolutionary issues that will hope to expand our allowance of limited ideas.