Friday, December 11, 2015

While we were all obsessing over Donald Trump ...

... something may have been happening in Paris on climate change. Or not. I've thought several times over the last few days, perhaps the rampant insanity on this side of the Atlantic since Colorado Springs and San Bernardino, by taking the climate summit out of the headlines, might be facilitating international progress we otherwise couldn't reach.

If so, this only highlights the political challenge of our era: can popular democracy survive when majorities know they lack the scientific chops to make vital choices for our future -- and concurrently have learned through hard experience not to trust "leaders" to make those choices for us? Does preserving any semblance of a democratic polity require an almost superhuman quality of leadership rooted in democratic values? There's nothing much in our inequitable "meritocratic" capitalism that inspires such values. (Translation: Bill Gates may be acting the good guy in Paris, but do we want him for dictator?) Where would such leaders be found? And would we want them if they presented themselves?

I'm serious here.

5 comments:

Hattie said...

The mainstream media are lazy. Trump is a godsend; They don't have to do any real journalism but can just report on his antics. Luckily, we have enough media diversity now that we can follow international news and Democracy Now and other outlets. It's important to pass on the information to less informed people, too, as I am coming to realize, even if this means pulling rank sometimes. It's too easy to shut people out and say, oh well, they are stupid. They are not stupid, they are just being deluged with right wing propaganda. It's too easy to give up and decide that some people can't revise their simplistic notions and fall into the habit of bemoaning the ignorance of the American public (not that I don't succumb to this way of thinking sometimes) and that it's better just to hang out with like-minded people and play ain't it awful. This is like comfort food for liberals. I have started to listen to people more who don't share my views and to try to understand why they think as they do.
I wish everyone had a college education, at least a couple of years, long enough to get past this bumper sticker stuff and regarding one's hunches and feelings as "the truth."

janinsanfran said...

Hi Hattie: while you were commenting here, I was grabbing something you wrote on your blog:"While we were standing and waving, a man came up and talked to us for a while, and I was struck by how hard he was trying to understand what was going on in politics but without any way of taking the mixture of news information and personal experience and opinions and making them into some coherent political position of his own. I wonder how many people are in this fix: not trained in critical thinking, having to puzzle things through for the first time in their lives and lacking the tools they need. It's been easier in the past, I think, but this is the biggest political can of worms this country has ever had to deal with."

We have to keep trying to talk with (and listening to) these people. Our economic elites profit from making them hostile to structured information, but often you can catch the craving behind the fluff and bluster ...

Brandon said...

"Our economic elites profit from making them hostile to structured information"

How so? And how do you define structured information?

janinsanfran said...

Hi Brandon: that was lousy phrasing. What I meant was that we have a media system that conditions people to allow themselves to be buffeted by snippet after tidbit of information or perhaps just excitement. This works well for keeping eyeballs and selling stuff, but it undermines our ability to be responsible citizens. I don't think that is an accident. Confused spectators are easy to manipulate.

When folks turn to trying to figure out what any of it means, often they/we just feel mystified and overwhelmed because we don't have an intellectual and ethical structure within which to place all the flying flotsam. Sometimes that makes us suckers. Other times it just gives us a headache.

Brandon said...

I have to brush up on my media studies, but the news is presented as a string of random occurrences, often sensationalized. Take a look at the Drudge Report, which gives the impression that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. There are underlying themes at every news outlet (at Drudge, lately, it's the "rise of the robots" and AI). I keep in mind that the more outrageous the story, the less likely it happens. "Man Bites Dog" stories are big news because they don't happen every day.

And there's this article, on the tension in crime coverage between getting it first and getting it right:
http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/205939/crime-coverage-now-requires-constantly-feeding-the-beast/

"Some complain that the rush to be the first 'Go Team' on the scene to provide bare details now trumps the motivation for fuller stories later. As a result, news consumers in some cities are fed anecdotal dots about breaking crime news, with fewer connective lines."

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