What You Should Think About This Blog

“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

–Mahatma Gandhi

There are many reasons to write. Hypertext and the Internet only add to that tally while making readership a theoretical possibility for anyone. It is the essence of democracy to transfer power from the few to the many. Yet this raises a compelling question — why are some trends of increasing popular participation so at odds with realities of power’s ongoing consolidation?

Accurately recording information, expressing a creative vision, purging secret guilt, honing literary abilities — there are many reasons to write. One of those reasons is to promote a particular way of thinking. With millions of of active writers amongst billions of people, never before has this world seen so much language harnessed to promote personal viewpoints. Among other things, sheer quantity increases the degree to which acts of influence yield to empirical study.

Science creates power, sometimes literally. Consider atomic fission. It can be used to reduce a city to toxic rubble in a matter of seconds. Yet the same energy can be used to light the streets of a city for many years. For that matter, the sudden blast has potential to divert celestial hazards, while the controlled reaction could be used to electrify devices in a secret torture facility. Power is an amoral thing.

Once upon a time, an entire industry of professional journalists worked diligently while exercising their power to tell people what they should think. The journalists’ mission was simple — ferret out the facts, then offer a clear perspective on that reality. Insofar as they had any agenda at all, it was to oppose institutional secrecy and call public attention to abuses of power. Then came infotainment.

Information provided for its own sake, as a public service, was largely abandoned. Credibility ceased to matter beyond the extent that it might influence profitability. People turn away from ugly truths. Speaking truth to power is a great public service, but it is no way to draw the largest possible media audience in a given moment. Sensational speculation is in. Sound analysis is out. Celebrity scandals are in. Monitoring enormous institutions as they wield unprecedented concentrations of resources . . . that’s out too.

Yet there is still no shortage of people intent on telling other people what to think. Alternatives to journalism rise as hard news coverage slips into the margins. Abuse of power runs rampant in this niche. Never before has so much been understood about how to engineer and propagate narratives that drive public opinion. Millions write in earnest, yet how many passionately parrot stories to which they have never applied a moment’s critical thought?

Campaigns of deliberate misinformation are nothing new. What makes the modern phenomenon so insidious is the way advances in techniques of manipulation play out across a coherent subcultures driven by negative emotions. The great irony in all of it is those legions of wholehearted patriots unwittingly devoted to 21st century aristocrats at least as harmful as those on the losing side of the American Revolutionary war.

There is always wisdom in mustering some measure of skepticism when someone tells you what you should think. Perhaps even the previous sentence merits a little doubt. Thus, central to any question of what you should think is that you should think. Lies crafted in service to an agenda, even after extensive recirculation by unreasoning zealots, wither in the light of informed thoughtful analysis. This happens not out of desire or hostility, but even in the most dispassionate and detached musings.

When it comes to matters of national or global significance, the opinions you hold should follow from a coherent thought process. All too often what passes for “thought” is nothing more than the emotional impact of many heated moments or the social satisfaction of identifying with some sort of group. People who are perfectly happy to admit having no idea how DNA influences cellular growth or how the age of fossils is determined will nonetheless go to extremes in defense of their views on evolutionary biology. People who could not so much as explain the distinction between “climate” and “weather” nonetheless display unwavering devotion to a particular stance on global warming.

Clearly, people in those situations are driven by something other than thoughtful analysis. In the absence of knowledge, questions and silence are both perfectly sound approaches to a subject. Yet today lack of knowledge is no barrier at all to addressing a national audience with baseless speculation . . . or deliberately misleading commentary. Mob psychology on a truly massive scale, the stoking of human hatreds can drive up ratings/circulation even as it tears down the responsible civic discourse that should occur instead.

With that in mind, I will set out to address a number of issues with the intent of illuminating both the facts that inform my views and the thought processes that bring me to whatever conclusions I hold. I do this not because I champion any particular cause or begin this process on any particular payroll. I do this because it is part of my pathology to dwell on a range of complex matters and seek some authentic sense to be found beyond all the house organs and noise machines.

I know I alone will have little impact on cultural institutions and political processes so severely crippled as they are at present. Some informed honest individuals experience moments of national attention without selling out to any special interest. Yet the public will to turn from this increasingly dark path remains unfocused. I do not anticipate an end to my own obscurity. Yet, given the choice between doing little good and no good, do you think I should do differently with my voice?

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11 Responses to What You Should Think About This Blog

  1. Mr WordPress says:

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    To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.

  2. horatiox says:

    Infotainment? That’s a good definition of Gore’s An Incovenient Misrepresentation. Even some of the IPCC and global warming people have objected to AIT, including Dr. Hansen, GW Commander-in-Quack (who has himself made egregious errors). Gore himself paid little attention to the “coherent thought process” you praise; most global warming experts (not necessarily IPCC modellers) offer probable outcomes and likelihoods, not certainties. So the very title of An Inconvenient T. is misleading.

    A person who holds to a “coherent thought process” would verify factual claims in regards to global warming. You seem to think that all the facts are in. That is not accurate. The temperature data (misrepresented at least in part by Gore) is open to question. Ever hear of margins of error? There are concerns that the temp. increases reported by IPCC are not even statistically significant. If so ( I am not saying that the temp. data is incorrect, but it’s possible they are not significant) that pretty much defeats the entire GW project.

    (You do appear to know how to write PC sermons; alas your sermons will not solve the problems related to global warming claims).

  3. Demonweed says:

    Wow, so much sound and fury is impressive in its own way. Yet all I see here is vitriol precisely in line with countless other sock puppets who have been mentally hijacked by figures like Rush Limbaugh. Someone afraid to venture beyond one particular ideological niche in media may well formulate views like we see above. Someone who is not so lazy or frightened as to deal with actual science that has no political origins will find that this is a settled question.

    Take the British court case much hyped days before the Nobel announcement related to Gore. Dueling “experts,” one associated with the plaintiff and the other associated with the school authorities, clashed about countless points of fact. In the end the judge saw legitimate complaint about nine of them. He also stipulated that the film was broadly accurate on scientific matters. If you live in a conservative fishbowl, then you heard those nine points trumpeted again and again, without ever once hearing that the ruling actually supported the work in principle.

    I believe horatiox reads nonsense from blogs full of ignoramuses, with the occasional liar thrown in for good measure. To him global warming is “a project” — some sort of political initiative with no basis in fact. This can only emerge from an aversion to fact, as there is no shortage of informed honest discussion of the subject available for anyone who is not too weak-minded to be exposed to it. However, getting there involves chucking that enormous political chip on his shoulder and letting apolitical sources tell him about this apolitical reality. Forget about Al Gore for a moment and think about the world . . . or even just America . . . for a change. I promise it will do you good.

  4. horatiox says:

    I don’t think you understand the ramifications of the GW “problem.” Just the title—e “An Inconvenient “Truth–should offend any authentic intellectual, since GW’s not yet been established as Truth. Better would have been, “An Inconvenient but Lucrative Estimation.” Even some IPCC figures objected to Gore’s AIT.

    For someone who supposedly values “coherent thought processes”, you seem to be pretty much a consumer of ideas and corporate imagery. Your pop-liberal ethics are fairly lightweight as well: This I Believe! The title of your blog itself would offend most educated citizens. Ever hear of Hume, not to say Darwin?

  5. Demonweed says:

    Most educated citizens are not as thin-skinned as you assert. Emotionally fragile individuals in desperate need of ideological validation need not apply. I know how I write will be unsatisfying to that sort of reader. Fortunately, education usually improves intellectual integrity rather than robbing people of it. I have every confidence that there are plenty of people on this Earth who can take the wee bit of challenge my title offers in stride, then find satisfaction in the specifics and substance that follows. Perhaps a small measure of open-mindedness is required, but I don’t see the value in crafting political speech for those unfortunates completely lacking in that faculty.

    As for whether or not the science is in on the role of industrial emissions in global warming, I don’t see dispute there. Sure, plenty of pseudoscience perpetuates the notion that this is an open question even at the broadest levels, Whether it involves distorting actual uncertainties about trivia into some sort of more general dispute or fabricating disputes from whole cloth, I have seen dozens upon dozens of arguments that clearly do not stand up under their own weight trumpeted as triumphs for the movement to discredit mainstream climate science. Still I do investigate some of these claims, but I have yet to see any that reveal as much about what is actually happening with the world’s climate as they reveal about the desperate need for ideological validation driving the antics of self-identified political conservatives in 21st century America.

  6. horatiox says:

    Actually, according to the terms of marxist ideology, you’re fairly bourgeois, DW. The MSM loves Gore/AIT/GW . That’s cute, milquetoast liberalism, not even the real progressive-left. Corporate execs love AIT/GW. I find Alex Cockburn’s writing (on Counterpunch–Googlestein ‘er) to be often a bit hot-headed, and he’s sloppy with facts (though a decent journalist and powerful rhetorician himself). Cockburn, however, knows the score on the politics of IPCC/Gore/AIT.

  7. Demonweed says:

    I’ve asked this many times, and I’m still not getting an answer. Where I have supported Al Gore? Show me the words, or desist in this campaign of lying scumbaggery! There is nothing wrong with defending Al Gore, and I may do it at some point in the future. I suppose, in another blog, I did defend some claims of fact that Al Gore has also made. Yet those were claims of fact, not a celebrity politician. Your hostility, when it isn’t rooted in a laughably mangled reading of a laughably bogus scientific paper, seems to be rooted in some mangled association between myself and Al Gore.

    I take my thinking on climate science from thinking about climate science. You seem to take your thinking about so many subjects, including climate science, from a Pavlovian hostility toward well-known political liberals. Could you ever begin to see how ridiculous that is? Do you have the integrity to go beyond that mode and look to apolitical sources of scientific knowledge for answers to questions of scientific fact? Every antic of yours suggests that the answer is negative, though I would be delighted if you could muster the feeble powers of reason needed to prove that you can approach a question of science from some other perspective than “how can I disagree with Al Gore about this one?”

  8. horatiox says:

    Not a bad Kelsey Grammer imitation! DW, you have barely referred to any climate science material. I mention, repeatedly, the problems of ascertaining the accuracy of temperature data. You have yet to acknowledge it, or seem to think it’s a right-wing plot. It is not: the margin of error problem with the temp. data is a key issue, perhaps THE key issue.

    Then there’s the problem of experimental evidence, which is more weighty. Hug’s rather technical study is one of a few which call into question the original IPCC claims. Obviously we can’t all do IR spectrography in our garage, and I don’t pretend to be a pro scientist–you aren’t either (I did complete hs chemistry years ago, and did ok with college biology and natural science electives).

    Hug’s study focuses on the absorption ratios of C02 in regards to radiation (sunlight), and they are much higher than what IPCC suggested (which means less warmth–1/80th of what IPCC claimed) . And two to three times the amount of forced CO2 does not result in increased warming. I am not saying Hug is the final word, and I don’t claim to have mastered the analytical chem: you on the other hand call him snake oil. You are mistaken.

    For someone who supposedly values logic (or science), you seem a bit emotional and addicted to PCness. Since you are invoking the Great Thinkers, what about Hume? There are no arguments for innate or objective values, said Dave. But on this site , you would think all the ethics was known a priori, and they are sort of the values of……the Democratic Par-tay! Shocking . Even Hume the inductivist and reader of Newton would probably have questions about the increasing CO2 and alleged rising temps.

  9. Demonweed says:

    I must admit sometimes my judgement can be far off base. I never would have guessed that you were a high school graduate. That said, most teens don’t seem to be this dishonest. I have often acknowledged that there are uncertainties. In fact, a time or two I may have pointed out that I’ve only ever heard uncertainties denied in two contexts. One is as you have just demonstrated — some dumbass yokel sets up the false premise that global warming relies on absolute certainty and models with metaphysical perfection only to proudly trumpet the fact that there is uncertainty. To repeat, not only have I acknowledged it, but I have -prior to you actually doing it- explained that neocon nitwits have in their playbook this tactic of setting up these false denials of uncertanty only to knock them down. Bravo!

    That said, you did go the extra mile by also lobbing out the unsubstantiated notion that the level of uncertainty invalidates the general convergence of models on a significant warming trend. Because the literature goes out to a gullible audience craving validation of their bogus views, there is no need to delve into the particulars of uncertainty and difference. The fact that there is any disagreement at all -proves- to the feebleminded that the entire ball of wax is a great big lie.

    I agree about this much Hume probably would have questions were he to awaken in our age. Ask yourself this — would he lurk in a niche of lunatics, priding himself in his consistency in parroting their narratives, or would he expose himself to a broad range of ideas and information from a broad range of sources in the search for as much truth as could be known?

    I ask again that you muster all the intellectual courage you have and expose yourself to the EPA’s climate change site. If you want to keep yapping, at least let’s try to keep the focus on points of fact where a clash of ideas might lead somewhere. I really don’t care how you feel about Al Gore et al. Actually, I really don’t care how you feel about industrial emission of atmospheric carbon either. I just think if I have to engage in a dialog with the kind of anonymous nut who threatens lawsuits based on the idea his online reputation has significant financial value, it might help to focus on the least stupid areas of disagreement.

  10. horatiox says:

    You’re making unwarranted inferences again, Paddy, and that’s a typical hick trait. Invoking …….Aristotelian logic! Wow. That’s fairly indicative of a Catholic sort of stooge. Besides, Aristotelianism is not on the side of the left, at all: so you are either confused and schitzo, or some crypto-catholic-priest/preacher sort.

    You like assessment? Let’s compare our GRE scores, or grad. GPA’s fraud. Or tech/computing certs, experience, etc. Or, like turn on your chessextreme, and there’s e4. Voila! You’d lose in less than 25 moves I wager.

    You don’t know jack about the GW issue. The EPA climate poll is about like Tickle. There are EPA people trying to sue the greenhousers, preacher boy. The EPA temperature data was used to show the errors in Hansen’s original research. Besides, the EPA temp. data of last 100 years or so does not overcome the margin of error. I doubt you know a sigma sign from your syllogisms handbook, paddy,

  11. Demonweed says:

    That’s all well and good if you like having your head that far up Karl Rove’s ass. On the other hand, if you weren’t being fed on a diet of pure fecal matter by people who approach politics through anger alone, you would be able to see that the EPA is pretty much in line with what sane informed people think about this, and you are pretty much in line with what deranged fringe looney tunes think about this.

    I know you think you are brilliant. Perhaps your therapist has you convinced you are just as good as anybody else upstairs, in spite of your problems. However, the rest of the world does not exist to validate your desperate need for self-esteem. So, no matter how foolish and hostile you become, I will continue to believe that you actually are hostile and foolish.

    You see, schizophrenia is not about being able to take arguments from many sources, use them in proper context, and make sense. It is about having breaks with reality that make it impossible for you to relate coherently with others. Your inability to understand why I might use Aristotle rests in this warped notion that people must always pursue some sort of absolute ideological orthodoxy. That may be near the heart of your own break.

    Regarding the GRE thing (because I admit that was a particularly fun test for me) I want to know — are we talking about the real GRE, or are you going to play the Americans with Disabilities Act card and get yourself permission to use unlimited time while frequently leaving your chair during each section? After all, it is evident just from the text that you could not possibly sit still for the span of a section, and evident from the underlying thought processes you would need some assistance to avoid turning in a scrawl of Crayola-decorated nonsense.

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