Category Archives: Stop It

An Idiot in Every Village

The idea that every village has an idiot is an old one. Oddly enough, the term itself wasn’t seen in print until 1907 where it appeared in George Bernard Shaw’s “Major Barbara.” [1]

“I myself have had a village idiot exhibited to me as something irresistibly funny.”

Folklore has us believe that the village idiot served an important purpose in his community. Some say it was his “down-home”, uneducated way of looking at and dealing with problems that helped ground a community in reality. A wise fool. Others say that having an idiot around made people feel better about themselves. While I am not a social anthropologist, I tend to agree with the second group. After all, we tend to gauge our own worth by another person’s unworthiness, don’t we? Or is it just me?

Today’s Village Idiot

Today, when we call someone a village idiot, we are not measuring his worth to a community. Instead, we are measuring the exact opposite. These are the people depicted in movies and cartoons as the lost and maligned folks standing on a street corner spouting gibberish or holding a doomsday sign or going on at great lengths to blame the Illuminati or the Lizard People for all of the world’s ills. Sit down at a bar and some village idiot might explain that 9/11 was an inside job or that the Apollo moon landings were a hoax. While his conspiracy concepts fall apart with the slightest application of fact or science, he will always just shrug and say something about “sheeple” or retort with “That’s what they want you to think.” The number one character trait of the conspiracy minded village idiot is that he thinks he is smarter than the rest of us. With his keen eye and clever wit, the new village idiot can look at a picture of a guy on the moon and say, “Look. No stars. There’s all the proof you need. We never went to the moon.” Never mind the fact that he isn’t a photographer, doesn’t understand f-stops or exposure time and can’t get his head around the fact that starlight is actually rather dim. To him, no stars is proof enough. Because he is smarter than you. Even smarter than the guy at NASA who was running the whole fake moon landing dog and pony show.

In his own mind, he is brilliant. To the rest of the villagers, he is just an idiot. Mildly interesting, might buy you a drink if you listen while he pontificates, but still just kind of an idiot. His views never leave the village. He never gets that credit he feels he deserves.

Enter The Global Village Idiot

In the quaint old days of village idiocy, if a village idiot wanted to find a like-minded person, he had to travel to the nearest village and find their idiot. Now? We have the Internet and this technological leap has allowed all the idiots in all the villages all over the world to get together, bandy about various theories and issues and then pat each other on the back for being so much more clever than the “sheeple.” They now have a voice and a forum and this leads us to something I call the Global Village Idiot Syndrome (GVIS).  Their lunacy is spreading around the globe, forum by forum, website by website. Now every single outlandish idea or thought or concept can be served up as fact and normal, non-village idiots are buying in. Don’t believe me? Donald J. Trump is the the Republican candidate for the presidency of the Unites States of America. Tell me that isn’t the work of a global network of idiots.

Historically, the village idiot (VI) was regarded as a source of humor or as generally harmless. Today’s VI is a force to be reckoned with and comes in many different flavors. Only a well organized VI group could have convinced Americans that the best way to stop gun violence is to buy more guns and carry them openly. Only a well organized VI group could be responsible for the return of whooping cough and measles. Organic food? Illuminati conspiracies? 9/11 truthers? Birthers? All contributable to the GVIS. Normal people are swept up in the VI madness, shrug and join up. In whispers and what-ifs at first. Then it’s blog posts, t-shirts and a Cafe Press page.

Information Cascade

Global Village Idiot Syndrome is somewhat related to an information cascade. An information cascade occurs when people follow the advice and information of others while ignoring their own privately held preferences, convictions and knowledge. It is a herding effect. In even simpler terms, it’s why people don’t go into empty restaurants.

  1. I am in a new town and am hungry.
  2. I want seafood.
  3. The seafood restaurant is empty.
  4. The steak restaurant next door is full.
  5. I don’t want steak.
  6. Those people must know something I don’t.
  7. I will have steak instead of seafood.

While information cascade theory can be applied to almost everything including the rise and fall of the Stock Market, GVIS is strictly applied to society.

The Global Village Idiot Syndrome in Action

Transphobia is kind of a thing right now. Check the comment boards. I use the comment sections from stories posted on Yahoo! as my personal Doomsday Countdown Clock. We are 3 minutes to midnight folks. Six months ago no one cared who was in the stall next to them when using a public bathroom. Now? Panic, fear and anxiety accompany us into the bathroom. Why? Because at some point some village idiot decided that bathroom privileges are a birthright. And by that I mean, the right bathroom to use depends on what you were at birth. Boys rooms are for boys-at-birth and ladies rooms are for girls-at-birth. Throw away years of science, psychology and compassion because the Village Idiots have come up with a solution in search of a problem. Now, due to GVIS, good old-fashioned, short-haired girls are being harassed or pulled out of ladies rooms because they don’t look “girly” enough. Normal people are now peeking under the stall to make sure that someone else isn’t going to make them uncomfortable. Yes. GVIS is turning normal people, people who absolutely know better, into peeping toms. And how many trans-related molestations have occurred in these bathrooms? Exactly none. The average person is more likely to be molested in a public restroom by a republican congressman than they are a trans-person.

Now What?

Village idiots love to say, “I don’t have to have a solution…it’s my job to point out the problem and present the facts.” While it’s often not their job and “facts” is an ambitious word for “stuff I read on the Internet”, without a solution, what’s the point?

So…how do we cure the Global Village Idiot Syndrome.

We don’t. We can merely manage the symptoms. Stay informed. Read everything, even things you don’t agree with. Learn what the other side actually thinks. Read their research and compare it to your own. Think and then think some more. If we can’t be critical, we end up believing that there are FEMA Camps, that we never went to the moon, that more guns is the solution to gun violence and that Donald Trump should be running this country.

 

 

 

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I’m Thinking I’m Back

OK…

It has been four long years since my last post. I started this blog what seems to be a long time ago for reasons I can’t even remember. Probably more of a thought exercise than anything. But as time went on, it became clear that I just didn’t have the drive or passion to keep posting thoughts or articles or photos or anything, really, on a daily basis.

The Tide Is Shifting

The more I read, the more I wade through the awful mess the Internet has become the more I want to vent. Take a look at any Yahoo! news post on any given day and scroll down to the comment section. It will be filled with the most vile, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ignorant screeds since the beginning of the written word.

For example, Yahoo! posted a story story, $35,000 Offered In Rewards In Milwaukee Girl’s Shooting. A 9 year-old African-American girl was shot and killed. Instead of genuine concern for the plight of the inner cities, of the proliferation of guns and gun violence, for the parents of this child, we get this from some guy whose handle is Skylar:

A breeder of future criminals died. She’s sucked society of more than $35,000 in her lifetime.

And from from Kaylee:

“This story has been updated to clarify that that Za’layia Jenkins was declared brain-dead ” … Isn’t that normal for blacks ?

I could go on and on, and some time in the near future, I just might.

Now What?

Now what? It’s a good question. I have zero expectation that any of what I write here will ever be read. The Internet is a big place and this is a very, very small and un-publicized blog page. That won’t stop me, not for a while anyway.

Things I feel I need to vent on might include politics, education, unabashed hatred of everything that isn’t white, straight and Christian. The love affair we are having with guns right now. How ignorance has become not only a virtue but also an election platform. How the conservatives follow the fascist playbook, page by page, and never get called out for it. How modern journalism has failed this country. You know…stuff like that. So read. Don’t read. I don’t care. My next post will be a theory that I have been working on that I like to call The Global Village Idiot Syndrome.

Thanks.

 


Looking Forward: Politically Speaking

I have just looked at Teaching Television for the first time in a long time. A long, long time. I was shocked to see that my last post here was in May of 2011. In it was a nasty little review of a mean-spirited TV show called “Repo Games.” My feelings for the new rash of “reality” shows still hasn’t changed but I have to admit that I am currently following two new shows of this genre. They are “Face Off” from Syfy and “Ink Master” from Spike. I guess they appeal to me on a creative level. Since Syfy and Spike aren’t paying me, I honestly don’t care if you check them out or not.

Not Sure of Anything

I really don’t have plan here. Consider it an exercise in extemporaneous writing. There is one thing I am sure of..I am not sure of anything anymore.

I used to think that out government worked for all of the people. Now? I am not so sure. I have spent the last eight months watching the Republican party trot out a list of potential presidents that make a Ringling Brothers clown car look dignified. The parade has passed several of them by but the few that are left are not really any better. Rick Santorum seems to hate everyone who isn’t Rick Santorum. His ideas appear to be based on his own elitist, racist, homophobic, misogynistic ideology. One of my favorite WTF quotes from Santorum comes from his book It Takes A Family: Conservatism and The Common Good (2005).

“The notion that college education is a cost-effective way to help poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs move up the economic ladder is just wrong.”

I am not really sure where this stuff comes from. He has said many times that all of our rights come from God. For that matter, all of the Republicans claim to have a hotline to the Almighty. That should be very, very troubling to Christians in this country. It is my theory that if Jesus were to come and reclaim the planet, he wouldn’t be a Republican.

What Party Would Jesus Join?

I don’t mean to make light of anyone’s beliefs. I have my own and I very rarely share them. But I don’t care if you believe in a higher power or not. The stuff that Jesus said in the bible is not a bad way to live. Do you have to be a Christian to treat all people with dignity? To offer a hand to the poor? The sick? The imprisoned? I don’t think so. But the new batch of candidates seem to collectively believe that Jesus wants them to have lots and lots of money and He also wants them to keep as much of it as possible. Sure, He once said “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” but who cares? Right? Right? As long as the very rich remain very rich, the rest of the country should just shut up and keep on working. It seems to be the Republican way.

Treason As Policy

And speaking of the Republican way…I am of the firm belief that they are traitors to America. Harsh? Sure but I have my reasons. Number one is the Grover Norquist tax pledge. Here is a man, a private citizen, who has absolute control over the entire Republican party. 238 Representatives and 41 Senators have signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes. By signing this pledge, an entire political party has turned its collective decision-making process over to a single individual. Every time the “Super Committee” met to deal with the economy, half of them were working for Grover Norquist. The only way to save the economy is to spend less money and earn more. Cut and tax. But the Republicans have promised a billionaire that they would never do that. In spite of their oath to the people of the United States of America, they choose to serve a man named Grover.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Breaking this oath should be treason. Read it. Is promising Grover to enter into negotiations with a close-minded agenda equal to serving with true faith and allegiance? Can anyone who signed Grover’s pledge honestly pretend to take their obligations of office “freely, without any mental reservation”? And how, exactly, can a republican get away with swearing “true faith and allegiance” to Grover Norquist over the needs and interests of the people they have sworn to serve? I cannot understand how this happened and I cannot understand how it happened so universally. It is chilling and our country is facing a crisis.

It’s The Democrats Too…

I’ve been picking on the Republicans a lot but mostly because they make it so easy. But the Democrats shoulder a certain amount of the blame. When the last few real journalists point out things like the fact that insider trading is illegal for all Americans except for members of congress, there are democrats on that list. In 2001, Martha Stewart, acting on an insider tip, sold off just over 39,000 shares of stock she was holding for a company called ImClone Systems. She avoided a $49,637 loss by selling her shares before the ImClone stock prices were set to drop. Because of this, Stewart was tried and convicted on nine counts of securities fraud and obstruction of justice. She ultimately spent 5 months in jail, two years of supervised probation and 5 months worth of electronic monitoring via and ankle bracelet.

Meanwhile, members of congress have been allowed to serve on committees that oversee such issues as the economy, debit card fees, and healthcare and then use that information to purchase stocks in the very same industries they are tasked with overseeing. In our world, that is called insider trading and it is a crime. In congress, it’s called a perk. That is why the average US Senator’s stock portfolio beats the market average by 12%. That number is higher than corporate insiders and way better than “average US households.”

Now Where?

Some thing has to change. “We the people…” no longer has any meaning to the members of the Senate or Congress. I am not sure how it can be fixed or if it can be fixed but one thing we need to do is stop vetting our candidates based on their views on abortion, their religious beliefs or how many bad things they say about the other candidate. Like it or hate it, abortion is the law of the land. George W. Bush was president for 8 years and never even pretended to tackle the issue. The next president won’t either. A candidate’s religious upbringing should have no bearing either. If the candidate is the right candidate, their faith is not our business. Period. We are divided in this nation and it is why we are falling.

When I started this, I honestly had no idea where it was going to end up. J.R.R. Tolkien once said of Lord of the Rings that it was a tale that “grew in the telling” because when he started it, he had no idea where it would end up. Sort of like this post. Except that The Lord of the Rings was a little better. OK…a lot better. But I still have no idea where to go from here. Throughout my four years writing Teaching Television, I have bounced from mission to mission, voice to voice and outlook to outlook. I started out as a cut-and-dry technical blog on bringing the media into the classroom. That didn’t last very long. I dabbled in current events and political commentary and even design. I have no idea what is going to happen next. But I am pretty sure it won’t be another 8 months before the next post.


The End of The World As We Know It…

…and it’s making me a little queasy. (apologies to REM)

I have always said that the end of the world would be televised. But when I said that, I was referring to a huge 2012 kind of apocalyptic ending. Cameras would roll to the last second and some junior reporter would be finishing his or her last live stand-up in front of an earth rending, lava spewing crevasse. I was not prepared, however, for how the world really ended or, for that matter, that end would come and go without anyone really noticing.

The Reality Game

The end of the world was not marked with lava plumes or giant CG inspired tidal waves or even a really big squid from outer-space. Nope. It was marked by a new show on Spike TV, Repo Games. The show is produced by the same group that brought Jersey Shore to our televisions so…at least we know it’s going  be classy. Right? Right?

Repo Games is built on the premise that there are people out there who are so desperate, so down-on-their-luck, that they will

Repo Games on Spike TV

do just about anything to keep their heads above water for just one more day. So, halfway through an auto repossession, they are offered the chance to win their car back, paid in full, by answering three out of five trivia questions while being insulted by a repo man. All for our entertainment. The fact that people actually agree to this is testament to both the power of television and state of our economy. By sinking this low, by turning misfortune into entertainment, we are all diminished.

I watched one episode of Repo Games and it made me feel dirty. As far as game shows go, it just might be the worst ever. It isn’t fun and, unless you’re the kind of person who laughs when someone is hit by a car, it isn’t funny. The “contestants” are a cross-section of society but most are poor and uneducated. They are first hit with a notice of repossession and, during the initial shock, they are asked if they want a chance to win the car back…all while being insulted, put down and treated like a human joke. Answer three out of five trivia questions correctly, and the show pays off your car. Miss three questions and you get to watch your car roll off in the sunset.

The COPS Connection

Producers like to call the show a hybrid of Jeopardy and COPS. They are, of course, wrong on both accounts. We watch Jeopardy to see other people show how smart they are and we play along to see if we are just as smart. It makes us better if even by a little bit. COPS is also different. The people who make it on to COPS have done something to deserve being there. They have broken the law and even though the show states that everyone is assumed innocent, we also know that the producers of COPS aren’t offering Get-Out-of-Jail-Free cards to the good folks who show up on COPS. Jeopardy is a game show, one that has stood the test of time. COPS is, at heart, a documentary look at crime and law enforcement. But Repo Games? It is exploitive and it’s sad.

Don’t Get Me Wrong

I know that everyone who has ever had a car repossessed is having it taken back for missing payments. I understand that by signing a loan contract, the buyer is agreeing to make those payments on time and that after 90 days of missed payments, the car is going back to the bank. I get all of that. What I just don’t get is this…Why do we have to put it on TV for the entertainment of others? Not all repossessions are the result of “deadbeats” are they? The economy went in the toilet three years ago. People all over America lost their jobs and their income. They lost their homes and their cars. All because Wall Street treated American finance like a game and now we want to play out the extreme financial problems of our fellow citizens for laughs. It’s unacceptable and, as I said earlier, it diminishes all of us.


Picking Up The Pace and Tying Up Loose Ends…

It has been a while since I put anything on this blog. There are plenty of reasons that I could share but none of them are particularly useful as excuses. Unless you count the attempted murder. Or the fire…

But that is behind us and it is time to move forward. I think that I need to pick up the pace in writing new posts. I also need to finish my unintentional series on Fixing Education. And, apparently, I need to quote Ronald Reagan some more. He seems to be very popular for some reason. OK. That’s a bit disingenuous. I know why Ronald Reagan is so popular. It’s because he was such a Liberal. Right?

Anyway…

I want to start posting on a weekly basis, at least. I would also like to narrow the focus here a little bit better. I seem to be all over the place. It kind of mirrors the way I think but I never intended the articles here to be a roadmap to my thought process. I would also like to get more comments from readers. Anything really. Suggest topics, share your likes or dislikes, or even just general comments.

There is a wealth of political topics to discuss also. It seems as if the Republican Party has been infiltrated by a radical cadre of hyper-rightwing, poor-people hating, money loving, union busting post-boomers. They hate the middle class and they hate the working class with such a passion that they seem willing to destroy this way of life as readily as they would swat a mosquito. The Tea Party Republicans hate everyone except those they aspire to be. The wealthy.

The Tea Party Republican Agenda

This is just off the cuff and poorly researched but…the Tea Party is perfectly willing to call teachers a drain on society because of their “thugish” unions and their ridiculous fiscal planning and uppity retirement plans. But GE, the world’s largest corporation, can announce a worldwide yearly profit of $14.2 Billion with just over $5 Billion coming from their American operations while still paying $Zero in taxes and the Tea Party is just fine with that. In fact, GE claimed, and received, a tax benefit of over $3 Billion. If we count just the North American profits of $5 Billion, that means that GE was taxed at a rate of -60%. So, using the new Tea Party math, if I made a very fictional $50K last year, I should expect a tax benefit of $30,000.00. Sounds fair to me. I need to get those union thugs on this right away…

…but these Union Thugs don’t spend $Millions each year on lobbyists and tax lawyers like GE does. They just bargain collectively for teachers, a high crime in the eyes of the new regime. But that brings us back full circle. You know who hated the GE tax dodge? Ronald Reagan. You know who didn’t hate collective bargaining? Ronald Reagan. So I will leave you with a quote from the Rightwing’s favorite pinko commie…

Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.

~Ronald Reagan


And Now This Word From Ronald Reagan

I believe a case can be made that the decline in the quality of public school eduction began when Federal aid to education became Federal interference in education.

~Ronald Reagan


Journalism? Conservative Cannibalism Keeps Fake Scandals Alive

Yes. The country has been taken back. Back to a time when gentility and civility did not exist. Back to a time when divisiveness was de rigueur. Back to a time when disrespect was common, racism was fun and facts never got in the way of a good story. The so-called Tea Party Movement was able to shift this country even further towards the right with a simple grass-roots movement which, in turn, was backed by a simple corporate news conglomerate and some billionaires who want to keep the conservative agenda alive. The best way to do that is, of course, to keep the huddled masses huddling.

Facts?

Facts just get in the way of a good story. Why bother with finding out of a story is true when it plays so well on the radio and TV? Point in case? The President’s trip to India. Earlier in the week, an unnamed source from an unnamed agency stated that President Obama was on his way to India and that the trip was going to cost $200 million dollars a day and that there were to be 34 warships and an aircraft carrier going as well. Once the story hit the Internet it was picked up by the conservative news services. Suddenly Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and Sean Hannity even the freshly elected Michele Bachmann were all harping on the President’s big, extravagant, luxury ridden trip to India. Never mind the fact that the Pentagon laughed at the notion of committing 10% of the US Navy on a peacetime visit. Never mind the fact that Factcheck.org did the math and pointed out that $200 million a day is more than the Iraq war cost. Never mind the fact that no one in the White House ever said anything. That the Secret Service doesn’t release this sort of information to anyone. Ever. And why shouldn’t we mind the facts? Because they just get in the way of a good story.

When pressed by Anderson Cooper for some additional information about the numbers, Michele Bachmann stated, “Well these are the numbers that have been coming out in the press…” Well of course they are. And that leads us back to Beck and Limbaugh and Hannity and Fox News and every other member of the corporate conservative news machine. They have stopped reporting the facts and started reporting what each other reports about the facts. To say, “It’s in the press” is tantamount to saying “Fox News is reporting that Fox News has said (insert fake scandal here)…” Fox News is now a self-perpetuating, fake-scandal reporting, fact-ignoring juggernaut. It exists by feeding off of itself to the extent of hiring the very same people they pretend to report on.

It’s On The Internet

Eric Bolling from Fox Business News might actually deserve the credit for getting this ball rolling on his Fox program, “Follow the Money.” He ran a package with numbers quoted from an Indian website. Numbers that were not substantiated, verified or accredited. But hey, it’s just the news…right? And to absolutely prove he was right, Bolling added this little gem:

“I will tell you unequivocably, I am not making this up, this has been reported, go to the Internet, go take a look.”

Go to the Internet and take a look. Does that mean that if it’s on the Internet it’s true? Good. What else is true then? Let’s start with one I found on Drudge. “REPORT: US Military to build kilometer-long bomb-proof tunnel – so Obama can go to the Ghandi Museum…” Really? I thought that I should read the article before commenting on it. Or linking to it on my blog. Drudge should try that once in a while. The article starts out by condemning the American mind-set. The author, Pandurang Mhaske, writes, “It could give a sense of superior American organization, or be an indicator of a deep-set persecution complex. It could also be a manifestation of Uncle Sam’s penchant for a show of strength.” Deeper into the article, Mhaske describes the tunnel. “The tunnel would be a kilometer long and measure 12ft by 12ft — enough to let Obama’s cavalcade pass through. The tunnel would be centrally air-conditioned, fitted with close-circuit television cameras, and will be heavily guarded at every point, including, of course, its entry and exit.” Sweet. But wait! There’s more!

Mhaske wrote, just before describing the tunnel that it would be built by American military engineers IN JUST ONE HOUR! “They came up with a quick solution which left the Indians accompanying them amazed: A bomb-proof over-ground tunnel — to be installed by US military engineers in just an hour.” Amazed indeed. The only amazing part will be if any of this is even remotely true.

Other “True” reports on the internet include:

  • The Pentagon was not hit by a jet liner on September 11, 2001. BUT…
  • The Pentagon was built on occult symbols that can only be seen from the air but that are hidden and “barely discernible albeit almost complete.” It was done for undisclosed reasons by undisclosed people.
  • The moon landings were hoaxed.
  • UFOs have been visiting earth for centuries and much of what we are, we owe to our alien pals.
  • Atlantis existed.
  • George W. Bush was a Mass Murderer.

All on the Internet so, according to Fox News, all true.


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