The cult of expertise: surrendering freedom

experts-gears-brain

Every day we abstain from considering and making decisions that are rightly ours to consider and make.  We defer that engagement with our world to people considered more ‘expert’ in the apparently germane disciplines, but to the exclusion of all others.  And so we build the world around us as it is, with all the grandeur and the despair in it, as a deferred potential and responsibility.  Nevertheless, we build it in our own images, because we ourselves become a perpetually stalled potential when we choose this as a reflexive response to all contemplation and decisions about matters more complex than immediate self-gratification.

What is it that we really do when we abdicate our own authority and wisdom?  Do we actually comprehend what the consequences are, for ourselves and others, even when we think we don’t care enough to want to have a say?

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Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992) revisited

manufacturing-consent-video-cover

To begin, it strikes me as appropriate to reorient us to the environment which gave rise to both the book, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988) by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, and the film, which premiered on 18 June 1992 at the Sydney Film Festival in Australia.

A different time

Achbar and Wintonick followed Chomsky for five years to make their documentary, [1] implying that they began their project in 1986 or 1987.  A very different time that some readers might not remember too well, or at all.

To offer a glimpse into that era, imagine Miami Vice entering its fourth season, the Simpsons first appearing as short film clips, Star Trek: The Next Generation premiering on network TV, the Bangles walking like Egyptians, Bon Jovi prancing on a prayer, U2 still hadn’t quite found that pot of gold at the end of a rainbow they were looking for, fully grown men wearing big hair and pastel baby blue and pink clothes, women wearing shoulder pads as big as those sported by gridiron players, fluoro coloured neon lights in nightclubs and restaurants, and greed was definitely good all around.

Continue readingManufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992) revisited”

Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992) revisited

manufacturing-consent-video-cover

To begin, it strikes me as appropriate to reorient us to the environment which gave rise to both the book, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988) by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, and the film, which premiered on 18 June 1992 at the Sydney Film Festival in Australia.

A different time

Achbar and Wintonick followed Chomsky for five years to make their documentary, [1] implying that they began their project in 1986 or 1987.  A very different time that some readers might not remember too well, or at all.

To offer a glimpse into that era, imagine Miami Vice entering its fourth season, the Simpsons first appearing as short film clips, Star Trek: The Next Generation premiering on network TV, the Bangles walking like Egyptians, Bon Jovi prancing on a prayer, U2 still hadn’t quite found that pot of gold at the end of a rainbow they were looking for, fully grown men wearing big hair and pastel baby blue and pink clothes, women wearing shoulder pads as big as those sported by gridiron players, fluoro coloured neon lights in nightclubs and restaurants, and greed was definitely good all around.

Continue reading “Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992) revisited”

Seven kommunity killers

kommunity-top

Putting aside the somewhat ridiculous notion that the weasel-words ‘social media’ have any but oxymoronic meanings, there’s nevertheless ongoing debate on at least Google Plus about ‘building community’.

In their best imitation of earnest and knowledgeable people, concerned with the social, most people who discuss these issues assume that there is an objective position to stake out on a topic that can’t question its own dubious premiss: that there is such a thing as social and community to be had in the mercenary, commercial structures built by social media companies.

What can be talked about are personal experiences with nominal efforts to ‘build’ and ‘manage’ online community.

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The social media thought police

thought-police-001

There is an ageless question about what makes people in a group become tyrants and intolerant savages when you know that, as individuals, they give every appearance of being bright, articulate and rational.

Some of the finest minds in the known universe have struggled with this apparent paradox, but have not come to any stunning insights on the dynamics that turn ap0parently reasonable people into dictatorial thought police.

Just check out the idiocies and intolerances immediately evident on any social network. Not just now, but ever since chat rooms and interest forums have existed.

Doing that appears to offer up powerful evidence that rationality is in full retreat across the Western world. The most imbecilic demands that entirely ludicrous propositions be met not only with respect, but an absence of rational critique, abound everywhere.

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WordPress and design principles

Updated: 13 October 2014

A post about the creation and development of this site.

Why?

In 1994, when I first dabbled with building my own web pages, I had some small storage area on my ISP’s server with no associated domain name.
My intention then had been to experiment with the code that makes web pages look the way they do in browsers – hypertext markup language (HTML). Over time I built content around my contemporary preoccupations, which have been pretty stable: political economy and philosophy, film, and writing about everything that strikes me as noteworthy.

As time passed and technology improved I maintained an interest in HTML and the emergingly useful cascading style sheets (CSS) which offered an abstracted method for rendering the look and feel of an increasingly sparse HTML base.

In the two decades of messing about with web pages, I have created and abandoned maybe a dozen online collection of essays and other content. This was probably due to the fact that in 1994 blogging was unknown, web hosting was expensive, and I had no profit motive.

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Social media as technology of control: Looking for a left critique of new media

Social media: we are alone together.
Social media: we are alone together.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to make this kind of argument for someone else, particularly since it is an argument coming from a perspective I used to battle against: educated, insightful post-Marxist left critique.  The kind of critique that used to be everywhere in the 1970s and even in the 1980s, but now almost completely absent in public debate in the US, in Australia, and from what I can see, even in the UK.  This sudden and apparently complete demise of an educated, erudite, literate and vocal left opposition to the grasping voices of plutocracy and robber baron capitalism seems to have left the way clear for a complete dominance of capitalist excesses in Western societies.

The argument is that social media represent an unparalleled potential technology of control, of the deliberate alienation of social consciousness and solidarity by isolating individuals in a sphere of fabricated, fake community that is in fact not community at all, but a narcissistic contest of all against all to achieve an arbitrary personal approval rating, and to do so in preference to and exclusion of seeking social and economic justice or community with others whose material circumstances and interests are the only real basis for the social, and for collective action of any kind.

Before explaining what this all means, let’s turn to Rob Horning’s blog on the New Inquiry site.  His thesis is pretty simple.  Class conflicts, based on economic inequality, exploitation of the surplus value of labour, and monopolisation of the means for capital formation, have been displaced in social media by an artificial and ultimately futile pursuit of individual popularity, as measured by an arbitrary standing in a contrived scale of popularity, influence, and ‘hipster’ cachet.  That scale is revealed to the unknowing public by the ridiculously phoney concept of the ‘social graph’, a kind of Kloutish attempt to ‘rank’ people by algorithm that is not much more sophisticated than Zuckerbergish frat boys voting on what girl on campus they’d like to fuck.

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Schlosberg illustrates fallacy
of ‘expert’ reasoning

Schlosberg

A rhetorical reply to the Professor about why science does not and should not dictate human motivation or organisation.

We imagine we live in a rational, enlightened society. In such a place, experts would identify issues to be addressed, and goals to be reached, in response to our creation of climate change. Scientific knowledge would be respected and accepted (after peer review, of course), and policy would be fashioned in response.

— David Schlosberg, Professor of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney.

In this one sentence Schlosberg has undone any persuasive, expert, authoritative impact his comment piece on global warming might have had (‘THE END OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT -or- A Challenge to the Dream of Reason -or- We can’t prevent climate change, so what should we do?’ links to new tab/window at external site).

Let’s parse the words. Who is the ‘we’? Without getting into a hairsplitting contest, let me argue that a great many people in Australian society find nothing particularly rational or enlightened about the way it is governed, about their colleagues or neighbours, and sometimes not even about their spouses and children. In this context expecting ‘we’ to apprehend a consensus about what rationality means, let alone what it requires of us, is childishly idealistic. Not at all the sort of nonsense you’d expect from a Professor.

Continue reading “Schlosberg illustrates fallacy
of ‘expert’ reasoning”

Schlosberg illustrates fallacyof ‘expert’ reasoning

Schlosberg

A rhetorical reply to the Professor about why science does not and should not dictate human motivation or organisation.

We imagine we live in a rational, enlightened society. In such a place, experts would identify issues to be addressed, and goals to be reached, in response to our creation of climate change. Scientific knowledge would be respected and accepted (after peer review, of course), and policy would be fashioned in response.

— David Schlosberg, Professor of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney.

In this one sentence Schlosberg has undone any persuasive, expert, authoritative impact his comment piece on global warming might have had (‘THE END OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT -or- A Challenge to the Dream of Reason -or- We can’t prevent climate change, so what should we do?’ links to new tab/window at external site).

Let’s parse the words. Who is the ‘we’? Without getting into a hairsplitting contest, let me argue that a great many people in Australian society find nothing particularly rational or enlightened about the way it is governed, about their colleagues or neighbours, and sometimes not even about their spouses and children. In this context expecting ‘we’ to apprehend a consensus about what rationality means, let alone what it requires of us, is childishly idealistic. Not at all the sort of nonsense you’d expect from a Professor.

Continue reading “Schlosberg illustrates fallacyof ‘expert’ reasoning”

Chomsky glosses over key dynamics in latest anti-America polemic

The arguments presented by Chomsky in the AlterNet article ‘America’s Decline Is Real — and Increasingly Self-Inflicted’ are readable, engaging, and almost convincing.

Just as Chomsky’s political invigilators tend to gloss over deep and obvious flaws in their counter-arguments, so Chomsky appears to have glossed over four fundamental problems for his own polemic:

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