[FoRK] Is Balkanization really a problem?

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Sun May 27 11:47:27 PDT 2007

On May 27, 2007, at 12:33 PM, Albert S. wrote:

> I agree that Balkanization is happening. But I'm not
> so sure that it is a problem. The opposite of
> Balkanization is blind allegiance to one political
> movement or another.

You're right, balkanization by itself is not the problem.   
Balkanization (in the form we see it today) coupled with widespread  
systematic media bias promotes exactly that --- blind allegiance not  
to one "political movement" per se, but to a systematically  
manipulated and biased version of "the truth" with little opportunity  
to admit and consider facts that conflict with the "dogma" peddled in  
these little reality-distortion media backwaters.  It is, I believe,  
the very core of the "red state" problem.  The Soviets understood  
this process very well;  the Chinese understand it today.  The  
radical right wing of this country, and indeed the global oligarchy,  
understand it well enough to not be making the same mistakes that the  
Soviets made and the Chinese are making;  they at once have a more  
subtle touch as well as a much more sophisticated and sinister  
manipulative technique.

> That smaller groups or even
> individuals should think for themselves and have
> differing opinions on specific issues seems healthy to
> me.

If you assume that everyone is reasoning in a rational way based on  
the same essential facts, or that --- at least --- irrational  
thinking and / or disagreement about facts follows some kind of  
normal distribution, then you are exactly correct.  If there are  
enough "islands" of subjectivity and opinion, and those islands are  
randomly distributed around some mean reality that approximates  
actual reality, then sure --- even if there's a large standard  
deviation, then you're still correct --- in general, these diverse  
opinions will cancel out and what's left --- importance magnified ---  
is the more informed, more objective opinion.

The problem is, the bias in our political process today is far from  
randomly distributed;  when you have large-ish groups form their  
opinions based on a heavily-engineered, intentionally-biased,  
distorted view of reality, and that group isn't exposed to diverse  
other viewpoints, then you get a seriously biased political reality  
that is manufactured rather than based on any objective truth.

That's exactly the situation we find ourselves in today, with  
concentrated ownership of media that intentionally manipulates and  
biases the flow of news.  Coupled with balkanization through self- 
selection of community according to some notional similarity of bias,  
and we've got a very serious problem.


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