[FoRK] Is Balkanization really a problem?

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Mon May 28 10:39:23 PDT 2007

On May 28, 2007, at 12:23 AM, Ian Andrew Bell wrote:

> Media bias exists everywhere.  It is unavoidable, especially as it  
> intersects with commerce or political control.  In societies where  
> the media is especially influential, countries have slid or sit  
> near the bottom in  key categories like Education, a declining  
> Middle Class, and Economic Slowdown.  Sound like a country you know?
> Guess what:  Among adults age 25 to 34, the U.S. is ninth among  
> industrialized nations in the share of its population that has at  
> least a high school degree.  People don't learn to discern "truth",  
> if there is such a thing, from positioning statements.  A growing  
> percentage of the populace are stupid and emotional, rather than  
> considerate and logical, and that makes them easy to manipulate.
> More concerning to me is a deep-rooted self-interest and sense of  
> entitlement, which runs right to the very fibre of the foundation  
> of the nation.  That collective and individual arrogance is more  
> difficult to contend with.

Rational self-interest isn't a problem, it's a good thing --- it  
guarantees that decisions will be normally distributed and will tend  
to cancel out, leaving the most objective / least self-serving / most- 
informed opinions standing.  "Selfishness" (and its cousin "greed")  
is too easily made the scapegoat for any and every social ill....   
certainly both can be problematic, but both can also be (and *often*  
are) for the good;  and in any case calling for people to be "less  
selfish" is cursing the weather.  Good luck with that...

Entitlement's another thing entirely.  I agree completely that we  
have a growing and very serious problem in that regard;  when  
selfishness is coupled with special interest and government mandate,  
almost everyone loses.  (Who's the most entitled?  Boomers, anyone?)   
But the growth in both sense of entitlement and *actual* entitlements  
has been slow and steady, if increasing somewhat over the course of  
this decade, so that doesn't explain the almost surreal about-face  
America has made during that time.

To explain that, you have to look beyond the usual suspects and  
beyond (just) the slow-moving trends.  The thing that seems to most  
clearly correlate to the "unreasoning" of America is the incredible  
growth and success of the right-wing propaganda machine in this  
country since the late 90s.  (Yes, I know it existed before then, but  
it really came into its own during the Clinton witch hunts.)


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