Saturday, August 6, 2016


     Do you municate? That is, do you shout your opinions, theses, and conclusions into the world but do your damnedest not to hear divergent views?

     A lot of people are like that, you know. It’s at the core of the “safe spaces” and “microaggressions” nonsense. Eric Hoffer would diagnose it without hesitation.

     I had a coworker, some years ago, who was full of political opinions he’s bestow upon you free of charge – indeed, whether you’d asked for them or not. But you differed with him at your peril. He’d reflexively label anyone who might disagree with him as a “fascist” at the top of his voice. In consequence, sensible persons who saw him coming would swiftly find somewhere else to be. He was the sort of municator I have in mind.

     It’s bad enough when individuals do it, but ultimately that sort of munication reduces to mere noise. It’s usually not difficult to shut it out, or at least walk away from it. It’s much worse when institutions do it. Some intriguing thoughts on the subject:

     We are saturated with media. Young people have no frame of reference so they just assume it has always been thus, but our modern mass media culture is one of those rare things that is truly new. It really was not so long ago when it was easy to be entirely uninformed about the world. It took great effort to be well informed. That’s not to say we are all worldly cosmopolitans, but the world is literally at our fingertips. More important, media is everywhere and it hard to escape it.

     This newness means that the people in charge have struggled to put it to their uses. Buying off a few newspaper publishers was easy. Controlling the three TV networks required hardly any effort at all. A free wheeling mass media with millions of bloggers, podcasters and small outlets is a different task. Rounding up the farm’s bull is a hard job, but rounding up all the barn cats is actually much tougher. The former can get you killed, but the latter has a maddening number of variables.

     When the masses started to get on-line, the “media experts” said it was ushering in an era of wonderfulness because the people would now have a say. The news would be interactive! It was not that long ago when every Progressive commentator went on and on about the wonderfulness of interactive media. I used to laugh at it as I was on-line long before the media airheads had heard of the internet. I knew those hothouse flowers would not last very long in the rough and tumble world of the internet, but like missionaries headed off to the jungle, they were sure it was going to be great

     I was thinking about that yesterday when National Review announced they had been taken over by Facebook. Like a lot of these sites, they learned the hard way that their audience was not going to just nod along and clap when instructed. Instead, they posted articles and the comments filled up with ridicule and criticism. That led to lots of comments from NR writers about the awfulness of the comment threads. Now that millennial pansies are in charge, they have turned it over to Facebook to police their comments.

     Read the whole thing. It’s worth your time.

     “Interactive media” that suppress the expression of divergent or dissenting views aren’t attempting to foster communications or build new levels of comprehension of difficult issues. They’re trying to replicate the hegemony of the three national networks prior to the rise of talk radio and cable television. Back then, CBS, NBC, and ABC would decide on The Official Line and broadcast it to Us the Unwashed without any trace of dissent. We could accept it or turn off the television.

     When blogging arose, complete with the ability of readers to insert comments on what they’d read, I thought a breakthrough was imminent. Individuals would at least have the ability to argue with one another from a safe distance. Ideas would be tested as thoroughly as possible. We’d have a chance of assembling the insights and experiences of millions into new edifices of knowledge – a chance the munications of the previously dominant mass media had denied us.

     The ascendancy of dominant institutions on the World Wide Web – Facebook, Google, Huffington Post, National Review, and other major aggregators of news and opinion – has produced a state of affairs in which individuals’ conveyances of facts and expressions of opinion can again be filtered and tamed – i.e., communications can be displaced by munications while maintaining a pretense of genuine intercourse. While the managers of those institutions don’t agree on everything, they do share a common attitude: We know best. Sit down, shut up, and listen.

     To allow one’s worldview to be shaped by an institution that methodically suppresses dissent from its preferences is to surrender all claim to an individual perspective or opinion. Yet such institutions are gradually winning a stranglehold over the Web. Small voices such as the few genuine bloggers that remain are the sole alternative. However, we’re dwindling in number. Many of the originals have ceased to write. Few with true courage of convictions have stepped forward to replace them.

     I’ve long held that “opinions are like assholes; everyone’s gotta have one.” I certainly have my own set, and I’m not shy about expressing them. But I also maintain that until your opinions are so solidly backed up by real-world evidence that there’s no significant possibility of error, you must be willing to listen to those who disagree politely. The price of not being willing to listen is high. First, you forget how to argue for your positions. Second, you insulate yourself from evidence that might persuade you to alter your stance. Third, in the worst case you’ll become a “true believer:” a worshipper in “a compact and unified church” that will have its own agenda – an agenda that’s unlikely to care much about you or yours.

     Municative institutions are such churches. It’s best to stay away from them. Any representation they make about valuing your opinion is for public-relations purposes only. They don’t want dissenters; they want disciples aflame with the faith who’ll defend it against heresy, no matter from what source.

     Food for thought.

1 comment:

Linda Fox said...

The Leftist/Progressive horde is against the Free-Wheeling New Media (FWNM) because they can no longer be Dat Guy who tells the Plebes what's what.

Drives them nuts. Especially when someone zings them with verifiable facts. My nephew is always posting the Leftist Line. When he is pointed to alternative possibilities, backed up with sourced data, he just says, "Love you guys. Lets not let these things divide us. You are my family" (direct quote from Facebook post).

In other words, he is disarmed. He cannot argue (other than posting the Revealed Truth from Progressively Awesome People). His rhetorical capabilities are nil.

I spent my youth arguing politics with my family. We watched the nightly news, read two newspapers, and bounced opinions off other similarly knowledgeable people. I learned to handle talking to those who disagreed with me, and to argue logically.

Not so my nephew and other snowflakes. If their chosen Progressive expert is disputed, they are helpless to continue.