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Friday, January 18, 2013

Well... That's Crazy

“Blink”, a book about our first gut level response, the first impression we have to information. I liked most of the book, but did not agree with all. I had found, (through an unforgiving real life education) that careful consideration was the best approach to problem solving. When faced with a broken car engine my first impression often turned out to be wishful thinking. When faced with a flat tire my first impression was usually correct. I learned to take my first impression and test it. I am prepared to abandon my first impression it the face of facts.
Listening to much of the talking points marched about on the cable entertainment news programs, my first impression is, “Well... That’s crazy”. (I should note that I am more likely to watch the science channels than Fox News, however, the repetition of talking points means that I can get the entire week’s worth of reporting in 30 minutes.) This is a case of the flat tire, the first impression will prove correct.
A News organization chasing profit by sensationalizing emotional facts (usually false facts) is an old tradition. The Spanish-American War in 1898 resulted from William Randolph Hearst’s (the Rupert Murdoch of his day) desire for increased profit from newspaper sales. This profit motive fit with Congressional desire for expansionist imperialism, a case of power and money working seamlessly for the advancement of each. Incidentally, we also got national attention of Teddy Roosevelt leading the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill and then on to the presidency. Expecting truth and honesty from any news organization is wishful thinking. Reporting about crazy is a good business plan.
When Power pushes crazy it is counter-revolutionary, Power wishes to maintain Power, when Power is based on atrocious morals and outdated structures, then crazy is used to protect and preserve that Power. In the antebellum south (before the Civil War), Power had a problem. Slavery was a financial benefit to a very small portion of the population. The average Southern had a hard time understanding why they should fight a war for slavery (The middle class had yet to be invented, that would have to wait for FDR, in the antebellum South you were either rich or poor). The common saying was, “A rich man’s war, a poor man’s fight”. The 1% of their day created a crazy argument, the destruction of the plantation owner would cause greater harm to the poor and to the slaves (Essentially the same as today’s Job Creator argument). A false argument on its face and in detail, this case was dressed up with emotional appeal (the honor of a poor dirt farmer was threatened), and sensational claims (Abe Lincoln was the grandchild of a black slave). That barely worked and the Southern government had to institute conscription. Power will use crazy to protect its power.
The next time you think, “Well... That’s crazy”, you are probably right.

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