When society follows media like a sheep to slaughter


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamNobody should be too surprised that America’s recent history has been very much like a lousy bit of network programming. For those who’ve forgotten, media has always been a role model. Monkey see, monkey go nuts.

(Before we start, this is not going to be a media-bashing exercise in the usual sense. In this case, the people who need their heads kicked are the mindless acceptors, not the mindless purveyors.)

Before America became a sort of extended crack house, the basic norm was a sort of sitcom society. Not too dazzling, but pretty much in the nuclear family, “Honey I’ve just invented the computer/ been indicted/fired/promoted” mode.

The good side of America, believe it or not, actually did and does exist. By global standards, it’s a bit middle class, with a level of occasional extravagance few other countries could ever achieve. This is the real innovation-based, really inspired America, now out of fashion for about 40 years.

Media imagery

Ads_Cover_for_KindleThe whole history of America is based on innovation. Its economy was built on it. This is the nation which first really applied mass production in its modern forms. The entire 20th century lifestyle in its famous suburban image, is derived from America. So, however, and rather sadly now, was the media image of America.

Media image is a sort of social template. Fashion, jargon, and even social interactions come from it like a vending machine. Just think how many expressions you’ve learned from it.

A bit of media psychology at this point:

  • Perceived threats or rewards on a screen generate natural responses to stimuli.
  • Perceived groups are joined vicariously.
  • The tendency is to accept, to some degree, the good and bad values in any media presentation, even a puppet show or cartoon.
  • They associate with those values and the logic of the scenarios.
  • Behaviours are contagious; if others are acting in a certain way, more will do so.
  • People tend to accept group norms, at least to some extent, cosmetically or otherwise.
  • In many cases, the behaviours fill a gap in knowledge, making media a sort of reinforcing tool for actual responses.

Is any of this new? No. It’s a range of findings from the 1950s. Media provides psychological stimuli, extended association with what is seen, and a range of norms, depending on the scenarios.

However – What is new is applying this range of known factors to a whole society. On a societal scale, the effects can be horrific.

Consider:

  • The normalization of crime as a way of life – It is, for career criminals, but now it’s a whole media industry, from CSI to The Sopranos. Add behaviours.
  • Greed is Good to the Wolf of Wall Street – A norm which has turned the financial sector psychotic, and is seen as smart business.
  • The Me Generation – A generation of lawyers and accountants, a litigation mad phase in America.
  • The “evil” crap – Any excuse to be a jerk, as defined by Hollywood, TV and some pretty iffy pseudo-psychology. It’s a form of wanking, wearing suits, etc.
  • Dumbing down – The “nerd” theory which so rabidly devalues intelligence, information and innovation has also been responsible for America’s loss of direction in the sciences. America’s intellectual property is worth more than the GDP, and the US is still fretting over the Super Bowl.
  • The Flintstones Effect – Turning everything in to a sitcom, with asking the boss for a raise, and the entire worn-out idiom still oozing along.
  • Youth culture – This so-called youth culture is old enough to be a grandparent. A soggy attempt at the 1980s, with the same boring nursery rhymes and sloppy patches. No innovation at all.

Media as an excuse

It’s all well and good to bleat about decency, good people, etc. and the rest of the social shopping list that never happens. Humans are wired to respond to humans, real or not. If you see people doing something, on a screen in real life, your response is going to be largely automatic.

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas. “Passive voice”, eh?

Media also certainly doesn’t provide any good role models, examples, or much in the way of constructive values of any kind. Why would it? Those things are hardly fashionable, or even comprehensible to some people. Media is a business; it does what sells, and it’s not paid to make “uplifting” materials.

Meaning people rarely if ever see positive roles, situations, or anything else. Quite the opposite, they see stress, and prefer to relate to the people who aren’t stressed. The bully is always in charge, so that’s the best option. The nutcase megalomaniac is running things, so that’s the safest place to be.

Pretty damn predictable, isn’t it?

OK, there are the excuses. Now – Is it any wonder that an entire nation has turned redneck? No reliable information, no positives, no healthy society to aspire to, and a collection of cretins making billions per year out of the situation. Add the lousy wages, the go-nowhere career paths, the corruption, the health black hole, pitiful core education, the apelike animalistic employment culture, and the disenfranchised poor, and you have a true catastrophe waiting to happen.

Now ask yourself – Do you really accept any of it? If so, it’s probably only because you’re stuck with it. Some people, however, do it the other way round. They accept, and are therefore stuck with it.

The problem is that the usual psychological reactions are the default, normal, unquestioned reactions. Whatever two dimensional load of  half-baked crap slithers into view, it’s what they do.  They’re typically all over the old low grade FOMO and Emotional Intelligence stuff, like missing out on nothing and being a total hypocrite was a life goal.

They go to “meetings” like they go to church; they have to believe in whatever they do, because they accept the basic premises as dictated by media imagery. These excuses are lethal at both individual and social levels, and they’ve made the US a very sick place indeed.

Acceptance of anything is a form of trust, reluctant or otherwise. On what basis would you say that the media image of anything is trustworthy? Because it is just an image.

You may be surprised to learn that in the past, back in the late 1950s, media psychology was about positives. A future, fun, freedom, a happy life, and things to look forward to.  Media was breaking down barriers, promoting positives.

Black America in particular made more progress in that era than ever before… or since.  It also went straight backwards when all the “street” crap became saleable to a tween audience. Try telling anyone in marketing in America that not everyone in the US is a teenage gangsta, and they simply won’t believe it.

The Big Disconnect – Media reproducing itself.

That’s also a good example of the high disconnect between any socially positive information and “media” as we now know it. The image is making itself. Innovation in marketing is relatively rare, and the usual pattern is to stick to the script, however insane.

Call the 2016 election campaign exploitative, sick, nuts, whatever – It’s an accurate reflection of the psychology of media at its worst. Change that, and things will improve, probably drastically.

 

 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

I’m rebuilding SMJ, but have to track down my files first. Don’t hold your breath.

Why do people continue to wallow in outdated ideas? A theory


 

Wasp2If there’s one thing the internet does better than anything else, it exposes the sheer antiquity of so many common issues. Hopelessly out of date ideas fester. Ridiculous mindsets seethe. There’s a reason for that, and nobody’s going to like it.

I’ve spent a lot of time listening to “debates” on subjects my parents and their friends were talking about decades ago. It’s incredible to watch these dino-ideas lumbering around, so long after their time. To say that I’m less than impressed is a massive understatement. Genetics, space, science, arts, race, religion, you name it – The reinvention of the wheel of debate about ideas is now a global industry. It’s also arguably the most destructive force on Earth, in terms of improving the human condition.

Why do these hopelessly impractical old ideas still exist at all?

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it's a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas.

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas.

Why are all these old ideas brought out of their endless closets and paraded around like newborn babies? The technologies have changed, sure, and added some traction to meaningful debate, but these debates aren’t meaningful. They’re obsolete.

They’re also hysterical. It’s axiomatic in human history that ideas are discovered by geniuses, developed by hardheads and cynics, misrepresented to fever pitch by ideologues, and perverted by morons. It’s a particularly dull process.

What’s not usually considered in the process, however, is the very different knowledge bases from which ideas are developed/exploited/lost in hysteria:

  1. The geniuses, rabble that they are, have what could be called “inspired” sources of knowledge.
  2. The hardheads and cynics have pragmatic knowledge bases.
  3. The ideologues are either mindless acceptors of whatever ideas happen to be around, or thinkers with different views based on their usually very eclectic knowledge bases.
  4. The morons simply adapt ideas to their own mindsets and knowledge of whatever degree of obsolescence. “Everything’s OK because a chicken told me so” more or less covers this vacuum.

Symptoms of dysfunction – The knowledge bases of ideas

Mass Media page 1

Media “ideas” – A disease which doesn’t even know it’s a disease.

The knowledge bases, not surprisingly, reflect a lot about the individuals and groups using them. What’s not generally understood is that you can practically track a person’s whole life story by their ideas.

These knowledge bases are sourced from an early age, in specific environments. How you learn says a lot about who you are.

That, in turn, usually relates to socio-economic environments. An extremely unfashionable, but usually pretty accurate, view is that the poor and undereducated are literally decades behind the times. (Many people do react very effectively to these situations, and bravely get themselves out of these environmental graves, but these knowledge bases tend to stick in socio-economic classes.)

This unsightly situation even affects whole nations. Growing up in Australia, I was told by my parents at about age 4 that Australia was usually 20 years behind the US in many areas of thinking and cultural/technical development. How true that was, I learned very soon, to my utter, and in some cases ongoing, disgust.

However, in my observation, the basic rule holds true – Those in disadvantaged circumstances tend to be either unaware of more advanced thinking and ideas, which aren’t directly relevant to them. People raised in those environments, however, are also likely to bring with them the outdated ideas and mindsets of their origins.

Outdated ideas – The plague affecting the world

Mass Media page 5This may seem like a rather expedient, not to say downright snobbish, viewpoint at first glance. The problem is that outmoded ideas do persist, and they are truly toxic. America, the home of the Big Idea in modern history, is awash with absurd anachronisms. Western culture, in its superficial obsession with technologies and fads, lugs around old sitcom ideas and clichés as role models, career paths, and a lifestyle.

(Racism and hate, two of the nastiest and most destructive idea spectrums on Earth, are good examples. Logically – It’s none of your damn business who someone else’s ancestors were. The rest of the world wasn’t born for your, or anyone else’s, approval. Yet that insular, impractical, useless range of ideas is the sole basis of so many so-called ideologies, poisoning the human environment for centuries.)

It’s hard to imagine a more useless scenario. These ideas aren’t just out of date – They’re major liabilities in practice. New ideas are too unfamiliar for easy processing in this museum of thinking. That slows down their adoption.

Mass Media page 3Hiding behind “norms” of thinking is also the working basis of anti-intellectualism. This is idea-phobia, as much as a totally dysfunctional approach to reality. New ideas take over; if you’re behind the eight ball when they kick in, you’re likely to stay there, be left behind, or have to undergo an arduous, thankless, process of catching up.

It’s not a pretty picture, and it’s not that simple. It’s quite natural, and reasonable, to hold on to ideas you like; these tend to be trusted ideas, perspectives, and useful ways of thinking. Ironically, in this putrid mess of anachronisms, some older ideas stand up quite well.

The problem is that some people can’t make the distinction between the utterly useless ideas and the ones that still hold true. They’re certainly not trained to think like that. Basic thinking, like metaphysics and core rational logic, have been left out. How do you criticize an idea with no working logic to help you? You can’t use a calculator on these things.

Education is a mixed blessing in this regard. You can teach, sure, but any teacher will tell you that some ideas simply aren’t learned, let alone taken up as working models. Many ideas simply aren’t understood, simply because they’re too far removed from individual realities.

You have to wonder why this book is STILL so far ahead of "debate" so many years later. A classic case of the current thinking being so far behind previous thinking.

You have to wonder why this book is STILL so far ahead of “debate” so many years later. A classic case of the norm being so far behind previous thinking.

You could argue that religions persist simply because they’re inaccessible ideals. The human mind doesn’t seem to mind grabbing hopeful ideas, however vague and badly expressed. Political “ideals”, (contradiction in terms) however much proven to be no more than hot air, are accepted as options for various reasons, with whatever level of belief. People in hideous circumstances don’t refuse hope, however insincere those offering it may be.

(One of the reasons I don’t make a habit of attacking the religions despite plenty of provocation and seemingly endless just causes is because sometimes they’re all some people have. Much as I despise the hypocrisy and general practical uselessness of religions, who’s to begrudge people a little peace and hope?)

So – Ideas of all ages, in one unholy, impractical potpourri of mutual abrasions. Progressive people often don’t get old style thinking. Old style ideas seem ridiculous. Old style ideas, in turn, often ignore anything which conflicts with them.

Bottom line – Outdated thinking will persist and continue to obstruct, until new ideas are made more accessible, and above all, more meaningful. Media can do that, and usually doesn’t. Nor do the “intellectual elites” seem to be particularly useful in that regard. Our heroic “thought leaders” seem to feel that their ideas have precedence, regardless of their own total lack of achievements in the wider world. Marketing can promote new ideas, and usually does so incredibly badly. You can promote a Playstation game in a future world, but not a real human future? Grim.

If you want people to understand new ideas, explain them. Show them to be practical in real terms. Make the ideas usable, not some distant manifestation of yet another inaccessible fountain of wisdom outside personal experience. Get on with it. Humanity can’t live in a state of built-in mental constipation forever.

LOGO with Sydney Media Jam edit 300PPIStill cursing lack of progress on updating SMJ. Will try, but not optimistic.

 

Who killed the 60s counterculture?


 

Wasp2If you think about “culture”, that ridiculous definition of a social state, there’s only one culture now – A criminal culture. Everything, including your kids and your self-respect, is all about money, getting money, and spending money. It’s about as primitive as you can get without actually getting down on all fours.

The original counterculture of the 60s included things like a Diggers San Francisco free store, which if you think about it for a second, is just efficiency at work. Stuff is given to those who need it or want it. The emphasis was on a natural, productive, positive social development.

That also applied to a world view. Other people weren’t the enemy. The old sixties joke, “Join the army, see the world, meet interesting people – And kill them” was as true for the minds of the generation of Vietnam-maimed veterans as their dead friends and relatives.

Global media, the only whore in history which is all holes, played its part in all the “debate” about the counterculture. No rational debate was ever conducted. It was all about “kids”, not “people”. The counterculture was instantly labelled “infantile”, despite a virtual army of sympathetic adults, academics, and people who certainly weren’t kids chronologically.

Pic max effects1If you check out the studies of the counterculture, it’s all about drugs and specific subjects like free love, the “moral” antitheses of the moribund Christian culture since the Dark Ages. Media, as usual, decided what was an issue and what wasn’t. Democracy not at work.

Hippies weren’t beats. Beats were better able to handle, and avoid, the meat grinder of media, which was usually out of its depth talking to them about anything. Kerouac and others were a bit too intellectual for the average media slob to really argue with.

Mass meetings of people wearing strange clothes, however, and not backed up by fashion labels, however, were easy targets. “These guys don’t wear suits. The women don’t spend 5 hours a day to look like a TV commercial. There’s something wrong with these people” was a pretty easy message to sell.

In one of the greatest disservices to humanity since World Wars 1 and 2, also media wars, global media publicized every negative it could find. The Sharon Tate murder and Altamont were real gifts to this extremely hostile media. Every negative event was a sign that it was all over. The alternative was basically the Las Vegas culture, full of possible cash, suits, and drunks, two dimensional and entirely unreal.

The counterculture was aspirational, by definition. The Main Street culture was told that aspirations were the same thing as hallucinations. Stupidly, the mainstream culture believed that. Ironically, for the 99%, aspirations actually are now hallucinations. Particularly any aspirations about having a decent, clean world to live in.

God only knows what a 21st century America not full of guns, diseases, nuts, and criminals would look like. If it had taken hold, this would be a very different world. The whole of the West would have taken it up. It would have been unstoppable, a sort of democratically-based global enlightenment.

Job page 16But – this was the culture which made sure that didn’t happen. People weren’t allowed to be sane, not kill people, and not be money grubbing little jerks. It was basically the McCarthy machinery, in effect, just working on another subject. Like now, the media targeted the illiterate, the greedy, and the perverse.

On the other side of the equation – Try creating a whole new human culture in a supermarket. Not easy. This is a machine which isn’t geared for that sort of thing. You go in to get groceries. The groceries would have to be free to make the idea take and see the bigger idea as a practical option. They weren’t.

Imagine, however, feeling threatened by a culture where the most dangerous thing likely to happen to you was a new painting, song, or some sort of performance art. Absurd, but that was the Fear Factor for those times.

Also ironically, some of the older generation, notably veterans and their families, weren’t particularly against what they understood. People not killing each other made sense. People being happy made sense. It was how it was done.

You also have to remember that the Greatest Generation was made up of people who grew up with very basic things, if any. They never really had it easy. The luxuries of the Baby Boom were their products, but they didn’t really get much of a share in those things. Their entertainment was the Depression, the war, and the howling mania of McCarthyism and Hooverism. The Vietnam vets found out first hand how much their proxy dictators cared about them.

DR MARYPropaganda oozed out of every geriatric crevice in American media. Hysterical old fools, dictating to a generation and future generations. This was a secret society, a real one, and you’ll never read more than a word or two per book about what actually happened. Nixon was the teddy bear of this society. You’ll rarely see much about the actual associations, the historical and ongoing role of organized crime in US government, and other basics. Read Doctor Mary’s Monkey for a rather nauseating, but unique, high content value taste of the other side of Darth Vader’s America of the Sixties. It’s disgusting, but it’s pretty right.

The parents of the hippies, however, weren’t necessarily for or against the counterculture, more just wary. When grass and LSD became illegal, they were suspicious of the natural association with criminals. Their life experience said “watch out for scams and scum”, which turned out to be pretty right. The more educated older people could see trouble, and they got that right, too, even if they didn’t quite see how it happened.

It would take a lot more space than a blog provides, a fantastic amount of research, maybe a lot of court orders, and some pretty fabulous journalism to unmask the people who killed the counterculture. These are the people who sent humanity back to the cultural Stone Age with iPhones and absurd, impossible life options.

BarbariansForget conspiracy theories. The conspiracies were already up and fully operational decades ago; this is just the result. Forget politics; politicians are just the mailroom clerks of the real working machinery. The attack on the counterculture was primitive. It was aimed at constants like human ignorance, fear of change, and people with limited abilities to de-tangle lies and illogic.

Media, bless its gutless little pointed head, also failed to kill the counter culture. It simply stated it was dead and expected to be believed. The other myth, interestingly, is that the counterculture died. It didn’t. “Old hippies” are still pretty much the same. The real results, like feminism, consumer rights, civil rights, EEO, OHS, etc. are still going, if erratically and with a lack of focus.

The counterculture didn’t die, in practice. It’s now the Golden Age for people who weren’t there, as well as those who were. It’s a glimpse of aspirations, and that’s all people really need. A less threatening, less insane world wouldn’t be hard to sell to anyone.

The war to retake humanity has only just started. IS, Wall Street, US politics, neocons, organized crime and corruption, it’s all the same, senile, useless thing with different labels. It’s also still the enemy of a working version of humanity.

Suggestions for the current generation –

Ditch the norms, they’re meaningless.

Occupy yourself  and be who you need to be; all else will follow.

 

 

 

LOGO with Sydney Media Jam edit 300PPI