Monday, April 25, 2011

Decontextualized News and Limited Discourse -That's It!

For well over a year I've been trying to identify something persistently caught in my subconscious. I've known it is what seems to disturb me most about America now, but I have been unable until yesterday to bring it clearly and fully into consciousness and put it into words.

Thanks to Michael Parenti, who I just mentioned for the first time in the last entry, I now understand:

The "decontextualization of news" and the "limits of discourse" are the names for what has been troubling me.

Mister Parenti has been talking about these and related manipulations of the public for years but it's all new to me because I only listened to his many lectures on such topics this month.

I want to recommend these lectures especially now to anyone reading this, particularly the last ten minutes of the 2008 lecture, "Contrary Notions", where he describes the decontextualization of news and the limitation of discourse and debate very well.

I don't want to try to summarize the story here of how these now define the media and public discussion in the United States, because listening to the lectures really is necessary for a full understanding.

I am anxious though to express some new thoughts I'm having now that I know someone has been describing what was haunting me.

First, the kind of resonance with me of Michael Parenti's analyses is something I haven't felt for fifteen years. -The last time I had this sense of relief when I learned that what was bugging me was being articulated was when I read James Kunstler's "Geography of Nowhere" in 1996.

Then it was a realization that America's landscape was driving me crazy; now it's the realization that public dialogue and media have been doing so.

Secondly, it's now clear to me why I dislike the news programs on NPR and public TV as much as those on commercial networks -because the decontextualization of reporting and limitations of debate are just as pervasive.

The only difference is that these are intentional in the case of the corporate media but are induced by fear in the case of NPR and PBS. We just witnessed this fear again since the House of Representatives was once more taken over by right wing members who immediately began threatening public broadcasting.

Thirdly, I want to emphasize, as Parenti does, that decontextualization of news and limitation of discourse are expressions of power, not accidents or coincidences.

Finally, America reminds me of an abusive family. We always hear stories of how silence is imposed as part of the abuse. For example, if a child reports molestation to her brother, she will be beaten. In the family that is America, if a reporter begins to give the full context of his stories, he will be fired, if a debater on a broadcast begins to overstep the boundaries set by the outlet, he will be cut off.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

new view of the political crisis

I still see the future as an array of inter-related collapses which have all begun. Climate and environmental harm are the most important in terms of creatures affected over time. Then, for humans, peak oil is the next most serious issue.

Then I've tended to see economic and political collapse as the next most important.

The political is very important though because it is what those of us who want to help make the future better will be up against.

But, since almost a year ago, I've gradually realized I have never fully understood what has been happening to politics in the US.

I thought the biggest factor driving the cultural and political decline was simple mass ignorance, worsened by hyper-consumerism.

But events have not unfolded in the way I expected since 2008, the year the financial collapse I long anticipated happened.

The complete lack of reform of the injustices that caused the meltdown have shocked and horrified me.

So has the amazing spectacle of what Obama turned out to be -a corporatist and oligarch even worse than Bush!

And then came Citizens United last year!

...All of these, and many other signals are pointing to much more than just ignorance and distraction of the population. Instead they are exposing a much more aggressive agenda of those with lobbying and campaign power and wealth than I ever would have imagined before 2008.

I now realize the most cynical on the left have always beeen right for my whole lifetime and we have now begun to live their ultimate nightmare!

Ralph Nader, Naom Chomsky, Amy Goodman, and all the voices of the radical left since before the sixties foretold all this, but I never took them as seriously as I should have.

So, where am I going now?

Well, I am beginning to learn the names of more of these people, and to study what they have written over the many years. Since they foretold what is happening, I hope they can maybe predict or at least hint at what all the next stages are going to be.

I have just made two new links to my starting points for this new self-education:

First, here are many online lectures from Michael Parenti available courtesy of the excellent website TUC Radio: "Michael Parenti is among the nation's best informed progressive speakers. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University in 1962 and has taught at colleges in the US and abroad. He lectures around the country and discusses the problems of American democracy, US foreign policy, and the invented reality of the media.":

Michael Parenti Archive

Then there are the hundreds of articles available online from "The Monthly Review -An Independent Socialist Magazine", which has been published since 1949:

The Monthly Review -archives

I've just begun to read and listen to articles on these sites but maybe in the future I can point out here ones I especially found informative.

This journal is now revived

...and not called a "blog" anymore by me, and with a new subtitle, "Thoughts and Ideas" rather than "Thoughts and Essays".

"Blog" and "essay" imply commentary by someone with insight. In the past year I have realized I only have well-developed insight regarding a few things. For many others, I am still probing for deeper understanding and am not at all confident I "have it figured out".

Otherwise, the goals and introductions from when I began in early 2010 are still correct and relevant.

I think I will now call this my "thought journal" and the other my "life journal".