Archive for media bullshit

Expert on cultural production of ignorance "watches Fox News all the time"


ignorance via Armando Lioss smallerPhoto via Armando Lioss

One of my favorite columnists, Michael Hiltzik (scroll), along with most sane people (read: not right wing extremists), does not think ignorance is bliss. In fact, he points out how the commercialization of ignorance has not only dumbed down America, it has endangered it. Hiltzik describes how industries thrive on disseminating public misinformation while they profit off of selling harmful concepts and products, exploit a willing media, all at the expense of increasingly oblivious consumers.

He cites the work of Robert Proctor, a professor of the history of science at Stanford and "one of the world's leading experts in agnotology, a neologism signifying the study of the cultural production of ignorance."

Hiltzik's piece in the Los Angeles Times is one that should be read in its entirety, but the highlights alone will make your hair stand on end. Alcoholic beverages and/or sedatives strongly recommended prior to reading:

Robert Proctor doesn't think ignorance is bliss. He thinks that what you don't know can hurt you. And that there's more ignorance around than there used to be, and that its purveyors have gotten much better at filling our heads with nonsense. [...]

The tobacco industry was a pioneer at this. Its goal was to erode public acceptance of the scientifically proven links between smoking and disease: In the words of an internal 1969 memo legal opponents extracted from Brown & Williamson's files, "Doubt is our product." Big Tobacco's method should not be to debunk the evidence, the memo's author wrote, but to establish a "controversy."

Yes, infuriatingly, they peddle doubt and go out of their way to create controversy in order to implant big question marks in the minds of an unsuspecting, undereducated public. By inducing the media to "present both sides" when, in fact, there may not be two legitimate sides (science, anyone?), they divert focus and evade facts. For example, we've seen how they "sow doubts about the safety of childhood immunizations" (coughBachmann!cough) and deny climate change. And don't get me started on the lies about the Affordable Care Act:

When this sort of manipulation of information is done for profit, or to confound the development of beneficial public policy, it becomes a threat to health and to democratic society. [...]

And all those fabricated Obamacare horror stories wholesaled by Republican and conservative opponents of the Affordable Care Act and their aiders and abetters in the right-wing press? Their purpose is to sow doubt about the entire project of healthcare reform; if the aim were to identify specific shortcomings of the act, they'd have to accompany every story with a proposal about how to fix it.

My head couldn't stop nodding in agreement when I caught this part:

"Nonsense is nonsense, but the history of nonsense is scholarship." As part of his scholarship, Proctor says he "watches Fox News all the time."... Citing the results of a 2012 Gallup poll, Proctor asks, "If half the country thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old, how can you really develop an effective environmental policy? This sort of traditional or inertial ignorance bars us from being able to act responsibly on large social issues."

He goes on to explain how Big Tobacco exploited the tea party's obsession with what they love to call "freedom" and "choice," which of course plays into their anti-government meme, a position that consequently benefits the cigarette industry. Hiltzik emphasizes the importance of educating Americans in order to renew their trust in science. Competent journalism wouldn't hurt in that regard, now would it? He ends with this quote:

The effort needs to begin at a young age, [Proctor] says. "You really need to be teaching third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-graders that some people lie. And why do they lie? Because some people are greedy."

in greed we trust


Rant-O'-The-Day: Sunday morning talk shows could easily be replaced by campaign ads


At first I was too angry to rant about this in print and even called Paddy to tell her that. Instead I ranted at poor Paddy who agreed with every seething word. That Moment of Utter and Complete Exasperation was the result of exposing myself to a few minutes of "This Week" and "Face the Nation" after which I had to switch off the Tee Vee machine in order to regain my sanity and lower my blood pressure. I haven't turned it back on yet.

I'm now ready to rant in print.

I watched as the hyperventilating moderators failed to ask follow-up questions or challenge obvious lies and misinformation. I screamed at my TV as even the guests themselves (on both sides) did nothing but stick to their talking points and/or misinformation instead of listening and responding to each other in order to actually respect viewers enough to educate them or clarify their points of view.

Fact checking would be novel.

But instead of developing a thought and taking the time to offer details to support an assertion or accusation, Democratic and Republican spokesparrots stubbornly spit out what they thought sold their idea, and viewers ingest this junk talk the way petulant children ingest Happy Meals from lazy parents.

Come on, at least acquaint voters with something other than a headline. Give us a little credit for being able to digest reasoned (and reasonable) debate and make up our minds accordingly.

Re "Teaching, and testing, smarter," Opinion, Aug. 3

Arthur Levine compares testing students once a year to having a car GPS update its position once an hour instead of constantly. In the GPS part, he forgets the driver and assumes he ignores road and street signs. In the student part, he forgets the teacher, assuming she has no idea of what her pupils have learned.

Any competent teacher knows how her students are progressing throughout the year. Standardized testing cannot determine this; only a teacher is in a position to make this assessment.

Levine says the emphasis in public education has moved from teaching to learning; it should move to educating, as only then can a child's full potential be realized.

Laurie Pane



"Teaching to the test" is an educational practice where curriculum is heavily focused on preparing for a standardized test.

Opponents of such practices argue that implementation forces teachers to limit curriculum to a set range of knowledge or skills in order to increase student performance on the mandated test. This produces an unhealthy focus on excessive repetition of simple, isolated skills ("drill and kill") and limits the teacher's ability to focus on a holistic understanding of the subject matter. Furthermore, opponents argue, teachers who engage in it are typically below-average teachers.[1]

Some research suggests that teaching to the test is ineffective and often does not achieve its primary goal of raising student scores.[1]

Sunday talkers have been reduced to teaching to the test. We're the students and we are being force fed the limited curriculum from our media teachers who have only one goal in mind: winning. Our final exams consist of check marks on ballots. And by the looks of our current Congress, we're scoring low.

Critical thinking skills are being phased out in favor of repetition of those "simple, isolated" talking points, regardless of the questions asked by a moderator or challenges by political opponents. Pivoting and propaganda have replaced explanation and enlightening.

We're better than this. Or at least, we used to be.

Sunday talk shows have devolved into nothing more than infomercials, campaign ads that drum catch phrases, political invective, and focus-group-tested sales pitches into our homes ad nauseam.

That's not talk, it's hype. Hot air is what's on the air. Learning is passé, communication is being replaced by communiqué, and we as a nation are being dumbed down. Looks like we'll have to resort to independent study.


Audio- Limbaugh's Latest Smear Of First Lady Michelle Obama: "The First Linebacker"


Blerg. What an ass. Via MM.


Video- Fox's Kilmeade: Obama and Biden Are "Unleashing A Campaign Of Insults On Republicans And The American People"


It's so blatant sometimes it makes you wonder how a rock with a pulse would even think they were "fair & balanced"? Via MM.