From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Fri Feb 15 2002 - 11:46:03 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T.Smith: "give it to them, too"

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2002 11:46:03 -0000
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            <Lots of folks, whether in the US or UK are too busy dealing with
    > struggles of life, raising a family, working a 40 hr week, taking night
    > classes, and escaping into sitcoms and videogmes to bother much with gov't
    > and foreign affairs. It would take oddles of time to get a grasp on all
    > the
    > nuances of local, state and federal level politics and what each
    > individual
    > foreign nation is up to and lots of folks don't have oodles of time. But
    > that person who may not have much of a grasp on the intricacies of the
    > middle east is the person who might just be the best choice to fix your
    > car
    > or your plumbing or to help you with your taxes or whatever else their
    > speciality is. Ignorance is relative. Let's see some ivy league math wiz
    > dig their own drain field for a septic system ;-)>
            I think you're kind of right Scott, but of course that is a major
    conceit of late capitalism, and a highly dangerous one at that. It is why
    decades ago the likes of Lippman and Wright Mills, talked about the problems
    of the mass society- its complexity leading to its citizens basically being
    unable to really engage with the bureacracy of political decisions that
    shape our lives, and thus the public opinion that's supposed to underpin
    mass democracy is something of an illusion. Two things result from this:
    apathetic complicity (through people not voting at the most overt), and
    second in order for democratic governments to function, the use of
    PR/propaganda by governments. Some writers on propaganda have gone as far
    as saying it is constitutive of democracy, an actual requirement for what
    Chomsky famously dubbed the manufacture of consent. Of course the real
    danger here is that policy decisions become "inevitable", "natural" etc.
    etc., as with the "Labour" Party in the UK talking about the inevitability
    of the market, and have transformed themselves into yet another party of
    capital (trying to sell off everything and anything to the private sector).
    But what people lose in going along with the 'life is too hectic to care'
    position, is any connection with the decisions that fundamentally affect
    their basic rights. And, of course, it isn't really true, as people do have
    major, if fragmentary concerns, whether it be about paedophiles in the
    community, the safety of MMR, the state of healthcare provision, schools
    etc. etc. The means by which people are able to influence decision making
    in such areas is majorly being eroded, as when governments show outrage at
    people having the gall to protest about things they don't like (seen most
    pathetically during the fuel protest in the UK a year or so ago; the
    government was clearly offended by the democratic right of people to
    protest). The best conceptual treatment of these issues, albeit
    significantly challenged since its publication, is Habermas' The Structural
    Transformation of the Public Sphere' (although it's a dense read).

            For those who would regard things like political ideology as
    memetic, Habermas' ideas would seem a useful framework as it places the
    dissemination of information, or rather the question of who has
    control/influence over information dissemination, at the core of the problem
    of contemporary society. I think Balkin talks about ideology and memes at
    length in 'Cultural Software', but I haven't read it yet, sitting on my
    shelf of memetics/cultural evolution books waiting to be read once I get my
    own book (which is a bit past the deadline already, and nothing to do with
    memetics) finished.


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