Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Neil Postman Always Rings Twice 

Salon has this crazy idea that, in order to make sense of world events, one has to have some sort of historical context.

This is always the most irritating part of reading the "International" news in any major American paper -- in all the NY Times coverage of the Spanish elections, or the situation in Haiti, or any number of complex situations that happen across large bodies of water, they never provide any sort of explanation for who the major players are or what they want or what they've done in the past. Even the "news analysis" articles or the Week In Review round-ups fail to give even the most basic information as to, say, why the Haitian people think the elections weren't legitimate or why Spain's Popular Party blamed the ETA, or even what the ETA is or who Basques are or why they blow things up. So thank you, Salon.

Also, Tom Tomorrow has an extremely interesting (and seemingly legitimate) letter from a real, live Spaniard.

Of course, in the world of television news, the idea that events have context, or that things can be put into a historical perspective, or that you have to understand (a) to understand (b), is foreign to just about everyone.

Sorry... I've been reading too much Neil Postman.
The relationship between information and the mechanisms for its control is fairly simple to describe: Technology increases the available supply of information. As the supply is increased, control mechanisms are strained. Additional control mechanisms are needed to cope with new information. When additional control mechanisms are themselves technical, they in turn further increase the supply of information. When the supply of information is no longer controllable, a general breakdown in psychic tranquility and social purpose occurs. Without defenses, people have no way of finding meaning in their experiences, lose their capacity to remember, and have difficulty imagining reasonable futures.
-Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

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