For a while in my youth I spent quite a chunk of time fascinated by shortwave listening.
There were a lot of interesting things about that. I was fascinated by it in a general technical way, back then in the period when I was getting more and more interested in electronics, including radio in particular. I used to crawl around on the roof of my parents’ house fiddling with experiments in configurations of long wire antennae and so on. It was an interesting challenge to see what sort of distant international stations I could pull out of the noise. And, of course, back in those ancient days of yore before personal computers connected to the internet, this was a really interesting window looking out on the rest of the world.
The part of all that on my mind now is the actual listening. Sitting there, at night (when shortwave radio propagation gets going), usually with headphones, listening intently, focused, trying to make out weak signals through the noise, among other stations transmitting in crowded broadcast bands, was an exercise. Added to the mix was the fact that this was in the days when the Iron Curtain still existed, and not everyone in positions of power in the world wanted the people in their country to be able to hear broadcasts eminating from places in the world where things were said that did not exactly suit said power possessors.
This meant a result of shortwave broadcast bands that had extremely powerful transmitters trying to overpower all else, and lots of just simple outright jamming stations, where powerful carrier signals carried no program content except high level broad audio spectrum noise, with no other purpose than to splatter across the airwaves and keep somebody from being able to hear something else. In between the thrashing buzz of jamming transmitters you had everything fighting its way through the ongoing Voice of America and Radio Free Europe versus Radio Moscow electromagnetic arms race smackdown.
Oh yeah. There’s an area just waiting for a good analogy and metaphor workout of some kind.
Today is a bit different, of course. Now, we have a whole variety of media that were not around then in the early and mid seventies. All that carries a lot of information. It also carries a lot more noise.
I took a moment to pause and check what’s on, around 6:30 PM on a Friday evening, news time. What did I find switching to CNN? Babbling about “controversy!”, the big important topic we apparently really need to know about: is Elizabeth Warren really part native American or not? Is this a joke? This is supposed to be important?
We have lots of noise, and an awful lot is not just petty or frivilous. It’s noise as a product of evasion of reality. Evasion of reality generates the noise, which feeds and reinforces evasion of reality, and around it goes in some twisted negative feedback loop.
It seems like every time I start looking around the web or turn on a television to see what’s up, the same sorts of repeating nonsense and absurdities keep hitting me in the face. It’s not exactly subtle.
Doing ongoing reading about what’s going on in petroleum and related stories and “energy” in general has me frequently checking in on The Oil Drum and their Drumbeat feed of stories, and as I’ve said a bunch of times, the stories coming through there include really great, informative material, but they also do a very good job of shining the light on the garbage stories, too.
The reality denial propaganda has been getting more frequent and intense.
That’s our shared problem. The Noise tries its best to devour everything in its path and consumes and fills all available time, space, and attention.
There’s just an endless variety of demonstration of the old con man’s adage of “if you can’t dazzle ’em with brilliance, baffle ’em with bullshit!”.
It all, unsurprisingly, gets so much worse when the source of the bullshit is somebody who might generally regarded by your average citizen as some form of Serious Personage. Whether it’s some form of academic being turned oil business propaganda pimp like Daniel Yergin, or a character after attention and political power and influence like Newt Gingrich, or some economist or financial and business personage trying to pump up cash flow into some particular enterprise, people see somebody regarded as some form of serious authority and expertise, and don’t realize they’re being fed a king sized crock of shit.
The set of complex subjects of “tight oil” of crude petroleum locked in shale formations, tar sands bitumen, and “oil shale” kerogen get ignored in propaganda pieces, and just referred to as wonderful new bountiful discoveries of “more oil!”.
The point, right here and now, is that all of those topics are regularly, constantly, misunderstood or deliberately misrepresented in serious and fundamental reality distortions, by supposedly serious and qualified people. Whether this phenomenon is fundamental ignorance, or deliberate deception, it’s bad enough on its own, but when it’s presented as information and the informed opinions of a Serious Personage, it’s just egregious.
All of this kind of thing takes on many forms, not just the nonsensical grouping of things into false happy reports of “more oil!”. You find cherry-picking deceptions talking with excitement about some petroleum deposits found in recent history, presenting an estimate and saying “look at this large number, we’ve got lots of new oil finds”, that completely ignore the rate we use the stuff to put it in context, and make it obvious that the wonderful bounty of oil presented as evidence of “no oil problems here!” amounts to a brief belch.
Many of the most annoyingly stupid episodes of reality evasion revolve around people completely misssing what the phrase “peak oil” actually describes. This is such a regular pattern it’s beyond words I can find to describe how deluded and/or dishonest this stuff is.
People do all this, and find a large audience of people willing to accept and believe complete fucking nonsense and fiction to maintain a belief that everything is just fine, or will be fine given some course of action, like “give us investment money for this” or “remove government regulation”, some sort of “energy solutions” that are just bullshit.
All that stuff has a regular tendency these days to lead into subjects of the economy, of capital and investment and ways of doing business. Sit down and spend time watching the buzzing chatter of daily programming on CNBC, and you find yourself bombarded by all kinds of reality evasion and happy delusions in this department, with a daily parade of people trying to suck up other people’s money into their enterprise related to the above oil related areas.
That’s leaving out the subject of natural gas, which opens a whole new can of worms. There’s a whole subject of its own, in examining how there’s this chronic condition of people chattering about petroleum (and the synthetic oil items mentioned already) and natural gas like they’re interchangeble. I don’t even try to keep track of how often I’ll hear or read some comment from somebody like “there’s no oil problem, we have loads of natural gas..” and carrying on from there, leaving me thinking that I’m seeing something where somebody has sunk below stupidity and into the realm of mental illness.
That’s bad enough, but the compounded astonishment is how that kind of nonsense flows, and everybody seems to smile and nod and pretend this kind of stuff makes sense. But, then, that’s where we’re into the theme of the day here. It’s like an epidemic of an endless parade of stories all playing out the pattern of the children’s story of The Emperor’s New Clothes- it’s easier to just smile and pretend things are a certain way, because acknowledging the way things actually are might be awkward.
Just a couple of days ago on somebody’s Facebook page I saw something, that included a comment about Obama as President saying something about Obama and “the mess he has made of this country”. The first impulse reaction would be to ask how it’s even possible for somebody to say such an absurd thing, unless they’ve been in a coma for years.
Unfortunately, it’s not hard to guess how it could be possible. It’s obvious. You can get this kind of idea in somebody’s head if they’re faithfully watching Fox News and the talking heads there, reading a batch of websites clogged with nonsense and fiction, and goons bellowing over the AM radio band are pouring shrieks and bleating into their heads, saying “Barack Obama is destroying America” in every conceivable variation their script writers can cook up.
We’re not talking about “different political opinions” here.
It takes no imagination to project what kinds of hysterics we would hear from the Republican party and Fox News and the AM radio barkers if President Barack Obama actually did the things that a president is even able to do, to try to clean up a large batch of gigantic messes.
Picture this. Immediately press Congress to at least return the upper level income tax rates to what they were before the “Bush tax cuts”, which went into effect during the two terms of George W. Bush even as Bush pushed the US military, with no declaration of war by Congress, into two large scale military combat adventures in two different countries on the other side of the world, each costing the US government somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 billion a year.
Push Congress to reenact the Glass-Steagall Act and separate regular banking from “investment banking” so that people willing to dive into all sorts of financial gambling games are taking the risks playing with their own money or at most playing with the money of people who are willing to take the risks and losses themselves.
Immediately remove all US military from the clusterfuck chaos of Afghanistan, and get the US military back home from all sorts of bases scattered around the world, cancel the extended foolish game of trying to be a worldwide military empire, and reduce spending and operations of the United States military forces to what’s needed to actually maintain defense of the United States, not control the world. Revive something of the Roosevelts, both Franklin and Theodore, and hammer the bandits and reckless fools who drove the entire US economy into a wall. And much more.
One thing among the “much more” would be to start telling the full undiluted truth to the American people about the situation with natural resources and what we’re doing to the Earth, and push to get everything and everybody focused and acting on what needs to be done to deal with reality.
The Republican party, Fox News, and their corporate and Wall Street masters would go apeshit. But fuck all of them. Sanity and honesty among any of those herds went out the window a while ago, and anybody left among them trying to be a little better has been thoroughly beaten into submission.
In short form, most of our political problems in the US now revolve around people not willing to operate in the realm of reality, and who mostly struggle in a contest to convince the voting public that they are more devoted than the “other side” to a continued program to attempt to sustain the unsustainable. That appears to apply in pretty much any realm you examine.
Worst of all, our sort of macro-crisis overriding and fuelling every problem area goes beyond the problems themselves, and into the dominant determination to ignore, or fail to even notice, what the problems are and how we got here, never mind changing what we have to do differently.
In current American politics, to hell with the entire Republican party, they’re beyond useless and into massively destructive. It’s pointless to even discuss them seriously, not that there is nobody of any worth and honest value and merit there, but anybody of honesty and worth is now completely dominated and overwhelmed by lunatics, liars, bandits, full on idiots, and bombastic assholes.
The present day Democratic party is pretty much useless and largely detached from reality anymore as well, their only approach to a redeeming value is not really so redeeming; it’s less a matter of being better than the Republicans and more a matter of not being flat out evil and insane like the contemporary Republican party.
The current version Republican party, which is now almost entirely about a blend of a hybrid corporate military plutocracy, theocratic lunatics, and a full out revival of The John Birch Society, would probably purge Dwight Eisenhower from its ranks (since I’m certain that Ike would have absolutely refused to bend to the current madness). Eisenhower left America a large and very clear warning in his farewell address as he prepared to leave the White House. His warning about turning the country over to what he called the military-industrial complex (exactly what we have now except “corporate military compex” would be a more fitting name now) and squandering resources on this went almost completely ignored, and now we have the repercussions to deal with. Not many people are facing up to this.
Apparently Willard Romney said “President Obama’s attacks on free enterprise have triggered a backlash among many” sometime in the past few days. The obvious question would be “what ‘attacks on free enterprise’?”. The issue, apparently, is scrutiny of Willard’s time with Bain Capital, which is scrutiny that’s more than reasonable considering all the posing and preening by Romney and supporters as being “the businessman who knows business and the economy and will bring back jobs and prosperity and growth”.
The basic idea of commerce of doing good work in useful work, and exchanging value for value, paying people properly for good work, and investment being putting capital into this, for reasonable returns over time on this investment, was shoved aside by many characters quite a long time ago.
In place of this, we got large corporate management that seems to only know “cost cutting”, the phenomenon of outsourcing globalization, and all the crazy statistical math contortions and casino games of recent history in finance and banking and trading markets.
We saw and felt the results and repercussions of “financial engineering” and “new financial products” and herds of “clever” (and I do use that word euphamistically) financial and banking critters who figured out how to shave slices off for themselves in more and more transactions, in increasing complexity, and then call these games “wealth creation”, even if they got rich and everybody else involved lost their asses in some deal.
The most obscene and nauseating part of this whole gigantic, astronomically large and complex mess, is how many people responsible have not only gotten away with lunatic and even criminal behavior, but have other people calling them “the job creators” and so on, in outrageous demonstrations of Orwellian Doublespeak.
The thought that any honest human being with a grain of intelligence and a grip on reality could honestly believe that Willard Mitt Romney would be some sort of “job creation and prosperity President” is too bizarre for my little mind to fathom.
It’s one of the most disgusting scenarios you could imagine, many of the people calling themselves “the job creators” or “creators of wealth” or something have effectively been ” the job destroyers”. Many of the people who could fairly and realistically be described as “job creators” have found themselves wiping out jobs as they were forced to shift their businesses into basic survival mode, as either their own business suffered severe financial problems directly, or had indirect problems because business evaporated as their customers had severe crisis problems, as a result of an epic financial disaster caused by a host of bandits and lunatics.
I watched it happen, right in the middle of it.
[Woe be unto any dipshit who wants to even fucking think about telling me this is wrong and I don’t know what I’m talking about.]
Instead of getting a realistic grasp on things and acting accordingly, we get a barrage of noise that effectively becomes something that’s maybe not the raw roaring noise of shortwave jamming transmitters, but not much more useful.
It’s been said elsewhere that what we need most of all right now is to get people focused on a concensus about reality based on how things really are. We are not getting much help in this right now from the people whoo need to be helping matters, including having a functional press actually acting in the public interested by practicing the craft of journalism.
Neil Postman was really on top of things in seeing the effects of television on information and discourse, turning attempts at serious examination of serious subjects in detail, at length, into tiny chunks of entertainment between blobs of advertising. I wonder if even he could have really foreseen the results of dozens of television channels and things like Fox News Channel, along with assorted celebrity gossip infotainment petty nonsense and the wasteland of “reality” television.
We can’t expect much of a deep connection to what is real and important from people who sit in a room with a television switching between obnoxious pronouncements of idiocy from Sean Hannity and another evening of American Idol. One of the truly wretched, awful, just really tragic things about all that is that people who might otherwise be fairly honest, earnest, conscientious, and reasonably functionally intelligent humans can find themselves going along with, and believing, utter nonsense and fiction. Saturate them with enough bullshit, and then compound it by everyone around them in family, friends, neighbors, and “the guys at work” associates soaking their minds in the same trash, and it all reinforces itself in a hall of mirrors effect.
We have a mob of bullshit artists and con men polluting the country via Fox, AM radio, and assorted websites, and I’m not alone if having the experience of trying to clear away the crap and point out the assorted falsehoods and confusion to people who just react with some variation of words saying “oh, sure, you’re one of those left wing radicals I’ve been warned about”.
Turn on CNBC (and I never see it, but it’s probably the same on Fox Business, with the addition of Rupert Murdoch pseudo-reality warpage). Watch Larry Kudlow, the clown act hysterics of Jim Cramer (somebody dart this goof), or any of the showbiz presentations. It’s just an endless barrage, multiple batches of things flying around the screen, people chattering full bore, it’s a place to really crank up the “noise” analogy.
All through all of it, everybody is fully wound up in all the statistical analysis games and complexities of every sort of transaction and abstract items people can cook up, everybody is obsessed with The Markets in all the different varieties and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is above all as some magic number that tells all. Where’s the value? I watch this stuff occasionally and think these people are just in a separate world of their own detached from reality, but as long as their bank accounts are swelling, they think, hey, everything is great, what’s the problem?
It’s a little strange to me that people talk about “capitalism” like it’s an ideology, or some kind of belief system. Some people think “capitalism” means “not communism”. It’s about capital, money on hand for the functioning of a business, surplus wealth put into investment in a business for the business to function, do work of value using that money, with the idea of returns from that value providing returns on the investment.
We’re in a period where businesses are struggling to survive, nobody wants to pay anybody for anything, as capital just evaporates and disappears, and it seems like a lot of the complexity of the convolutions of finance and banking and assorted market trading, especially in all kinds of incomprehensibly complex financial items of the world of derivatives, have generated results and repercussions that make you wonder how much supposed “wealth” of recent times never actually existed at all, and illusions of wealth have been the main “product” of much of this.
People doing business doing good work making useful things, keeping things maintained and working, doing useful services, are struggling or have crashed, people who can do good useful work find themselves with no work and no income. In the meantime, we have a state of affairs where somebody who finds people to sell them a dollar for 90 cents, and then find other people to buy those dollars for a buck-ten, and pockets 20 cents for each dollar in piles of transactions, is “creating wealth”.
Then, as the economy implodes, some people try to tell you that the economy is having problems because wealthy people have to pay taxes.
We’re not even to anything about what’s happening to the Earth as a whole, what we’re doing to it, and the repercussions we’ve had for a long time and getting much worse. Anybody looking at this realistically immediately gets drowned out by people shrieking about “job killing!”.
There are just too many people who either can’t understand the past and what’s happening right now, or they just don’t want to understand. That might make them face the need to change things.
Months ago, in a case that stuck in my mind, and I’m sure I mentioned before, there was some online chatter where the subject of oil came up. The comment that stuck in memory was “we need to do whatever it takes to keep it plentiful and cheap”. It stuck in my mind because this was a comment from somebody who is probably pretty representative of what’s in the minds of a lot of Americans about the subject, whch is to say that they really don’t have any idea of what the situation is, and the history that led to it.
I wasn’t quite sure how to tell the guy writing, a musical acquaintance in his early forties, that this particular thought he expressed needed to be on the minds of everyone a couple of decades before he was born. That, to spell it out, would be at the end of World War II, before the general plan and practices became to build outward from our cities into programs of intense suburban expansion, abandoning cities with integrated uses of homes and businesses, local businesses, places where people could live and work and function without petroleum burning transport, and the wave of building petroleum guzzling land yacht rolling living room automobiles with the largest possible V8 engines.
All that is past, we missed that chance, we (at least, older generations) made those mistakes, and we have the repercussions and consequences of now. This is what very few people don’t want to face and deal with, but it’s worse than that. Very few people are even admitting into their minds the fact that this is an issue.
But, then, this gets into a large messy area in looking at so much of what’s happening in the realm of people who these days are likely to be calling themselves “conservative” where it’s a bit of a puzzling question to figure out exactly what they’re conserving. That’s a gigantic subject of its own, but certainly a fundamental issue in what we’re looking at here. It certainly fits both the corporate and finance plutocracy faction of the “conservatives” and the tea party types, and what we’re mostly looking at is people who want to conserve some status quo or some notion of something of some state of things of the past that they decided they liked better, even if the state of things they see as the idyllic past didn’t actually exist.
More and more as time passes, I see people acting like some modern version of a cargo cult, wishing for more of things that just have been taken for granted as normal and perpetual and never understood, beleiving that if they just mouth platitudes and perform some sort of rituals and try to maintain or revive some particular conditions, that had no connection to the things they wish for, then those things will keep magically appearing for them.
In political terms, for example, you get people grasping on to a popular mythical image of the time of Ronald Reagan as President. Devoted audiences sit in front of their televisions and listen to an idiot like Sean Hannity feeding their heads a recurring narrative of Ronald Reagan as his hero of ideals of “fiscally responsible conservative government”, even as he drove up the debt of the US federal government like no President ever before, leaving office with the US federal debt almost three times the amount it was when he entered office . The norm in that scene will probably also find the talking head praising Reagan as a patron saint of “conservative values” and low taxation and giving the impression that President Barack Obama is pure death by taxes destroying you, ignoring the reality the tax burdens under President Obama are lower than they were under President Reagan, and Reagan raised taxes more than once, while Obama hasn’t raised federal taxes, and in fact, your federal taxes have probably decreased.
But, ask people exposed constantly to particular polemic theater about Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama in a comparison of the two men as Presidents, and you’re likely, almost certain in the case of some people, to get pretty adamant and righteous certainty about the two that have no basis in historical facts of reality.
You could probably write a whole book of that kind of thing.
In that crowd, you find the “drill, baby, drill” faction of petroleum notions, which is probably one of the biggest contemporary examples of the classic absurdity of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. In this case, something like “we want endless plentiful and cheap oil; we want to live in suburban houses far from where we live and drive 50 to 100 miles a day every day in big pickup trucks and sport SUVs”.
The simple term for this state of mind is “delusion”.
And what we find all around us is that the more the facts and effects and repercussions of reality press in, the louder the noise gets from people determined to avoid it.
At some point, we have to stop paying attention to liars, madmen, and fools.