Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ain't Nobody's Hero, But I Want to Be Heard

Over lunch, recently, I was talking to a guy about the whole John Siegenthaler, Wikipedia dust-up. The guy I was having lunch with was making an interesting distinction between people who seem to inherently "get" how things on the internet work--he called them internet natives--and people who don't--internet immigrants. People who get how things on the internet work don't take as established fact anything they read on the internet, anywhere, not even at Wikipedia*. People who don't get how the internet works assume the stakes are clear, that who's in charge is clear, and that things can be regulated and controlled. What I said I found so interesting is pondering Brian Chase, the guy who wrote the false biography. Let's go off on a tangent for a moment. I graduated from a class of forty seven. Six or seven of us went away to a four year college. Everyone else, if they went, did a couple of semesters up at the community college. My English teacher told us on more than one occasion that none of us had what it takes to go to college. The Professor went to a large suburban high school and almost everyone in her graduating class went to college. I mention this only because I think it illustrates one of the ways in which our culture is split into people who do things and people who don't. So much of the socialization that went on when I was growing up was all about insuring you were smart enough to run the community, but fine with not leaving it. One of the smartest things our parents did was to put us in the back of their car ever summer and drive us all over the country. We never went fancy places, but we went places. They wanted us to know that the whole country--or at least what we could drive to--was open to us. We never were tourists, since we couldn't afford to do touristy things, but I think that worked to our benefit, since part of being a tourist is having the "right" experiences someplace without actually making an impact or being impacted by that place. So, back to Brian Chase. Here's this guy who works as a manager at some little company here in Nashville. And, he claims that he changed Siegenthaler's biography because, when he discovered that anyone could edit the site, he assumed the site was some kind of hoax. Do you see what's going on here? Someone from the "has no effect on the world" class assumes that anything that lets him have an effect must be a joke. Surprise on him. But, what we see in the universal joke played on Chase is the shape of the real revolution. Right now, there are still a great deal of people who assume that any effect that they have on the world must be in the context of some hoax, that no one would actually let them have that kind of power. But it won't remain that way. Soon enough, everyone will realize that the internet gives everyone who wants to be heard a means and opportunity to find an audience. *This is actually so beautifully post-modern, it breaks my heart--a whole group of people who don't believe that there's any place to go where one can know she's getting the Truth, no place that has any inherent authority. And yet, because so many people get that what they're getting and putting out is inherently flawed, inherently falls short of good enough, everyone can be heard and, at least until proven utterly wrong, taken seriously. It's pretty tremendous when you think about it.

19 Comments:

Blogger Church Secretary said...

My goodness, Aunt B., you have a way of flooring me. This opens a Pandora's box of questions in my big-picture mentality.

What role do mass media (including the internet) play in reinforcing that socialization? Is the continuing "Republican revolution" being piloted by people who have managed to invert the dynamic of the "has no effect on the world" class? Wow. I'm gonna think about this for a while, then write about it on my own blog. I'll let you know when I finish, Aunt B.

1/08/2006 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger Kleinheider said...

our culture is split into people who do things and people who don't. So much of the socialization that went on when I was growing up was all about insuring you were smart enough to run the community, but fine with not leaving it...

...there are still a great deal of people who assume that any effect that they have on the world must be in the context of some hoax, that no one would actually let them have that kind of power.


Very interesting and astute observations, B. Nice, very nice.

But it won't remain that way. Soon enough, everyone will realize that the internet gives everyone who wants to be heard a means and opportunity to find an audience.

A nice thought but, fortunately or unfortunately, this divide you observe will always be the case in some shape or form. The regular folk may continue to appear to make gains in closing the gap but the elites have a way of changing up to ensure a continuing stratification.

a whole group of people who don't believe that there's any place to go where one can know she's getting the Truth, no place that has any inherent authority. And yet, because so many people get that what they're getting and putting out is inherently flawed, inherently falls short of good enough, everyone can be heard and, at least until proven utterly wrong, taken seriously. It's pretty tremendous when you think about it.

Well, I don't know how tremendous it is but it does beg the question question:

Do you believe in any sort of big "T" Truth? It may be, more or less, unknowable or unachievable -- but is it there?

1/08/2006 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Church Secretary said...

The regular folk may continue to appear to make gains in closing the gap but the elites have a way of changing up to ensure a continuing stratification.

This is an great point, Kleinheider, and I tend to believe that most of the regular folk wouldn't have it any other way. The 'elites' aren't inherently smarter or 'better' than the rest of us, but their culture of socialization teaches them to act as though they are. Of course, this is entirely relative because-- as Aunt B. points out-- most of the regular folk usually manage to convince themselves that they ought not be allowed to 'run things' in a larger sense. The 'elites' usually give them enough to facilitate that belief, such as religion, racism, jingoism, etc., but it is up to the regular folk to run with it.

That's why I agree with you, Kleinheider, when you say that the elites will always adapt. In my view, this merely involves finding a different flavor of red meat to throw to the regular folk. This partly explains the smashing success of the Republican revolution, and its spiritual predecessors of slavery; Jim Crow; and Woodrow Wilson's and Joe McCarthy's commie witch hunts.

Of course, not all the regular folk like the taste of the meat, so the elites have to make sure that the nonconformists-- even if they're in the majority-- remain insufficiently organized or otherwise involved to make a difference. That's where the corporate media, the military-industrial complex, and the prison-industrial complex come into play. This isn't conspiracy theory, it's just business as usual.

1/08/2006 09:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whew, Aunt B, you are making my head hurt. A while ago I saw my father and his brother arguing about stuff that happened in the Thirties. At the heart of the debate for these working class men was the wounds they both felt because they aspired to be professionals, to have intellectual leadership. But they came from communities gutted by the Depression, in a city where the only work was to build for the war to come. They were apprentices, not students.

Were they atypical in your terms? They both came from a society - Britain - which hammered the idea that they should "know their place". Yet they both joined the diaspora to Australia in the 1950's, looking for new opportunities. To my embarrassment as a jobbing writer, my father is hugely proud of what I have achieved and become.

Fom us outside your country, the place is a huge mystery. How can it be so competitive, so determined to succeed, yet be so uninterested in education and opportunity? How can it talk of community and nation and heritage, and be so atomised and so cruel?

I tend to think of narrow mindedness and provincialism, often from people lost in the middle of a vast, encompassing society, who are much more interested in family and kids than in the larger world.

But I think your inequality of aspiration post points to a much more operational explanation.

A lot of the same processes are at work here, though we have a much more confused national identity which works in our favour.

- barista

1/09/2006 03:13:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

I'm coming back to the rest of this later, but Kleinheider asked me a question that kept me laying awake all night:

Do you believe in any sort of big "T" Truth? It may be, more or less, unknowable or unachievable -- but is it there?

Yes I do. No, I don't think it's unknowable or unachievable. And, even though it's going to screw my chances of ever starting a cult, because I'm revealing to you the secret of life right here, I'm going to tell you. Here is the Truth: Change and loss.

Everything you think you have in the face of that is exceedingly fragile. And yet, still, I think you'd be unwise to be hopeless in the face of that.

1/09/2006 07:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

I was hoping that Brian Chase would turn out to be Smantix and his whole "Golly, Mr. Siegenthaler, I had no idea that anyone would ever really read this" excuse would be seen as a huge joke by the cognescenti.

1/09/2006 07:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 'elites' aren't inherently smarter or 'better' than the rest of us, but their culture of socialization teaches them to act as though they are.
I gotta be honest with you CS, you keep talking about the 'elite' as a seperate entity, which puzzles me. I'm not sure what you act like at home, but whenever I see you in B's comments you act like you pretty elite yourself.

W

1/09/2006 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Exador said...

the Republican revolution, and its spiritual predecessors of slavery; Jim Crow; and Woodrow Wilson's and Joe McCarthy's commie witch hunts.

CS, you crack me up. You just had to throw in a jab against the Republicans. That's right; the current Republican party is just like slavery and witch hunts. No difference at all.

By the way, wasn't it the democrats that were at the forefront of Jim Crow laws? Wasn't Woodrow Wilson a democrat?

Hey, don't let the facts slow you down when you're on a roll. Oh, I get it. Even though they were democrats they were still the spiritual predecessors, as defined by you.

1/09/2006 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

So many good things, I'm not sure where to start. CS, you ask what role the mass media plays in reinforcing such socialization. I have to say that such a question really troubles me because I'm not sure that it's so easily a top-down dynamic. In other words, I'm not sure that this is just some way for the "elite" to control the "masses."

Yes, it's true that the media reinforces this idea that things get done on the coasts by people who live big exciting lives in the cities, but I think "reinforces" is the crucial word here. That idea is already in place.

Because, I think one of the most interesting commonalities between rap music and country music is this insistance on keeping it real, on authenticity. Here, in these genres which appeal to people who ordinarily don't do anything, you see this constant anxiety about whether going off to the city (or moving up in social class and thus out of the neighborhood) changes folks so drastically that they can't come back home.

I'd argue that it wouldn't be a recurring motif if folks were certain that going away wouldn't make any difference.

So, then, yes Kleinheider, I think you're right, that I'm too optimistic about revolutionary change. Most people, even me, don't want change; they want things to be the way they think they always have been, only better. And I guess at some level you have to respect that.

Barista, I think that here in the States we use race, especially, to talk about class. I don't mean to dismiss the huge racial problems we have, by any means, but I think it's become a convenient way to camoflauge our deep class problems.

We want so much to believe that everyone who tries hard can become whatever they want and to believe that everyone is where they are in life because that's where they deserve to be that rather than looking at all the ways we insure that most people stay within their class (through how our public education is set up or access to health care or what have you), we tell ourselves that all injustice is based on racism, sexism, and homophobia and that, if only we can overcome these things, everything will be fine. But we want to run our country in such a way that needs poor people to do shitty jobs.

Well, you can't have it both ways. Everyone can't have good lives if some folks need to work shitty jobs in order for the system to work.

1/09/2006 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Church Secretary said...

W:
I'm just a working stiff who reads a lot. If I seem like an 'elite' to you, it likely has more to do with your intellectual vantage point than with my position.

exador:
I didn't intend to push a reactionary hot button, but it seems I did.

The Republican Revolution is often purported to have begun in 1994, but I think it really began with the Republicans' "Southern Strategy". This is a significant fact, one which is understandably overlooked whenever someone wants to tie the trenchant racism of Woodrow Wilson and the pre-Civil Rights Act Democratic Party to the current incarnation.

That said, in lieu of an honest disagreement, you chose to send in your Straw Man ("That's right; the current Republican party is just like slavery and witch hunts. No difference at all.")

As I informed W, I'm just a working stiff who reads. I will readily admit to being wrong, even if that doesn't make my first wife feel any better. However, I'm not a guest on "The O'Reilly Factor," so I don't see any point to admitting the incorrectness of something I never said.

Since this isn't Fox News, and our charming host doesn't seem to mind my extensive bloviating (as long as I remain reasonably polite), I'll clarify for those in the cheap seats. I see a clear spiritual and ideological link between the antebellum South, Jim Crow, Woodrow Wilson, McCarthy, and the Republican Revolution. These are all political actors and movements whose success relied heavily, if not primarily, on constructing or embellishing creeds of hatred and scapegoating.

Of course, these actors and movements also depended on the common folk willingly going along with the program. In fact, like any good vaudeville show, these programs were usually tailored to their audience. In that sense, B., I heartily agree that these things aren't as "top-down" as my ramblings implied. People have choices: they can limit or delude themselves with Fox News, ABC, or CNN; or they can expand their frame of reference with CommonDreams and DemocracyNow. They can rail against the 'moral hazards' of 'welfare,' or they can pay attention to the corporate robber barons who are stealing the livelihood out from under them. As Gump would say, "stupid is as stupid does." The 'elites' might set the table for us, but it's up to us to sit down and eat their poison.

1/09/2006 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger Exador said...

CS,
I'm not picking a fight with you, I just thought it was funny that you went there from where the topic started.

You raise an interesting point on the Southern Strategy and it's success. My first thought on it is "why did it work". I think you can agree that the Repubs have picked up quite a few Southern states over the past 40 years.

On the one hand, there's the states' rights issue, which the democrats completely dropped, as it went against their push for more federal control during the civil rights era.

The other issue is demographic. During the late 20th century a ton of Yankees moved south (me being one of them).
I think a big reason is the advent of air conditioning throughout the south.
Later on, the job market in the north was terrible. Also, many people started to recognize the ridiculous tax policies, especially of the NE. So those who were looking for work and/or fed up with high taxes moved south. Since they didn't have the legacy of "our family has always voted democrat" that a lot of southerners still hold on to,
you end up with a lot more republicans.

1/10/2006 07:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually CS, what I meant to say was you seem to think you're elite. I just left out the 'think' part. Sorry for the error.

And that impression doesn't really come from my intellectual vantage point or my feelings on your positions. It's more based on your demeanor when I read your comments. I get that impression from things like the insinuation you just made that you're just regular folk and I think you're 'elite' because I'm a bit slow myself. That sort of thing is pretty common to your comments and gives me the impression of intellectual snobbery on your part despite the falsely modest 'regular working joe' label you give yourself.

I was of the impression that you thought you were elite and we were regular people. Based on the new information, I'll modify that. Now it seems your impression is that you are a regular working stiff, and we (or at least I) am somewhere below that.

Your demeanor does your intellectual and politcal positions a serious disservice. I'm much less inclined to listen to what you're actually saying because of the arrogance of how you're saying it. And I suspect I'm not the only one that feels that way. I pay a lot more attention to what B has to say because she doesn't talk down to anyone.

All ill feelings aside, you should seriously consider that. If you effect everyone else the same way you do me, you'd do well to curb some of the arrogance in your writing. People will really think about what you're saying if you quit making them so angry.

W

1/10/2006 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger Church Secretary said...

W:
You only think I'm arrogant because I'm usually right.

exador: I hope you're kidding, because your suggestion that the Southern Strategy worked for reasons other than the Southern Strategy is rather suspect, to say the least.

A: "The floor in this room is sagging because the joists were poorly constructed, and the wood used is from an inferior lot."

B: "You mean that really large elephant has nothing to do with it?"

A: "Elephant"?


Anyway, Exador, you can't mention "states' rights" as though it is a self-contained issue. States' rights to do what, pray tell? Disfranchise and brutalize negroes, perhaps? I don't suppose the names George Wallace and Bull Connor ring a bell. How about Medgar Evers, or Emmett Till?

I just thought it was funny that you went there from where the topic started.

Exador, I'm puzzled that you don't see the relevance. George Wallace wasn't out there lynching all those negroes and blowing up their churches by himself. In fact, his later mea culpas might suggest that Wallace himself was less a hardcore racist than a cynical political opportunist. In other words, Jim Crow depended not on the leadership of 'elite' racists, but on the deeply ingrained racism of the Southern populace. (This isn't to suggest that the North was any more enlightened; there's a reason most of the urban rioting following the King assassination happened in Northern cities.) Again, it was the common folk who dictated the continuance of Jim Crow, and it was up to their leaders to maintain the legal codification. Just as it took the cooperation of progressive Southern and Northern whites to turn the tide (if ever so slightly) in favor of universal suffrage and civil rights.

Now I'm sure that there was a great deal of migration in those years. In the urban centers of the North, blacks migrating from the South were still pouring in by the late '60s. White people fleeing those blacks often went to the suburbs. Maybe some of them went south, as well, and I doubt it was for the air conditioning.

You are correct about the job market, too, but methinks you put the cart before the horse. A main reason so many inner city communities became mired in poverty is because the industries and jobs fled with the white people.

1/10/2006 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Church Secretary said...

I might add to my last comment that many middle class black people also began fleeing the inner city at some point. This speaks to Aunt B.'s point about race being a facilitator and/or mask for class in the U.S.

1/10/2006 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger Exador said...

CS,

My comment was based on the fact that you took B's original post about peoples' perception of the internet and their own power, and you went to "the republican party is the spiritual decendant of Jim Crow". B didn't mention race until after you, and after my comment.

Forgive me if I don't paint every topic with a racial brush, as you seem to.

Getting back to States' rights, I would ask where you would draw the line? You seem to feel that the states have no sovereignty, and all rules should made in Washington. Do you see any need for federalism?
Before you go on a civil rights rant, please keep in mind that States' rights goes well beyond a racial scope. Federalism extends to every aspect of our lives, from abortion, to schooling, to the environment, to traffic laws, labor laws, criminal laws, trade regulations. You name it. The southern states may have used it to maintain Jim Crow, but it goes way beyond that, especially in today's America.

Also, I was following the topic of "Why have the republicans made gains in the south over the latter half of the 20th century"

There were several demographic shifts. I was speaking of those primarily after the civil rights heyday, from the late 70's to now, as that seems to be the time when the greatest shift republican strength in the south happened.

1/10/2006 12:09:00 PM  
Blogger Church Secretary said...

Exador:
Points well made, especially the one regarding states' rights. However, I reiterate: states' rights to do what? If it involves local taxation issues or the shape of state highway signs, then I can't see the feds having a need to intervene, as long as it's all done in a constitutional manner. However, if you're talking about states' rights in conjunction with the Civil War or the mass exodus of Dixiecrats to the Republican Party after the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, then the focus of states' rights becomes a very narrow, racially oriented one.

Regarding the shift in Republican strength following the Civil Rights Act of 1965, do you really think all the Dixiecrats started voting Republican overnight? Do you think all others who opposed civil rights for negroes did the same? Of course, the Republicans weren't stupid; they knew they couldn't just hold up pictures of tar babies in their campaign ads and win on that. The language of racism was coded to fit whatever the local culture dictated; again, this leads back to Aunt B.'s original topic, about the balance of power between the common folk and the 'elites.' The Republican Party was only selling what they knew the public would buy. This is why I don't downplay or avoid the topic of race in this discussion; race-- the ever-reliable ringer for class-- is inseparable from the issue of political power.

On a tangiential note, the late '70s were also the time when the US was suffering from a Vietnam hangover, and arguably in need of a little Cold War pep rally. Also, the Carter administration (being post-Dixie Dems) made the perfect scapegoat for the resurgent Republicans. I would even that Nixon's disgraceful exit and Carter's pious Southern background were the only reasons Carter made it into the White House.

Digression aside, the majority of the electorate wasn't looking for sustainable solutions to the birth pangs of civil rights, the ghosts of Vietnam, and the flagging Cold War; the majority was looking for a belligerent, flag-waving rave party, which is why they voted in the Reaganites. Twelve years of their deficit spending, racist and elitist domestic policy, and imperialistic, anti-democratic foreign policy left the nation in such a tizzy that a lunatic like Ross Perot was able to split the right-wing vote and usher a glad-handing, pre-Dixie Republican like Bill Clinton into office.

I miss the eighties...

1/10/2006 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Exador said...

CS,

You make it sound like everybody who changed to the republican party during that time, did so over racial issues. That's simply not the case. While some did, that was the time when the Democrats moved further left, towards big government. Not everybody was thrilled with LBJ. What I'm saying is that there were plenty of reasons, race relations being one of them.

Most peoples' lives don't revolve around race relations.

You make some good points about the late 70's. Many were still pissed about Vietnam and Nixon. Pardoning him only made everybody pissed at Ford. (They didn't have much else to base their opinion on.)
That's why a buffoon like Carter got elected. That, and the acid. (Ha Ha)

That's what got Reagan elected. Carter completely screwed up his presidency. People would have voted for anything different than that moron. You are correct that people wanted hope and optimism.

Reagan's spending was all controlled by a Democrat-congress. He cut taxes, which was desperately needed. The tax code was ridiculous. If congress hadn't spent like a drunken sailor, the economic boom that resulted would have easily cleared the deficit.

1/10/2006 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Church Secretary said...

Let me get this straight, Exador:
Reagan gets credit for 'winning the Cold War,' but a Democratic Congress should get blamed for signing his checks? I suppose we should blame the Dem Congress of those years for Iran-Contra, too.

I'm no fan of the Democratic Party, such as it is, but that reasoning is a bit specious. Same thing with the tax cuts; deficit spending didn't help the economy any more than the massive deregulation that opened the door for the savings-and-loan scandals that put more than a few middle-class families behind the 8-ball. But I digress. Don't you remember when Reagan backed off of his tax cut plan? That's because it became obvious that it was doing more harm than good.

You're absolutely right about race relations, though, Exador. Most people's lives don't revolve around them. Most people's lives don't revolve around gay marriage or abortion, either, but those issues seem to drag a lot of people to the polls.

1/10/2006 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger Exador said...

All right, I admit I threw in some of the Reaganomics comments just to get your goat.

However, most people do not cast their vote (or God, I hope they don't) on issues like abortion, or gay marriage. It's just that those are the hotbutton issues the infotainment industry hammers home all the time.

Then again, most people are ignorant baboons and probably do base their vote on that.

1/11/2006 08:30:00 AM  

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