MEMETICS--categories are tricky (was Re: a square wheel with

Michael M. Butler (butler@comp*
Thu, 25 Sep 1997 04:11:27 -0700

> The last time I mentioned Chomsky here I received a peculiar response
> which roughly said that Chomsky's irrelevance stems from his obsession
> with the rest of the world (excluding the USA) which somehow obscured
> what "the people" really should know. Or words to that effect. I
> didn't understand the sentiment behind the statement and found it to
> be rather parochial, narrow and indicative enough of the kind of con
> the US media plays on it's people, without having to add or respond.
> I can't remember who made the response, but I'm still curious.
> The film "Manufacturing Consent" seems somehow relevant to the NSPIC
> antiparadigm.

Well, speaking only for myself, *I* don't consider Chomsky a total waste of
time in this regard. BTW, in the 60's he was widely regarded as an
anarcho-socialist or anarcho-syndicalist, at least... and thought there are
probably a lot of anarcho-capitalists on this list, I bet they'd all be
able to deal with any anarcho-socialist who really understood and accepted
the Non-Aggression Principle.

One of the key points Chomsky makes in the film (at least the version I
saw) is that if a conversation (or its media pseudo-equivalent, the
"Debate" (rueful grimace)) is framed (apt word, that) in a certain simple
set of terms, people aren't prepared to deal with anything too remote from
those accepted terms. In his words, "They think you're from Mars.".

My view is as follows:

1) Sometimes this is due to deliberate "if they can get you asking the
wrong questions, it doesn't matter what answer you get..." (akin to "they
can vote anybody in, as long as *I* control the primary election results...").

2) Sometimes it is due to the person being from Mars.

3) Sometimes (and this is a tough one) it's due to _both_. Vide the
recently-released _Conspiracy Theory_, starring Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts,
and Patrick Stewart.

The people who, grappling with these issues and each other, brawled their
way into the Extro salon while tumbling and scrapping, seem to me as if
they may be in Category Three. Is this what you mean by "a square wheel
with curves"?

Inter alia, I sometimes find it instructive to consider how much the
process called "building consensus" differs from "manufacturing consent".

> Whenever a new ongoing protest hits the news the first article will
> include the opening argument. From there we receive little more than a
> bodycount. The argument hasn't stopped, nor has it been merely
> replaced with bloodshed, it continues to be developed but fast becomes
> too complex to be accounted within the two minute structure.

Just like a game of cup-and-balls or Three-Card Monte. The 5 W's they teach
in Journalism (at least they're W's in the USA :) -- "Who, What, Where,
When, Why" -- to be delivered as tightly as possible -- are tailor made for
category errors (see Lakoff's _Women, Fire & Dangerous Things_),
nominalization, deletion and distortion.

"Media are the memetic equivalent of cluster bombs. They're area-denial
ordnance, only mostly they just retarget the same old barren spots on the
landscape." -- Me, just now.

> BTW, I'm not interested in what Chomsky has to say because he's
> particularly pro or anti US. I'm interested in him because he is a
> celebrated and imaginative linguist and a true scholar. The connection
> between linguistics and the media seems rather obvious to me.

Noam himself probably doesn't think of himself as anti-US.

> is all the state ever was or could be. "Democracy" invites the
> neccessity to manufacture consent.

Yep. This is its chief flaw. See Shakespeare's _Julius Caesar_. Nothing new
under the sun.


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