Social Media Is Killing Discourse
Because It’s Too Much Like TV
We need more text and fewer videos and memes in the age of Trump.
November 29, 2016
“… social media represents the ultimate ascendance of television over other media.
I’ve been warning about this since November 2014, when I was freed from six years of incarceration in Tehran, a punishment I received for my online activism in Iran. Before I went to prison, I blogged frequently on what I now call the open Web: it was decentralized, text-centered, and abundant with hyperlinks to source material and rich background. It nurtured varying opinions. It was related to the world of books.
Then for six years I got disconnected; when I left prison and came back online, I was confronted by a brave new world. Facebook and Twitter had replaced blogging and had made the Internet like TV: centralized and image-centered, with content embedded in pictures, without links.
Like TV it now increasingly entertains us, and even more so than television it amplifies our existing beliefs and habits. It makes us feel more than think, and it comforts more than challenges. The result is a deeply fragmented society, driven by emotions, and radicalized by lack of contact and challenge from outside….
Neil Postman provided some clues about this in his illuminating 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. The media scholar at New York University saw then how television transformed public discourse into an exchange of volatile emotions that are usually mistaken by pollsters as opinion. One of the scariest outcomes of this transition, Postman wrote, is that television essentially turns all news into disinformation.
“Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information—misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information—information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing … The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining.” (Emphasis added.) And, Postman argued, when news is constructed as a form of entertainment, it inevitably loses its function for a healthy democracy. “I am saying something far more serious than that we are being deprived of authentic information. I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed. Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?…”
Hossein Derakshan (@h0d3r) is an Iranian-Canadian author, media analyst, and performance artist who lives in Tehran. Find his latest project, an exploration of the intersection of performance art and journalism, at @talkingtagsart.
Posted by Michele Kearney at 7:47 AM
The Magic of the Book: Hermann Hesse on Why We Read and Always Will
via Naked Capitalism
On page 27 and 28, in Lesson #3, Read Your Head Off, in Patty Dann’s book “The Butterfly Hours” :
“Read books and magazines and the labels on the backs of cereal boxes. In Beloved, Toni Morrison wrote that one of her characters died “soft as cream.” You can’t use that brilliant line, but when a sentence like that is in your mouth, there is a possibility you’ll find another to offer to the gods.
People often switch genres as they get older, of what they write but also of what they read. They will say “I don’t know why I am suddenly reading poetry” or “I’ve given up reading fiction altogether.” People are often surprised or even uncomfortable, as if they’d suddenly begun an illicit affair if they switch writing or reading certain genres. “But I always loved fiction,” they say. It is as true as swimming in a lake where the water suddenly changes temperature. It can be unsettling, but the oldest students in my class, those in their nineties, just smile and say “And it will change again. You will see.”
Genre does not matter, as long as you’re reading. If you’re not reading, you’re not writing. Reading is part of your daily devotion if you are a writer. When you read as a writer, it is different than reading for pleasure. You are studying the craft, just as an artist must go to the museums to see the great masters, and a musician must listen to Mozart and Miles Davis, and everyone should read Vincent’s letters to his brother, Theo.
When you read as a writer, read a sentence and try to imagine the sounds, the touch, the taste, the smells the writer is writing about. As you write, you put yourself back together.”
An observation in this age of social media, driven by TV, Hollywood and other practices of the creation of a “brand”, is that brand image is the new battleground for supremacy of information. The mainstream media have been knocked off their high perch and, while the pre-season scrimmaging for audience share and recognition has been underway for some time now, the new ratings period is open. The New York Times is selling its office space, oligarchs are venturing into news company ownership and web site creation, and ioncreasingly we see competition for who should be seen as the premier purveyor of acuracy.
Everyone, before and after the numerous infilitrations, was and is responsible for their own minds.
What we are witnessing is the Oprahfication of truth. The hapless reader is asked, nay being forced, to choose between the Kardsashans of investigative journalism and the others.
It’s just the latest variant or extension of contempt for your own ability to read, decide, and more. Indeed, along with the Oprahs and her offspring, the Kardashian sub-industry, “reality TV”, revamped and re-packaged TV news, and dozens of other choices, it’s a battle for where and how you should place your attention.
The book “Deep Survival” will explain the real importance of attention.
Eric Booth’s “The Everyday Work of Art” stands as a pinnacle.
Find a copy of Terry Orlick’s interview with the world-class cardiothoracic surgeon Curt Tribble, M.D., in which he discusses the ability to function with an element of uncertainty, the critical importance of focus and distraction control, and the ability to deal with sub-optimal outcomes, all relevant to any pursuit of excellence.
It has been said that the information we allow into our consciousness is what determines, in the end, the content and quality of our lives.
Leonard Bernstein on Cynicism, Instant Gratification, and Why Paying Attention Is a Countercultural Act of Courage and Rebellion