On Usefulness

28 10 2007

For those of you who have been living in a cave for the past week or so, a classic example of why the mainstream media is becoming increasingly irrelevant played itself out in southern California. I’m not talking about the fires themselves so much as the media coverage of the fires.

Last Sunday, when the first fires were reported and the Santa Anna winds began to brew them up into a major firestorm, a large and international group swung into action. These people supplied up-to-the-minute information on fire location and direction, emergency contact information, mandatory evacuation orders and shelter locations. Several of these people were on the job for 36 hours at a stretch before collapsing for a few hours’ sleep and coming right back to keep the information flowing. Despite the terrible urgency of the information they presented, these people routinely cross-checked their sources for accuracy, posted immediate corrections when required, and always listed the source of their information.

This went on for five days.

By the way, not a single one of these people received a penny in compensation for their efforts.

Who were these stalwarts, you might well ask. CNN? ABC? Fox? NBC? BBC? Al-Jazeira? CBS?

While the highly-paid “journalists” of the networks were delivering information that was usually hours old (between commercial breaks and “news” about celebrities), the fine folks at FARK were delivering the real goods- for free. With no commercial breaks. FARK posters living in the affected areas posted non-stop information from scanners, emergency broadcasts, and personal observations for five days. A day before the media outlets noticed the crisis at the animal shelters in the area, FARK posters were already identifying donation points and organizations, and even organizing individual relief efforts.

For free. Because it needed doing, and the media outlets were universally incapable of doing the job.

How many people are aware of the fact that Mexico sent hundreds of firefighters north to help California with the disaster? They couldn’t stay long, because the fires affected Baja California as well, and they had to go home to fight for their own cities. Everyone who read the FARK threads on the subject knows this, but the mainstream media is curiously mute on the subject. The big media outlets are too busy comparing the California wildfires to Hurricane Katrina, speculating about the possibility of terrorist involvement, and bemoaning the fact that several “celebrities” were forced to evacuate.

This was not a unique set of circumstances. FARK on-the-spot reporting routinely scooped ALL of the media outlets during the Virginia Tech massacre. In addition to getting information out as much as an hour before the media outlets, FARK’s fact-checking process delivered better and more accurate information. What is this unbelievable fact-checking process? Thousands of intelligent, computer-savvy FARK readers and posters, many of whom had personal knowledge of the situation, location, or people involved.

The fact that the mainstream media is interested only in ratings (and the money those ratings mean for their networks) is hampering the spread of information. Facts are lost amid the noise of “human interest” stories and sensationalism.

Nattering about nonsense in lieu of delivering useful information has become the hallmark of the mainstream media. If you are depending on the mainstream media to keep you informed during a crisis, you’re putting your faith into purveyors of a “infotainment, journalism-like art product”.

This is not intended to shill for FARK- I get no benefit from doing so. I used FARK as the example with which I am most familiar. I am sure that other web communities performed similar functions which were far more useful than the media outlets. The point of this rant is that the media outlets have NO EXCUSE for failing so miserably. they have lots of money and equipment, herds of people supposedly trained in delivering information, and (most importantly) a massive infrastructure capable of delivering information all over the fucking planet. And they still failed at their primary purpose, literally pwned by a bunch of loosely-organized amateurs on a free website. That free website, by the way, was started by a guy with a picture of a squirrel.

Facts are always useful. Infotainment is the antithesis of useful. The large media conglomerates have failed of their original purpose by delivering infotainment in lieu of facts in their blind pursuit of the Almighty Dollar.

Current status: Irked

Current music: Who Wants to Live Forever by Queen


8 10 2007

I’ve just finished reading an article in Reason Magazine called, “Green with Ideology”.  You can find the article following this link:


The article is very well-written, and adds evidence to my own observations about Environmental Extremism- it has become both religion and political ideology. I highly recommend reading the article and all of the published works mentioned in the article. That way, you can make up your own mind.

With that last sentence, I have completely and irrevocably severed any possible connection to the Environmental Extremist movements. Like most religions, Environmental Extremism cannot tolerate dissent- or even the possibility of an open mind. Any deviation from the core doctrine becomes heresy, and the offending heretic must be hunted down and destroyed- preferably by physically removing the heretic from society, but destroying the heretic professionally and economically will suffice. Even worse than the heretic are those who dare to point out inaccuracies and mistakes (and outright fabrications) in the core doctrine. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself why meteorologists who question the global warming doctrines of Environmental Extremism risk losing their professional accreditation. Do the research yourself.

Whenever fanatics of any political stripe are exposed for the hypocrites and charlatans they truly are, they invariably fall back on claims that their actions were taken in the interest of the public good. “It’s for the children!“; “We’re just trying to make the world a better place!“; “The planet is in danger!” I admit that those claims sound better than, “I was just following orders“, but they are equally ineffective as a defense to anyone still capable of thinking for him or her self. These claims are inevitably smokescreens for those who desire to force others to accept their will. Since they can’t convince everyone else to believe as they do, the fanatics try to gain their goals through deceit- by claiming to be doing something for your own good.

If I knew that a man was coming to my home with the fixed intention of doing me good, I would run for my life!

The attitude of the Environmental Extremist- like their cousins among evangelical Christians, Scientologists, Republicans, Democrats, etc- that they have the right to force you to do what they think is best for you whether you like it or not, is the most dangerous belief system on the planet. They- the enlightened few- have the blessings of Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, Zarathustra, Al Gore, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster to make decisions for you. I have a word for this attitude: bullshit.

I’ll make my own decisions about what is best for me. What’s best for me is to mind my own business. I don’t poke into the affairs of other people, and I expect the same in return. If you want me to believe as you do, you had better try to do so by means of good example. Anything else will have exactly the opposite effect.

Since I live in the Shallow South, I am constantly beset by small-minded fools demanding to know my religious philosophy. If I’m feeling particularly political, I might just ignore them. Otherwise, I’ll say, “None of your damned business!” Other favorite replies include: Born-Again Heathen, Reformed Church of Satan, Frisbeetarian (when you die, God throws your soul up on the roof and can’t get it down), Pastafarianism (all hail his Noodly Goodness), or Militant Agnostic (I don’t know and you don’t either). I think the best definition of my religious philosophy would be Universal Infidel. Whatever you choose to have faith in, I choose to disbelieve.

Note that I spoke only of faith and religion. I can’t abide either one. Faith and religion demand that I allow God to make my decisions for me. I’m perfectly capable of making my own decisions, thank you. I do not require the assistance of Angry Invisible Sky-Man and His Zombie Offspring to make up my own mind. I can get along with science and hard evidence. From these, I can draw my own conclusions. If later evidence shows these conclusions to be wrong, I can change the conclusions to fit the facts. This alone sets me apart from the swarms of empty-headed True Believers.

What are the facts? Again and again and again—what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history”—what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!

For those of you who are Environmental Extremists, take the quote above to heart. If you want me to believe in your religion, show me some hard evidence. Questioning evidence is part of the scientific process. If you don’t like it, quit claiming to be the result of the scientific process and own up to your religious ideology. If your ideology is only concerned with “saving the planet”, then alternatives to your methods should be warmly embraced, not demonized and attacked as heresy. The available evidence (public writings, speeches, words, and deeds by the Environmental Extremists and their spokespeople) seems to point to a far less noble agenda than “saving the planet”. If there really is another reason for your stated goals, tell the world what those reasons are. If the rest of the world agrees with you, getting what you want will be much easier. Of course, the most likely result would be that the rest of the world does not agree with you- in which case you are merely trying to impose your religious ideology on everyone else.

With that, I will leave you all with a relevant quote from Rudyard Kipling:


Macdonough’s Song

WHETHER the State can loose and bind
In Heaven as well as on Earth:
If it be wiser to kill mankind
Before or after the birth—
These are matters of high concern
Where State-kept schoolmen are;
But Holy State (we have lived to learn)
Endeth in Holy War.

Whether The People be led by The Lord,
Or lured by the loudest throat:
If it be quicker to die by the sword
Or cheaper to die by vote—
These are things we have dealt with once,
(And they will not rise from their grave)
For Holy People, however it runs,
Endeth in wholly Slave.

Whatsoever, for any cause,
Seeketh to take or give,
Power above or beyond the Laws,
Suffer it not to live!
Holy State or Holy King—
Or Holy People’s Will—
Have no truck with the senseless thing.
Order the guns and kill!

Once there was The People—Terror gave it birth;
Once there was The People and it made a Hell of Earth.
Earth arose and crushed it. Listen, O ye slain!
Once there was The People—it shall never be again!

Current Status: Crotchety

Current Music: Mercy Street, by Peter Gabriel