Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Comment on the Belmont Club:
"The Triumph of the Will"


wretchard,
You are welcome and thank you for all this unremunerated effort.

Walt was right that I blog and no one reads it. So much of what we do is the electronic equivalent of shouting into a barrel. On the BC I spend an hour writing a comment and the thread closes. With no feedback I wonder if it is even read. My Twitter list has 70 followers. Pure spam feeds or portals that never post have a thousand and I get 70? Most of those are not even real people but bots. In my dreams Roger Ailes or Glenn Beck will read these threads and yell at somebody "Hire that guy" but I have enough of a grip on reality to know that is not a strategy or even a hope.

Why blog? It reminds me that I have a mind and experience and I can be productive. It makes me part of a conversation. It reminds me of wonders I have seen and gives me a reason to learn new things, that keeps me young. Perhaps I blog because those who would reduce us all to isolated and ignorant objects wish I didn't. The Nihilists may want to consign us all to a black hole but each of us can defy them by continuing to speak.

wretchard,
You are welcome and thank you for all this unremunerated effort.

Walt was right that I blog and no one reads it. So much of what we do is the electronic equivalent of shouting into a barrel. On the BC I spend an hour writing a comment and the thread closes. With no feedback I wonder if it is even read. My Twitter list has 70 followers. Pure spam feeds or portals that never post have a thousand and I get 70? Most of those are not even real people but bots. In my dreams Roger Ailes or Glenn Beck will read these threads and yell at somebody "Hire that guy" but I have enough of a grip on reality to know that is not a strategy or even a hope.

Why blog? It reminds me that I have a mind and experience and I can be productive. It makes me part of a conversation. It reminds me of wonders I have seen and gives me a reason to learn new things, that keeps me young. Perhaps I blog because those who would reduce us all to isolated and ignorant objects wish I didn't. The Nihilists may want to consign us all to a black hole but each of us can defy them by continuing to speak.

We are not gods descending from the clouds.

We are but humans who observe each other and the heavens.

-------
Habu,
So if I understand you then learning qua learning from any source is valuable even if it is manipulated propaganda, given that even propaganda can teach one that it exists, provided they have the a priori knowledge sufficient to catch the mendacity they read
Thank you, that was well phrased. My only caveat would be to change "is valuable" to read "may be valuable." Yes I would teach about The Communist Manifesto rather than try to suppress it or leave it out there as tempting as pornography. A competent social studies teacher should be able to do so fairly for the 10th grade. On the other hand I suspect that Mein Kampf is a thornier problem and greater care should be exercised in exposing the average student to it. I own a copy of that book that was published in the United States during WW-II. At that time we were confident enough to make the statement that even wartime rationing was no reason not to expose the ideas of our enemies to public examination.

Children need prior training in how to evaluate sources and we need to worry about the nature of the training they receive. Adults must judge each source for themselves and those who offer criticism of other sources should themselves be seen as competing for attention and credibility within the same market as the sources they purport to judge. Unlike Geert Wilders I would not ban the Koran or hadiths. I wish that more people understood what was really in them. The need to ensure that the instructors are competent and not biased is a real problem and I encourage all of us to be actively engaged in local politics and the oversight of public education.

To tie this back to the theme of this thread, none of us should be comfortable giving any individual, especially but not solely if they have the authority and capacity for exercising lawful violence of the government, with the power to censor and purge our rivals a priori from the ideological marketplace. That power should belong to the collective wisdom of the people as expressed in a market.

This does not make me a libertarian absolutist. The addictive quality of pornography and the need to restrict its availability to the young is a real issue. Also there are many cases where the right to speak should not imply the right to compel others to hear. It is my hope that the SCOTUS will find a way to reject the claim that Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church has a right to desecrate funerals and inflict trauma on the grieving.

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