I’ve become aware of an organisation called donotreadthis.org. They began in Asia, they have some shall we say eclectic backers, and there’s an awful lot of East Coast pc Democrat-think in the blurb on their website. Nevertheless, their goal is a fine one, and should not be decried – as the organisation points out, one in seven adults around the world still can’t read.
It’s just that, looking at the site, I get a nagging feeling there are some things dnrt would rather that, um, their beneficiaries really didn’t read.
If the erosion of illiteracy is going to reshape the future in a positive way, then it needs to be attached to a similar increase in the use of experience and discernment by developing kids.
Many kneebone-jerkers would suggest that the two aims are indistinguishable, but that in itself is an ignorant opinion: even if people can’t read or write, they can still hear what’s said – and then speak to others about what they make of it. In that context, even if one teaches people what the hieroglyphics mean, it won’t help them discern whether they add up to wisdom or self-interested lies.
Under many circumstances, therefore, increased literacy could lead to the spread of both ignorance and deception.
In the West, our educational systems over the last three decades have on the whole been driven by hitting linear targets in levels of facility with any given subject. Pardon the pun here, but looking for facility is nearly always facile: I am, for example, these days reasonably fluent in French, but I lack the experience of French culture and linguistic irony to discern the presence of either sincerity on the one hand, or mendacity on the other.
I’m increasingly convinced by the need for a new measure in education called familiarity rather than facility. To me, familiarity can breed either contempt or awakening. What I’m saying is that, among many other goals, in the 21st Century education must make our children and grandchildren media savvy.
If genuine creativity overwhelms a million shibboleths, then contemporary examples can illuminate any theory. So I offer in this essay some news items from the last few days, weeks and months to make my thesis ‘live’ (pronounced ‘livv’ not ‘lyve’). In the nearest I can get to a nutshell, these are its main contentions:
1. The use of language in the last forty years has undergone a 180° change in purpose: it used to be to inform in various ways; today, its aim for too often is to mislead in every way.
2. If we don’t render the vast majority of every mass electorate savvy to this perversion, we are doomed to the Dictatorship of the Commentariat.
3. The persuasively hidden fascism in communications is apparent at both ends of our outdated spectrum of Left and Right in the contemporary econo-politics of the West.
4. The most important weapon in the armoury of those of us who would like to reroute Homo sapiens onto a less destructive path is the replacement of bigoted ignorance by objective awareness.
The head of the IAAF – international athletics’ nearest thing to a ruling body – is a chap called Lord Coe. In more normal times, he used to be Seb Coe the Olympic gold medalist runner. Then he became Sebastian Coe, pole-climbing Tory MP, then Coe the 2012 Olympics organiser, and now he is Lord Coe of the IAAF.
As the man in charge of that organisation, Coe now faces a tidal wave of criticism because it has become apparent that the IAAF has for years been turning the Nelsonian eye patch to its endemic corruption by the drugs trade.
In an interview earlier this week, Coe gave out all the bromides so elequently described by George Carlin a decade before his death: we must redouble our efforts, lessons will be learned, I take full responsibility, but no, I will not be going – all the predictable excuses. But Sebastian Coe has undergone all the usual media training (right down to the concerned nodding and facial language) and so I have no doubt he is going to get clean away with what is, let’s face it, about as good a case of dereliction of duty as you’re ever likely to see.
If journalists and athletics fans enjoyed full familiarity with the techniques he employed in this case of wriggle-room, he would be out of a job today.
As market forces did their advertised jobs across the world yesterday many professed fans of such forces stepped forward to try and save their ideology. I suppose the first question I need to ask is who is this girl Val Ativerdee? She seemed to be everywhere – in stocks, commodities, forex and futures – but my view is that Val Ativerdee is innocent: she didn’t do it viewers…..the big selloff was caused by a world recession. Take QE out of the equation, and that depression is a recession. Look at the infinite stream of international trade data, and you can see that it’s a slump.
Yesterday opened with a general consensus that no way do we have a recession. But as every market in the world fell, by nightfall the language was “We lack evidence of growth, but heh – this is still not another 2008.
I’m not asking for those in education to come out of it with a complete grasp of bourse economics: that’s a fate I wouldn’t wish on my worst detractor. I’m asking for them to be familiar with the linguistic strangulation of the narrative. What in blue blazes is the difference between no evidence of growth and recession?
Actually, my goal is a situation where such obfuscation is not only discerned and satirised, but also questioned – à la “What’s so special about growth anyway?” However, we need to take this one step at a time: the damage done to free thought by American pc, Western Feministas and the infantile ideas of British New Labour is profound. If I may rephrase an old adage, Nazi Germany wasn’t destroyed in a day: we need to walk before we can run.
Very quietly a few weeks ago, the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (cps) announced that there would be no further media phone-hacking enquiries, as the remaining evidence of it was “at best equivocal”.
Here’s what the police are supposed to do: if quantified suspicion of organised crime comes to light, they do not need the evidence to be any more than equivocal….they simply need to make enquiries and follow up leads to see whether, under such closer examination, enough evidence can be found to bring a prosecution.
But if, say, the Metropolitan Police service is corrupt in general – and so close to Newscorp that it has an interest in doing nothing – then those enquiries (along with myriad others involving bizarre events in Richmond) will be stopped….especially if London’s Mayor is an unalloyed admirer of Rupert Murdoch.
Now – thanks to, of all channels, Russia Today – anyone who wants to go there can read that in fact several prominent celebrities are continuing with their civil prosecutions against Newscorp for what (they claim) is blatantly obvious evidence that the Hacking Enquiry has barely scratched the surface of the criminality involved.
Again, I’m not suggesting that every school-leaver should have a detailed knowledge of legal process and media ownership; I ask only that when a government institution says there is no case to answer….but it takes a foreign news service to show that there is everything to answer for, the average citizen should be able to smell a rat.
We are not in search of relentless cynicism here. Merely a questioning attitude to all things transmitted by those whose objectivity cannot be assumed.
Ultimately, this extends not just into what one hears, but also what one is ‘allowed’ to say. We have multivariate sets of rigid mores in our contemporary Western culture, and especially in my own homeland of Great Britain. They are, in no particular order, divisive, wrong, hypocritical, fascist, stagnant, and above all unhealthy for individual thinking and cultural liberty.
The ease with which people of all demographics slip into blind obedience to these politically correct diktats is at times astonishing, but mainly frightening. And again, it could only have gained the hold it has in the presence of a docile population largely incapable of thinking for itself.
For me, the worst side-effect of political correctness – it would be far more accurate to call it cp, for crass politesse – is the tribal divisiveness and consequently aggressive mud-slinging, spitting hatred it produces. This is a recurring theme at The Slog, and I don’t apologise for it: yet the irony is that all of these packs want the same thing: an insistence on active obedience to the ‘culture’ of the tribe.
For eco-warmists, the problem of human CO2 is ‘settled science’; for climate change deniers, all measures to improve the environment are a tax conspiracy. For the Corbynistas, all capitalism is wrong and most capitalists are racist, full-blooded socialism is the only answer; for Camerlot’s dark knights, Friedmanite capitalism is the eternal future, bankers can do no wrong, Thatcher was a Goddess, and all critics are conspiracy theory nutjobs. For the feminists, gender is a socialised condition, all men are misogynist rapists, women are more rational; for the woman haters, divorce law is a crime in itself, women can’t drive, and all women in the workplace work the system. For the liberal camp, all immigration is good, the EU is perfect, and all Muslims are very nice but genital mutilation is a man thing not a stone age ritual, and Israel is to blame for everything; for the most recessive parts of UKIP, all foreigners are to be distrusted, all migrants are dangerous Islamists, and the EU is to blame for everything.
For rare exceptions like Kate Hoey, all these inflexibilities can be engaged and views cherry-picked to suit reality – which is as it should be. Kate Hoey is an exceptional person – and I would guess Britain’s most popular politician by far. But she is close to being both unique and (no offence Kate) extinct.
Recent news stories to illustrate these points do not require further elucidation: the lack of objective analysis applied to the question of who shot down the MH17, the endless false flags in the Middle East from Saddam Hussein onwards, the at times almost Tass-like views of the Special Relationship clan in their coverage of Ukraine, Greece and Syria…..on and on it goes, the steady aggregation of two bonkers belief systems….the flotilla to Gaza had purely peaceful intentions, Hamas never fires missiles into Israel, nor does it deliberately do so from bases in heavily populated regions, Viktor Orban is a Nazi….multivariate and equally deluded schisms calling for everything from Sharia Law to fracking in the UK.
And yet oddly, these tribes, these high priests in their stockades, probably have zero effect on at least 70% of the population. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have this perpetual majority of unthinking, passive and habitual electors right across the West beyond the austerity-battered politics of ClubMed.
This may seem like a contradiction, but it isn’t: Slog’s Law of Sclerotic Politics states:
The insouciant naivety of the Activist Ideologist is exceeded only by the cynical mendacity of the Executive in manipulating the Passive Acceptor
The active ideologists create the catechism, and their Executive then pretends to believe it, dishing out a watered-down version to the goggle-eyed passive acceptors.
The acceptors have a facility with the terminology – the spin, the euphemism, the selective statistics, the infantile gags at PMQs, the financial services to Trotskyite syntax of drivel – but they lack any real familiarity with how or why this slop is being served up to them.
The outcome is bizarre: a one and at the same time oil and water suspension of disbelief alongside fanatical belief. Which is, by and large, what all ideologies in the end become. So, for example, Harriet Harman is able to defend the multiculturalism that excuses Islamic misoginy, but remain utterly condemnatory of male aggression against women. And white supremacist Adolf Hitler was able to declare his Japanese allies Honorary Aryans.
Keep right on to the end of the road, and you will arrive pretty much at where we are now:
1. Disinterested acceptors keeping a ruthless, controlling and self-interested government in power based on 25% electoral support
2. Activists determined to avoid infection by the other Opposition Parties, whose morally-based anti-Camerlot attitudes they share – thus producing a clear run for the dark knights
3. Desperate and easily distracted folks at the bottom whose non-voting status isn’t abstention, just apathy – and conviction that all politicians ignore them
4. Establishment opinion leaders like Jeremy Hunt, Rebekah Brooks, Rupert Murdoch, Andy Coulson, Boris Johnson, Tim Yeo, Tony Blair, and Michael Fallon able to avoid the due process of law so rigorously applied to those who object.
And so finally, back to the title of this essay. There is a decent and desperate majority in the UK, but the sound of their silence is deafening. And there are myriad activist fanatics, but the sounds they make might as well be silence for all they add to greater utility, accountability and fulfilment in Western culture.
What we really need at the outset of education is a truly apolitical Civics course that makes future generations more familiar with how linguistics are perverted for the purpose of power in all media. And probably, another related course encouraging research among primary sources to check out what they’ve been told. One of the many drawbacks of the invasive internet is how easy it has made the accumulation of secondary evidence.
The bottom line, I think, is we must train our kids to be expert sleuths.