Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Despite all the media crowing about “democracy” breaking out in the middle east, it is unlikely that democracies will arise there. While we still use the word to describe the nations of the technologically developed west, democracy is, for the most part, dead; a remnant of the Enlightenment that flourished between the 18th and 20th centuries.

What developing nations seek today is not democracy – for they see no evidence of its usefulness anywhere in the world – but stability. It is stability that is necessary to create the fertile ground for investment, technological development, and global trade. It is to this end that I offer ten tips to achieve this stability, and peace:

1] Celebrate materialism and eliminate idealism. Happiness comes from the consumption of material goods. Utilize the vast resources of mass media to reinforce this message on a minute-by-minute basis. Transcendent ideas – whether “God,” or “liberty,” or “sovereignty,” or “truth” – can never be allowed to subvert the primacy of money and material goods.

2] Extol the virtues of a “free-marketplace of ideas.” Flood your media networks with entertainment, diversions, amusements, and trivia. Remind the people repeatedly that they have an absolute right to choose whatever “information” suits them.

3] Make truth subjective. There can be no absolutes. Truth arbitrarily limits human behavior to the moral. Moral absolutes have no place in a pluralistic society. Everyone should have the right to his or her own opinion, no matter how preposterous, or self-serving, or manipulative it is.

4] Redefine “objectivity” in journalism to mean “neutrality.” Journalism must be “fair” and “balanced,” not truthful. Neutrality implies openness to all points of view, even those that are objectively false. Objectivity implies openly acknowledging truth and falsehood among arguments. This is dangerous.

5] Make the people understand that education is about a skilled workforce, not about an informed electorate. The Enlightenment is over. History ended with the fall of Communism. It’s all about jobs now. Focus on skills, not critical thinking. Focus on technology, not ethics.

6] Encourage reductionism in public discourse. Nuance demands careful, critical thought (see number five). Seeing gray areas in a situation only invites ethical analysis. Presenting problems as “us vs. them” or “good vs. evil,” and referring to “enemies” is more effective in engendering and supporting group cohesion. Use stereotypes at every opportunity. Any problem that can’t be explained in a 20 second sound bite should be left to “experts” to solve.

7] Nurture “individualism,” but discourage individuality. People should labor under the illusion that they are true individuals rather than mere constituents of a mass. The isolation of mass society encourages group identity and consensus building. Constant connection to the group via mass-mediated diversions ensures no real, meaningful critical thought will ever occur.

8] Make a fetish of personal responsibility; ignore social responsibility. Emphasize constantly the notion that people are responsible for their own actions; ignore any possibility that they may be responsible to one another. As long as one’s behaviors are consistent with those of one’s group, no good can come of dwelling on the consequences of those actions for others outside the group.

9] Don’t persecute dissidents – ignore them. Americans still know the name Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and can identify him as a dissident of the former Soviet Union. The same is true of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo who enjoys a prominent place in the US media. But Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn or Daniel Berrigan? Who are they? American media simply ignore them. Prison is unnecessary when no one knows you exist.

10] Keep ‘em smiling.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Happy 80th Birthday, Neil Postman

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” -- Neil Postman (The Disappearance of Childhood, 1982)
A note from Lance Strate:
Friends, today is the 80th anniversary of Neil Postman's birth, and by way of honoring his memory, I want to ask you, and especially those of you who have blogs and websites and/or are on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the like, to help in an effort to correct an injustice that exists online.
Neil's most memorable quote is, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” But if you Google that quote, you'll find that more often than not, it is attributed to someone else, specifically John W. Whitehead (the rightwing lawyer who represented Paula Jones against Bill Clinton).
Naturally, this is upsetting for many of us, and it is pretty much impossible to get websites to change their listings, but we can drive themdown in the Google rankings by posting in searchable sites that Neil Postman wrote “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
So, we have a begun a campaign on this day to spread the word, and set the online record straight, at least as much as possible.
Glad to help, Lance. And anyone reading this who'd like to set the record straight, feel free to post this great quote from one of America's great thinkers of the last century.