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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Faster Than The Speed Of Thought

We Are Pavlov's Dog
Ivan Pavlov is most famous for something known as conditioned reflex and the term Pavlov's Dog. The story has it that Pavlov rang a bell just before feeding his dogs causing them to eventually associate the bell with food and to begin salivating at the bell in anticipation of receiving food. The truth is Pavlov probably seldom, if ever, used a bell. He used other things though, metronomes, tuning forks and electric shock. He was a Russian monster posing as a psychologist and physiologist who abandoned a religious career and decided to pursue a career in the sciences performing bizarre and groundbreaking experiments on dogs' digestive tracts by shuffling and re-dealing their organs and observing the results. He also made some uncomfortable modifications so that he could collect saliva. It's thought that he also performed some of these Frankensteinian experiments on children. Lovely guy. He won the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.

One of Pavlov's modified dogs, preserved at The Pavlov Museum, Ryazan, Russia
Not creepy at all

We are Pavlov's Dog. We, as a society, have become so conditioned to reacting a certain way to certain stimuli that we have stopped thinking for ourselves. We are led around by our noses and told what to think, how to act, how to vote, how to dress, how to talk...we are Pavlov's Dog. Where do conservatives come from? Where do liberals come from? Why do they all act and think so similarly? You can go from one area of the country to another and engage in conversation with different people and have the same conversations with them almost verbatim. It's like a hive mentality, group-think. Mention capitalism, ending social programs, lowering taxes or gun owner's rights and conservatives will fall into lock-step and start a pep-rally. Mention social programs, green planets, women's rights, gay rights, more gun control and liberals swoon. It's not even really the issues that get the ball rolling, it's the catch-phrases: Legitimate rape, illegal aliens, assault weapons, sequester, 2nd Amendment, Constitutional rights, Fiscal Cliff, False Flag, Military Industrial Complex, Red State, Blue State, and so on. Mention one of those or any of the dozens of others and you are lighting a fuse.

Where do these notions come from? I would say 20% from news media and 80% from word of mouth via conversations but mostly from social media like Facebook or Twitter. These avenues are rife with disinformation and barely formed ideas that get snapped up by rabid sycophants and shared and copied and pasted. They do this without fact checking or, apparently, giving it much thought at all as long as the blog, meme or article is one that agrees with their ideologies. They feed each others fears and paranoia through cloak-and-dagger conspiracy theories and they join in the boorish bullying and stereotyping of the other guys using terms like ignorant southerners, commie liberals, gun-nuts, Muslim sympathizers, they display the worst of human nature.

Cranial Friction Burns
Information, news, entertainment, gossip, weather, global crises, all day every day. How fast can you process information? How fast can you discern what is relevant? Do you still have the ability? According to Mitchell Stephens' book A History of News, in 1481 a letter reporting the death of a Turkish sultan took two years to reach England and in 1841 it took three months and twenty days for Los Angeles to learn of President William Henry Harrison's death in the east. Now, we can get instant updates on the Kardashians and Lindsay Lohan in real time, split-screen, crawler along the bottom of the screen telling us about the middle-east, stock ticker in place, the latest from Capitol Hill, C-Span, Weather Channel. No time to think. We are being conditioned to respond to hyper fast information with knee-jerk reactions. Anything less and we're dealing with yesterday's news. No one has the time to digest what is being fed to them any more. By the time you hear of such-and-such law being passed or this scandal or that crisis it is already beginning to go stale. The so-called news media is in such a rush to be the first to get stories out they fail to fact-check or verify. They are all obsessed with live on-the-spot news coverage that they put out pictures and stories sometimes so full of mistakes and disinformation that the record is forever muddied and never corrected. Ron Nessen, President Gerald Ford's Press Secretary, said, “Some stories, you don't want to spend too much time checking because you don't want to find out you're wrong.” That is how so much false bullshit gets so much mileage. People don't want to learn facts that may weaken their position. They'd rather trot out some half-assed report or chart that bolsters their opinions than learn something that may contradict what they believe.
Then, there are the conspiracies. Sometimes, when the news media tries to do damage control and update information as it comes to them and try to correct things after the fact, it gets picked up and becomes part of the big conspiracy, the cover-ups, the black-ops that are being perpetrated on America by its government. It's out there, right or wrong, it's out there. Once it is seen it cannot be unseen. If they show a video or a picture of someone who happens to be near the scene of a “happening” they can become part of it. Later, when they edit them out or issue a retraction, it is conspiracy. Who was the umbrella man at Dealy Plaza the day Kennedy was shot? Who was the man wearing camouflage running through the woods at Sandy Hook? Who was the naked man arrested in the days after the Boston Marathon bombing? Was Trayvon an innocent, smiling kid or a dangerous thug? Is Zimmerman a racist child-murderer or a citizen who's only guilty of killing a person in self-defense? Does the gun kill the people or does it just facilitate the means? We may never know any truth any more because of the way things are presented to us and how skewed it is.

I get my news unfiltered from CNN
Our 24-hour-a-day news channels are not news, that's right, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC are not news. They are news entertainment, the same way that wrestling is not sports, it's sports entertainment. The programming on these networks is geared toward further polarizing people. Ram-feeding propaganda to a starving fan-base, they pander to the hot-button issues that feed the suspicions and emotions of already biased people pushing the left further left and the right further right, obliterating the middle, the place where, in my mind, rational discourse lives. They ring the bell, we salivate. We are Pavlov's dog.

Vast eye candy