Random Asides

of Giants, Patriots, and Hellions

I had an interesting and enlightening weekend. Probably too much fun was had, but a person needs to let loose on occasion. (I’ve discovered a wonderful pub in which to practice my beer snobbery–they have 20 some beers on tap and none of them is Budweiser–fantastic!)

Anyways, after recovering from the hangover on Sunday morning and afternoon, I happened to catch a few minutes of the Super Bowl pre-show. I can safely say that I have never seen so much hype in my life. Between the constant hammering on the American male stereotype and the jammed-down-your-throat “patriotism” and the syrupy fakery of the whole thing, I tuned out rapidly. We had plans for an evening out, anyhow, and the sampling I did get of it made me forget any ideas I had that it might have been fun to watch. So instead of watching the game, my husband and I went to a little old movie house on the U of M campus to watch Crispin Glover present a slide show and his film “What is it?”.

It was incredibly compelling stuff, and both of us have been fans of Mr Glover for a while now, so it was cool to see him in person and hear him speak. What really struck me about it all was the idea that it is good to present ideas of all moral qualities in very ambiguous and sometimes provocative ways and allow the audience to figure out for themselves how they feel about them. This runs almost completely counter to the mainstream media culture. In the mainstream, as is exemplified perfectly by the Super Bowl, the viewer is given concrete ideas within a black and white world in which they are told how they should feel about them.

Here is a link to CHG discussing his thoughts with Tom Green (the res is a bit shit for the first few seconds but then clears up nicely).

So what does this all have to do with skepticism? It seems to me that our current media culture is basically training people to rely on outside sources rather than their own intellect in forming ideas and opinions. Maybe if people weren’t spoon-fed in this way they would be forced to think critically about what they see in the media, and maybe that would extend into their lives more generally.

It’s something to think about, anyway.

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8 Comments

  1. I love Crispin Glover!

    Sounds like a fascinating talk. I have some sympathy for the theory about the media, although it must be said that such framing (presenting a fully-formed opinion to the reader instead of data from which to form one) tests much, much more positively than just the data. I don't know if that's a product of a lifetime of media exposure, or a decline in education, or what, but it's certainly true that the public gets what the public wants.

    It saddens me, but if people remain apathetic, it's their own doing as much as the media's. People are spoon fed because they accept being spoon fed :(

  2. i get what you're saying, tkingdoll…i don't necessarily agree with glover completely…but i think it explains certain aspects of media very well.

    looking at an aggregate, yes, the people get what the people want, but what that often means is that the prominent media culture represents an averaging of what the people want which is then sanitized to avoid offending anyone in the target market, leaving mostly dreck behind.

    maybe i'm deluded in thinking that people really are smart enough to want something more…

  3. Wow, I'd turn down pretty much anything to see Crispin Glover instead.

    It's also interesting to question how big of a part the internet plays in all this, with thousands of opinions available in case you don't want to come up with one of your own. I'm reminded of an anecdote I read about two people exiting a movie theater, and when one asked the other what he thought of the movie, he said, "I don't know yet – I'll have to go home and read the reviews online."

  4. wow…i wonder if that actually happened? it almost sounds like the punchline of a sunday comic or something…

    good point about the internet, although with that, every individual essentially gets to create their own customized experience. not that that necessarily prevents people from getting very limited points of view, but it just seems like it's difficult to be online in a significant way without discovering other opinions (or having them forced on you). i have this silly idea that the internet is going to save humanity. if it remains relatively free of corporate control, that is. do you ever stop and think about it for a minute? it's the most incredible thing. i can get on my computer and access just about any piece of information i want within seconds. we've basically got the accumulated knowledge of humanity at our fingertips. i can't believe that's not powerful.

  5. Except, it's not the accumulated knowledge of humanity, it's the accumulated opinions of every human on the planet.

    The difference is huge.

    And without some sort of effort to help you weed out the crap from the truth, you'll be wading kneedeep through 9/11-conspiracy sites, mercury-autism hoaxes, fake virus warnings, hacked wikipedia pages, some uninformed comments on a forum/blog, etc… all interspersed with ads, porn and get-rich-quick schemes.

    The internet might be the greatest thing to ever happen to humanity, but there will need to be some unspoken rules and SOPs that the decent people can edhere to in order to make it all flow much more smoothly, and without interruption from people whose only goal seems to be the spread of chaos and confusion.

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