Recent Writings

Breathing the methane

What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but rather open defiance. – Jason Stanley, “How Propaganda Works”

The water in Georgetown was off this morning. A leak sprung while replacing a fire hydrant. The town’s aging infrastructure rearing its ugly head. Part of the drill living in Smalltown, USA.

I stopped at the courthouse to renew my vehicle’s tag. Chatted it up with a few along the way. Said hi to several others, a couple I knew, others I didn’t. It didn’t matter. Neighborly friendliness not restricted to familiarity.

Those scenes play out daily across the country. While locals have their conflicts, life goes on impervious to the maelstrom on the national scene.

It helps to be far from the madding crowd, but it doesn’t ensure detachment from the roiling waters. Nor should it.

The Denver Post’s headline read, “Cosby in cuffs.” Some are outraged at what they deem the leniency given. Others celebrate his comeuppance. I get it. Justice served. Very understandable. But also, sad. Cosby was an icon, a god of comedy. I had his routines down as a boy. I still can do a respectable “chicken heart.” And his natural childbirth act nailed it. But, a god fallen, the sheen off his work. Innocence lost. His work no longer funny.

How to stand back and assess what’s unfolding analytically, objectively? Regular readers likely know my mind works metaphorically, so perhaps an image. A satellite picture of a storm’s immensity, which is tough to gauge from its eye.  It worked with Hurricane Florence. Why not with Hurricane America?

Or liken it to lethal gas spewing from the “‘thermokarst’ lakes growing in the deep muck of the thawing Arctic permafrost that are emitting methane, a greenhouse gas that hits the climate system hard and fast,” as the Washington Post’s Chris Mooney describes them.

Personal thermokarst lakes, sequestered toxins embedded in the permafrost of individuals’ pasts. What more is awaiting to bubble up?

Mooney’s closing is reflective of our national miasma. “Not only how fast will permafrost thaw, but as that happens, will other older gases also be released in some places? How often will that occur — and will it be common enough to provide yet another kick to the planet’s climate? Scientists, you can be sure, will be working hard to try to figure this out.”

Substitute “nation’s” for “planet’s” and qualify “scientists” with “social” and you get it.

It can seriously wear one out if one excessively inhales the social, political, and cultural methane emissions. Still, it’s every citizen’s duty to stay informed. The question is the information’s source.

From the time of Guttenberg’s printing press, fake news has spread, feeding passions but contributing little helpful, insightful information. Journalistic ethics and standards didn’t develop until the telegraph in the 1840s. From that, arose the Associated Press, an objective, fact-reporting agency relied on by newspapers for their stories.

However, that didn’t prevent fake news from being spread and consumed as fact, from the Yellow Journalism Era of William Randolph Hearst, who created the Spanish-American War, to the current information silos, social media, and other online sources.

In his work “Post-Truth,” Lee McIntyre writes, “We need to circle back to the idea that fake news is intentionally false. It is like lying. It is created for the purpose of getting someone to believe what one is saying, even if one knows that it is not true. In this way, one might think that fake news is actually just another word for propaganda.”

Stanley defines propaganda as a means to exploit and strengthen a flawed ideology. If this is correct, McIntyre writes, it means “the purpose of propaganda is not merely to deceive; it is instead an attempt to rule.”

Belief, from religious to political and cultural, can be tribal. As such, McIntyre points out, “It doesn’t take much to get people to believe what they want to believe, if it is being said by someone who they see as an ally and they are not being challenged by reliable counterevidence.”

As you observe, study, or inhale the methane, a tough question: Are you being informed when you watch or read x, y, or z or affirmed?

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