“Internet bloggers’ uncrafted output completely self-serving”

Or, as Sean Abbott coined it, "Bloggers Have Destroyed the Fabric of Society."

The subject matter is one Dr. John Lachs, distinguished "Centennial Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, where he has taught since 1967." Right off the bat, let's just get past the rather embarrassing fact that he used the opinion section -- now tantamount to a blog -- of The Tennessean to publish the message that, well, opinion pieces are crap. But not just that. He's indicting the whole foundation and structure of what has become a rather "power to the people" phenomena most notably characterized by blogs. It's hard to pin it down, but judging by a number of sources there are more than 100 million blogs (putting this one in the top 1% of blog traffic).

OK, this is going to be a post where we eviscerate, chop up, season, roast, and consume. We're eating liver tonight, folks. But, before I do that, here's the full context: Internet bloggers’ uncrafted output completely self-serving. You might want to read the whole thing, get the context, and then enjoy the fun.

So here we go.

There once was a time when education taught perspective. We learned what was of significance and what did not need to be remembered.

Sure. And that's still being taught in institutions of "higher learning." It has also always been taught on the streets, too. Book smarts, funded by means of public predation. Street smarts, funded by dark alley predation. In the middle, the victims of both.

Education placed us in the midst of intellectual giants and did not permit the illusion that we were of much significance.

Nonetheless, Dr. Lachs, you believe you're significant enough to render blanket judgment over more than 100 million writers, at least 100,000 of which have attained audiences of thousands of readers and page views per day.

So, let's say you do two semesters, 50 students per class x 3 classes; so you directly influence about 300 students per year. And you've been doing it for 40 years or so. Whoa!!! Stop the horses. You have directly influenced a whopping 12,000 students, Mr. Professor. That's a fucking average two to three days of visitors for me, dumbshit. So who's the fool?

Those days appear to be gone. With the aid of ready access to the Internet, anyone can memorialize any set of worthless experiences.

Worthless to whom?

...But yes, anyone can. They can also memorialize deeply and objectively meaningful experiences, and everything in-between. It's the very nature of the thing, Mr. Prof.

The mystery to me is, why that chaps your hide. Well, perhaps it's not a mystery at all...

This is one of the awful consequences of the new power to publish one’s own writing, no matter how jejune and thereby call attention to one’s ideas, no matter how infantile.

So in order to be valid and potent as a writer, one must only be "jejune" and "infantile" (redundancy alert!) in an institutional setting, in hopes that one might eventually become practiced, complex, profound and mature by the time they get their stamp of approval from such institution? And what of those such as I, who always aced English and writing and in fact, tested successfully to skip base requirements upon college entrance? I'm one. And there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of others.

Can you hazard a guess, dear Mr. Prof., how many of them might have applied their natural writing skills -- indeed love and passion for writing -- to blogging?

And this is a bad thing? Yes? Because you and those of like mind no longer have control -- nor the audience? Yes?

Not so many years ago, publication required convincing other people that one’s work had merit.

Indeed. And it still does, in dying media. How about you stop and ask yourself why that is, Clueless? Seriously, are you so daft as to fuck up cause & effect on something so obvious and simple? Jesus C. already, professor. What, is there, some magical force drawing people to blogs over institutional media? Or, were the physical barriers to entry such that institutions had a strangle hold on what got published, and now that they don't, people enjoy their niche choices? Or what? Is it that dumbshits can revel and persist in their ignorance? Have their ignorance affirmed? And when in history has that not been a phenomena of the human experience?

This constituted a check on the apparently limitless appetite of people for self-display. Editors and publishers exercised two central powers: They brought good work to the attention of the public and suppressed the self-indulgent lucubrations of ordinary minds.

Don't make me laugh. You're so full of shit. There was and always has been "good work" produced by institutions, and that is not in serious question by serious people. But the good work has forever been drowned by the twaddle, influenced (bought & paid for) primarily by institutional media's two primary bedfellows: advertisers and the top dog institution that favors those same secondary bedfellows by statute and regulation: government.

...You silly, silly duped fool.

What we're left with are institutions still producing good stuff and crap, and individuals producing/blogging good stuff and crap. But here's the rub, Mr. Professor: the individuals are not only producing more crap, they are producing magnitudes more good stuff.

But you can't see that, because you think everyone needs spoon feeding, as did you, and that they can't see good, sweet smelling shit when they see and smell it. And, it's voluminous. Your ignorant, stupid error is to focus on a tremendous volume of stinky crap, ignoring the fact that the gems outpace what the institutions produce by huge orders of magnitude.

The obstacle they represented was actually a vital safeguard so people would not embarrass themselves by their simple ideas and inferior prose.

So that's what this is all about, eh? You're just concerned that there may be folks out there embarrassing themselves? How touching and, I'm sure you're nothing but sincere.

Blather fills our heads.

Indeed it does, Mr. Professor...

Today, by contrast, anyone can start a blog and fill cyberspace with a torrent of ill-chosen words. Mundane experiences, incoherent reflections and ignorant theories can be advertised to the world.

In other words, nothing's new, just more of it. But it's not "under control," anymore; right, professor? That's the base, niggling issue, right?

I mean, c'mon, you're not seriously going to argue that institutions don't publish dreck. You know they do. So what is it, that there's now more of it? Nobody listens to the anointed "authorities" anymore (presumably, because they prefer an anonymous blogger's dreck)? Or, is there something else to it that is unrecognizable to you, perhaps because you like your daily dose of the spoon fed and it pisses you off that others hunt their own food?

Prejudices may be presented as considered judgments and untutored feelings are permitted to seize the focus of attention.

God forbid anyone's judgments and feelings ever be "untutored" by institutional PhDs; or that they, for whatever reason, outshine your practiced, canned, reviewed, edited, sanitized, outlined, and approved for mass consumption "judgments" and "feelings".

Ah, oh: "permitted." That's really the essential bugger. Isn't it, professor? You were never "permitted" by your own authority because you've always lived on the institutional teat, however financed -- such that you have had to spend your entire life seeking someone's permission. And now it just frosts your balls good that other's don't have to. Makes you look like a fool and a patsy. Well, some of us just fucking do, and worry about permissions and apologies later. Too bad, silly man.

So go fuck yourself. It's a new day, and I'm glad for it.

Apparently, there is no one to tell these bloggers to rethink and rephrase because what they produce is a draft in need of craft. The only thing that seems to matter is the satisfaction of the blogger, and people without standards are easily satisfied.

Oh, my. You don't get out much do you, sir? Scan my blog and the blogs of those I regularly link. Check the entries and see the number of comments in the hundreds and read them (there are tutorials in "cyberspace" -- or, "on the Internet" in 21st Century speak -- that can help you with that). Then consider how ignorant you wish to remain by asserting that "there is no one to tell these bloggers to rethink and rephrase."

Christ. Blogging is indeed a chore. So many ignoramuses to put up with.

If all this detritus survives, what will future generations think of the condition of the human mind in our day?

Well for starters...perhaps...and let me think here of a decent descriptive...OK, how about: unleashed. How about that? That's what you're afraid of, isn't it, professor? You're no longer at the controls. Even worse, no one is at the controls.

...Must be terrifying for an institutional authority sycophant, such as yourself.

Alright, I'll set aside his last bits of "pure profundity."

In the end, yea, this was unnecessary; just fun & sport. "Cyberspace" marches on in spite of his ignorant protestations. So yep, his original charge is valid: self indulgent.

On the other hand, this was unnecessary mostly because the institutional gatekeeping of what get's published by any means, and what doesn't, is dead as a doornail: and god fucking riddance. Professor Lachs is merely but one of thousands of such dying whimpers we'll have to endure as the old guard of privilege, political and corporate influence, backscratching and all that goes along with it gets kicked to the curb.

What he and the rest of them ought to be asking themselves is why? Again, this whole thing was quite unnecessary because of the why. It is a priori obvious (don't even have to get up off the couch to know it's true) that people like the blogs and other self published & small enterprise media, news, and opinion better. That's why we're having this discussion and that's the reason for the professor's whine, and that's why this is all unnecessary.

This guy simply laments the old days where his PhD was more valuable than the average clever blogger paying $4.95 per month, and commands orders of magnitude more influence.

Let's all shed a collective tear for the professor's lost world. Or not.

Comments

  1. Lachs’ arguments sound a lot like those put forward by Andrew Keene in ‘Cult of the Amateur’ a few years back.

    • The point everyone ought to take from this is that the plethora of self publising (in whatever manner) means: BOTH more gems and more crap.

      BUT, they don;t get to gatekeep the gems anymore, they’re left in the cold, so they focus attention on the crap.

  2. Indeed! Imagine if those in charge of our governance, our financial system, and our healthcare under the illusion that they were of much significance…

    • You might mean “were under the illusion.”

      Besides the fact that’s it’s non-sequitur, i.e., you’re talking about public policy and I’m talking about publishing information (but I’ll withhold judgement that I might be dealing with an abject moron), why do you feel the need to have “those in charge?”

      Who’s in charge of your hard on? What, nobody’s in charge?

      Are you a puny, impotent pussy?

      • Yes, I did mean “were under the illusion.” A typo on my part, and I can see how that easily led to the misunderstanding. I was, in fact, using noting that those in government, etc. often seem to feel that they are of more significance than much of the public does, and constantly publish drivel aimed at educating and helping the poor, huddled masses. Guys like former senator McGovern, the current surgeon general, and certain Wall Street hacks and their media mouthpieces. Public policy people are the very people who can publish what and when they like in the tradition way of things, and seem to be the sort of person Dr. Lachs would support over his imagined group of monkeys huddled over keyboards flinging their feces all over the Internet. The quote near the start of your post got me thinking along those lines’

        Education placed us in the midst of intellectual giants and did not permit the illusion that we were of much significance.

      • Ah, relief then. I get too hot headed, sometimes. Sorry ’bout that.

      • No worries. I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to typos and not completely spelling out my thought processes when communicating online. It might be clear in my own mind, but that doesn’t make it obvious to anyone else. Beside, I appreciate a little righteous anger – it’s much more preferable than apathy, and makes your posts worth reading. Rock on!

  3. Dan Linehan says:
  4. Another point: since the invention of printing, pamphleteering was quite common and employed by some of the most brilliant minds of their respective times. To quite Wiki:

    “A famous pamphleteer of the American Revolutionary War was Thomas Paine. Another famous pamphleteer was Witte the With. Today a pamphleteer might communicate his missives by way of weblog, but before the advent of telecommunications, those with access to a printing press and a supply of paper used the pamphlet as a means of mass communications outside of newspapers or full-fledged books.”

    Not only is this prof ignorant of modern technology, he is ignorant of its historical parallels and precedents. I definitely won’t be sending my kid to Vanderbilt. Oh and thanks for the link love.

  5. This is a 6 billion people world, and the educated ones grow by the millions every year if not month. The massive sum of all ideas and interpretations and understandings of this world, as experienced through billions of pairs of eyeballs and ears attached to billions of accelerating brains, no longer fits in a single worldview. In short, the other thing Prof. Lachs is mourning is: the potential for consensus.

    Sorry, Prof, dissent is the new deal. Influence no longer comes from the One Approved Worldview, it instead comes from toppling assertions, it now means conquering minds and not merely gate them through institutions like cattle. Welcome to a Complex reality.

  6. Reminds me of the people that were denigrating WikiPedia because it’s supposedly written by lay-men, is inaccurate and contains mistakes (I’m not saying it doesn’t). They would rather we trust the ‘objective’ experts. Forget the fact that WikiPedia is an amazing collaborative effort. Authorities don’t like it when people realize they can do things for themselves without asking permission.

    The internet in general is just the latest evolution of life on earth, energy and information combining and connecting in ever more complex ways.

  7. In effect, university professors are now just bloggers who very few read. It is a frightening thought to them.

    Peer review is a joke. Someone said that the definition of a faculty is a group of people who agree not to question each others unsupportable ideas. Before the bloggers, those unsupportable ideas were all we had access to. With the internet, we now have access to knowledge if we are willing to search for it.

  8. In case my comment gets moderated out by this professor’s much-praised editors, here’s what I wrote to The Tennessean:
    ===============
    How does — or can? — this “professor” balance his:
    “Not so many years ago, publication required convincing other people that one’s work had merit. This constituted a check on the apparently limitless appetite of people for self-display. Editors and publishers exercised two central powers: They brought good work to the attention of the public and suppressed the self-indulgent lucubrations of ordinary minds.”

    with the New York Times and Walter Duranty, “the New York Times Moscow correspondent whose dispatches covered up Stalin’s infamies,” (http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/002/791vwuaz.asp). 25,000 people were starving to death every DAY — and the NY Times KNEW Duranty was lying — and they printed lies anyway:

    “There is no famine or actual starvation nor is there likely to be.”
    “Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda.”

    And the NYTimes still refuses to give back the Pulitzer they “won” for his lying reporting, and their intentional printing of his lies! Yeah professor, let’s just trust blindly in the mainstream media!!

    NOT!

    • And, even more recently at the NYT, Judith Miller wrote all sorts of complete bullshit about Iraq’s alleged WMDs.

  9. There is another group whose livelihood is really being negatively affected by bloggers – news organizations. News orgs have a lot more to fear from bloggers. As for college professors, they really need to reinvent the way they conduct classes. And that has to involve taking advantage of what good blogs, Wikipedia, YouTube and other Web 2.0 sources can offer.

  10. Reading Lachs, I thought I was going to barf…the sheer whining, self-indulgent, self-important, self-pitying pomposity of the man, which he dressed up as scholarly reasoning, just about had me blowing chunks. This is the sentence that I particularly liked: “Prejudices may be presented as considered judgments…” What the fuck does he think he’s doing, if not presenting his prejudices as a considered judgment? If he hates bloggers and wants to rant at them, fine; but then he should just come right out and do it, instead of hiding behind passive-aggressive pseudo-objectivity the way he does.

  11. I do want to give the good doctor props for using the word ‘jejune’ in a sentence. Pretentious fuck.

    “Apparently, there is no one to tell these bloggers to rethink and rephrase because what they produce is a draft in need of craft. The only thing that seems to matter is the satisfaction of the blogger, and people without standards are easily satisfied.”
    Okay, if someone presents material that is worthless, people will stop reading from that blog. I’ve stopped reading several blogs due to either poor material, use of religious bullshit, or they are no longer of any use or interest to me.

    Dr. Lachs, please pull that ivory tower out of your arse and then we can talk.

  12. Bay Area Sparky says:

    Wrote Dr. Lach, Stock and Barrel, “Not so many years ago, publication required convincing other people that one’s work had merit.”

    It’s not clear which publications and gatekeepers he’s referring to. Regardless, whether he’s referring to newspapers or academic journals, Dr. Lach’s op-ed piece may be viewed variously as intellectual elitism, badly misinformed opinion, inarticulate writing, hidden-agenda driven, or just plain naive.

    Where to start? Has Lach ever heard of Yellow Journalism?

    From a historical perspective, how much has the pursuit of true objectivity ever existed in journalism and/or scholarship? How “pure” are these things in today’s world and which way are they trending? Which gatekeepers of information would he protect us from and which would meet with his approval? Is he saying that a fine-minded blogger is inferior to a mediocre or dishonest editorial board?

    Dr. Lach appears to be an intellectual fear monger or at least intellectually fearful. To him there is peril behind every unedited opinion. In a world in which mind control is at one end and the free marketplace of ideas is at the other, Lach clearly believes that only a relatively few opinions matter and that he’s just the one to let us know.

    Thanks but no thanks, Doc.

  13. One day over three years ago, I did a random search for migraines and links to food. That led me to a single research article by Marios Hadjivassiliou, which led me to investigating gluten as the cause for my migraines, which led me to gluten-free forums and blogs, which led me to testing by Enterolab, who diagnosed me with gluten intolerance, which led me back to the GF forums, some of whom mentioned that all grains are bad and mentioned paleo eating, which led me to Mark Sisson’s MarksDailyApple, which led me to PaNu, FTA and numerous other blogs, which led me to creating my own blog. The result was a nearly migraine-free existence, a loss of several pounds, and a cure for a variety of ailments I attributed to aging. I feel better now than I’ve ever felt. The Dr. Lachs of the world would have never allowed this and I would still be following CW for all its worth and feeling like crap. The internet is the last semblance of freedom we have. I suppose Dr. Lach would like to see this taken away as well to protect us from using our own minds to decipher the good from the bad.

    • Laurie, that’s a great summation of not only what an intelligent person goes through to find answers but what EVEN an intelligent person HAS to go through to finds answers.

    • I did the same thing with diabetes and here I am, a little over a year later, 50 lbs lighter, with normal blood sugar and free of diabetic neuropathy, sans doctors, sans diabetes medication, sans insulin. And I owe it all to a blog.

      • Aaron Curl says:

        YES. This is the process humans are supposed to go through. We are supposed to seek out answers for ourselves, to blindly follow CW is a horrible existence. Great job Helen and Laurie D.

      • Thanks, Aaron. Yeah, fuck the profiteers on ignorance and their priesthoods…fuck the gatekeepers of knowlege…can you imagine the bricks they must be shitting? I wonder what the value-added potential of one person with diabetes, or heart disease, or cancer is? I mean, I wonder into how much money one person with, say, diabetes can be parlayed by the system…then mulitiply it by millions of people.

    • Well said. That’s the “Human Spark” as a recent PBS series called it; it all boils down to curiosity and the desire to know. If it weren’t for well done blogs such as this one with so many opinions, paths, and references to follow and explore, I don’t think I would be where I’m at now with my weight loss and strength goals. I’ve learned so much here and elsewhere in the blogosphere. The exchange of information is inspiring and refreshing. Yes, there are crappy blogs, but like crappy books or newspapers (most), one can simply ignore them.

      I live in the academic world for now, but I come from about 13 years of experience in the business world as a software developer. For some lifelong academics, a “layman” with equal or greater intelligence who questions is a threat; tisk, tisk you bucolic yokels, don’t you know those with the “right academic pedigrees” proscribe, approbate, and control and all others shall listen and adhere? It’s the same as the god-like attitude that many MDs have — don’t you dare question me for I know what’s best! What many of the turf protecting and narrow minded popinjays forget is the exchange of knowledge, along with seeking a better way through questioning and debate, is a major part of the success of homo sapiens. Many also forget the tiny scope of the fractured and disconnected worlds they live in at the academy.

  14. I think your post thoroughly highlights the problems of the traditional systems of publishing.

    @Laurie D.
    >I feel better now than I’ve ever felt. The Dr. Lachs of the world would have never allowed this and I would still be following CW for all its worth and feeling like crap.

    This is exactly what happens when the authorities in a field are not true experts on the subject. Since they are generally perceived as knowledgeable about the field, and consequently hold great authority and power over both publishing and practice, their potential to mislead is great.

    I wrote at length about this topic on my blog, in an essay titled “How important are the opinions of experts in the search for knowledge?”

  15. Great takedown. The world has changed and the former gatekeepers are seeing their free lunches disappear. Cry me a river.

    BTW jejune = dull.

  16. Boo hoo, professor.

    “But, but, but, MY CREDENTIALS!”

  17. Nicely put.

    What this professor also seems to overlook is the fact that bloggers who put up “jejune” content don’t draw the audience that insightful bloggers do.

  18. This made me smile because it is the truth!

    “Whoa!!! Stop the horses. You have directly influenced a whopping 12,000 students, Mr. Professor. That’s a fucking average two to three days of visitors for me, dumbshit. So who’s the fool?”

    A great retort Richard

  19. The establishment can’t stand the internet. Witness senator Rockefeller of west virginia saying we would be better off without it. I think there will one day be attempts by the criminal government to license bloggers. This is has already been proposed by one of Obama’s “czars”- Cass Sunstein/

  20. Richard,
    I like your rant! You hit the nail on the head! That is exactly the issue I was grasping 20 years ago and that is what made me quit the world of academic science . Too much control freakism! Then I had to deal with the control freakism in the business world, corporate management and all that… I think corporate control freaks do more damage than the acedemics because they seem more intelligent and have more power. You should write about that too!
    Stan

  21. The only problem I can see with this is the lack of published material. There has been very interesting research suggesting that modern people are becoming less able to think complicated thoughts because they are inundated with so many quick flashes of info that there thinking becomes fragmented. In short, people are losing the ability to understand all the intracicies and depth of extended arguments, such as those delivered by Thomas Paine, who was mentioned above. Though I consider academia a joke (after nearly making the mistake of climbing up the ivory tower), when I listen or read the majority of opinions and arguments by people today (in person or no the net) they come across as very simple; like a soundbite or slogan instead of a well thought out position.
    American politics is the most stunning example of this. 99% of people seem to base their position on who has the best catchphrase. Woe betide a political player who attempted to sway the people with a reasoned argument in place of something quick and catchy.
    The converse is of course that having something in print is no guarantee of quality. However print apparently does not have the same affect on the brain as computer screen light. The best book on this is Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, written before the rise of the internet.

  22. Aaron Curl says:

    FUCKING ASS. That pretty much sums it up. So, only people with high educations are allowed to fill our heads with lies? This is the problem with all systems, they create an illusion. There once was a time when learning was applauded, now, if you don’t listen to the “professionals” you are doomed to failure. I have never let schooling get in the way of my education. Living life is the only way to learn. I feel sorry for people who believe the only way to succeed is a college degree! It works for some but for the vast majority it clutters the brain and closes it down, which in turn leads to a population of sheep who blindly follow their shepard (govt, big pharm, religion). Again, I say, FUCKING ASS!

  23. The fact that this guy got his opinion published demonstrates to me that the editorial gateway is not what it used to be.

  24. Academic authors’ crafted output completely self-serving.

    I know how the academic “review” process works from the inside. When a graduate student, I produced some work judged valuable by my mentoring professor. I succeeded in getting some pieces published, one in part because he signed as co-author, marking me as an insider. But others were rejected. The reviewers’ comments in each case made it clear that they would not admit any work that did not stay within the boundaries of the thought boxes they had defined. New ideas were not tolerable.

  25. You run into the same problem when speaking about socio-economic change, or even just trying to get a job (no you fucking don’t need a B.A. to work as a bank teller). Everyone is obsessed with going through the “proper channels.”

    This professor’s rant is another reminder that it’s not necessarily the government and/or plutocratic elite that are after you. Your fellow slaves are more than happy to do the work for them.

  26. I have rarely found advice from the ‘experts’ to be any more illuminating than anyone else (with the exception of a few subjects, such as math or physical sciences, where there is a clear real known truth). The reality is that all areas, other than the hard sciences stating specific facts (such as mathematical formulas or the anatomy of the human heart), lend themselves to interpretation and debate. As such, there is no more validity to the opinion of a 60 year old prof. on the matter of art history, Anthropology, or economics, then there is to a bloggers opinion. Certainly, the Prof. enters the debate with a bit more initial believability, but if the blogger is making better points and winning the argument then so be it. In fact, Any subject which is subject to debate is by definition no more valid if debated by group A (Prof./journalist)then group B (blogger). For example – What is the best economic model for a society to implement? Given that there is no scientifically provable answer, anyones opinion, so long as it is coherent, logical, and based on facts, is on equal footing. Regardless of who says it. Secondly, it seems to me that the proliferation of bloggers increases the amount of good information. This is because anyone who wishes to put in the effort and research, can quickly reject the crap and then make up their mind between the good ones; or mix and match. I think that the ‘Gatekeepers’ actually get pissed off by the good bloggers, because they are threatened. They then proceed to throw out the canard that it’s the crap that they’re mad about. But let’s play devils advocate – Maybe we’re all wrong; maybe we should listen to the Dieticians, after all they are experts. Maybe we should eat like the Food Pyramid suggests with 11 slices of white bread making up the mainstay of our diets, they’re experts. The problem that not only ‘experts’ but all centralized authority now faces, is that information, knowledge, and original sources are now only a click away. They need to come to terms with the fact that the genie is not going back into the bottle, and address and debate with the good stuff , while ignoring the crap. Competition always leads to improvement, hard work, and innovation. What really irks experts is that bloggers and others now compete with them in the realm of defining ideas. This makes the experts less special; but, as with all competition, it also makes the ultimate resultant idea far more tested, debated, and innovative.

    • What is the best economic model for a society to implement?

      Best for whom? The collectivist fallacy is implicit in the original question. It’s not so much that economics is a complicated subject and people have widely varying opinions on the matter—e.g., the arguments of a Keynesian don’t have equal merit to an Austrian—so much as the fact that there are a few billion people living on this planet, each with his or her own unique values, each possessing an independent mind. The “one size fits all” notion that there needs to be an overarching system by which to rule others rejects the obvious counterargument that, for most people, if other people would refrain from ruling them with a system, they would most likely benefit from the economic freedom. (Of course, most people seem to be easily scared into sacrificing their freedom for the illusion of security.)

      • Elliot – Just checked back on to this blog. You’re right; in the haste of making my overall point, my statement came out in a weird way. I’m not sure where that Freudian Slip came from or what it means, since I am certainly not a collectivist as I would tend to agree with the Austrian school of economics mixed in with an extra dose of individual liberty and personal choice and uniqueness. I simply meant that statement as an example of a question posed, or subject discussed, which does not have any perfectly provable and known answers; thus a bloggers view on this topic is just as valid (so long as they’re being logical and fact based) as the egghead economists; who, by the way, were all caught off-guard by the sub-prime crisis, and who told people the banks were solvent right before the collapse of Bear Sterns. I guess a better, or correct, way to have phrased the question would have been ‘The society with the most successful economy will tend to be the one in which the individual citizens of that society implement what characteristics, habits, interactions, and activities?’.

      • I agree about many individuals being smarter than the “egghead economists”. A lot of those guys just make shit up.

  27. The truth makes its own way. It does not need editors, though it inevitably finds them (with good or bad effect, depending on their receptivity).

  28. Chaohinon wrote:
    “…just trying to get a job (no you fucking don’t need a B.A. to work as a bank teller). Everyone is obsessed with going through the “proper channels.”

    I’d answer this with little bit of an essay my dad (a high school English teacher) wrote in our small-town (N.Y.) paper some 30-plus years ago. His essay was entitled: “On the illiterate high school graduate.” (I hope you don’t mind me linking the whole thing, Richard: http://www.snowtao.com/family/daddy.htm#illit )

    ============
    On a more complex level the diploma is at least (1) A part of the 300-year-old American dream of true citizenship for all, to free the mumbling masses of peasants so necessary to church and state dictatorships. It was no less than universal education, one of the noblest visions ever seen by mankind. (2) A door-opener for most employment. It won’t keep you in the job, but you can’t get the job without it. (3) A reward for being a reasonably decent and cooperative young person. 4) A weak guarantee that the possessor is socially mature enough to take a place in our civilized society. (5) Problematically, some sort of warranty of acceptable literacy. It was for this that the Board of Regents instituted the Minimum Competency Exam requiring an “eighth-grade” education of high-school graduates. (If I sound bitter, it’s because I’ve been living with these paradoxes for 29 years.)

    The problem obviously is the distance from 1 to 5, from the dream to the reality. Put it this way: if you must have a job to live like a human being, and if you must have a diploma to get a job, then you must have a diploma to live. Not necessarily an education, but a diploma. And the teachers have had to face that fact. Weeping and wailing about “standards,” they have been slowly forced over several years to award a diploma to practically everyone but social psychopaths. Try to imagine young, 17-year-old Donohue in a fifth-grade class half-full of 11- and 12-year old girls who are beginning to feel, in that immortal phrase, the “first faint stirrings of womanhood.” Do you leave him in there, or get him out? And if you get him out, where do you put him?
    ============

    No, you don’t need a B.A. to be a bank teller, but it is one way for the bank to get some slight assurance that the possessor of that B.A. has at least had enough “civilizing” growth to be an acceptable representative of their bank to the public. Are there lots of exceptions? Of course, but the banks aren’t in the business of helping folks get jobs, they’re in the business of servicing customers (and making money for the bank owners). Bank tellers are the equipment the bank purchases to fulfill that job, and so the banks want at least a minimal guarantee the tool will serve for the purpose! “Proper channels” are like choosing to buy from a name brand manufacturer instead of the cheapest Chinese-made crap — OR the one-off, finely crafted product of a self-directed workman.

    • ” ‘Proper channels’ are like choosing to buy from a name brand manufacturer instead of the cheapest Chinese-made crap — OR the one-off, finely crafted product of a self-directed workman.”

      This is THE problem, in my opinion! Modern American society is engineered with “the masses” in mind, taking direct aim at mediocrity, compromise, adulteration. This keeps the dumbest and most destructive in check (except when we drop the ball and it doesn’t), and handicaps the best and brightest (who are stuck tending boxes built by the mediocre for the mediocre, to borrow the metaphor invoked earlier in this thread). We Americans forget that our choices as individuals need not always be between the lowest imbecility (some crank with a red wagon; Sarah Palin; the Twinkie diet) and mediocrity (General Motors; Joe Biden; SAD). As individuals, we can craft lives for ourselves and a few friends that put our current “American dream” (heaven for corporate-minded robots; a nightmarish hell for the rest of us, the intelligent and the insane) to shame. These lives cannot be shared with the nation at large precisely because the nation at large is neither willing nor able to embrace the principles upon which they (fundamentally and unalterably) depend. The most that can be done is to publish the information the geniuses come up with so that everyone has the best chance possible in constructing his or her life and livelihood, which each of us inevitably does on his or her own in concert with a small team of associates (friends, family, peers, co-workers, underlings, supervisors, etc). We need to break our dependence on the “experts” (mediocre axe-grinders pretending to be God, by and large) and their corporations (whose main duty is to define and defend mediocrity as the best thing since sliced bread: maybe it is!). We need to learn how to learn things for ourselves (instead of paying someone to tell us mediocre half-truths), how to own our own decisions (instead of hiring lawyers to prove that any unfortunate results were the fault of others), how to become the master craftsman that our current system mistakes for an imbecile.

  29. Another great paleo result for you for one of my 6 week trial guinea pigs

  30. Joseph wrote: “Modern American society is engineered with “the masses” in mind, taking direct aim at mediocrity, compromise, adulteration. This keeps the dumbest and most destructive in check (except when we drop the ball and it doesn’t), and handicaps the best and brightest…”

    Yes, America (if not actually the world) IS engineered with the masses in mind (and yes the masses ARE mediocre *because* they are the masses). I can’t remember where I read this but: think of the MOST average person you know — and now realize that HALF of the population falls BELOW that average person!

    Painful for those with brains and ambition?! Yes, but only in a false meritocracy. Instead of pretending every American can (or should) go to college (or, say, learn to choose their food wisely — ha! that implies wisdom, does it not?!), maybe we should go back to (school) tracking — but a less prejudicial (more soundly based) tracking, where kids who are not going to be (capable of being) successful in college aren’t pushed to try to become who they’re not. Let’s *recognize* the reality that not everyone is a top one-percenter – or ever a top fifty-percenter and start building society on that basis!

    (And yes, the problem is always: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchers — who would YOU trust to sort them out?! I sure wouldn’t trust any of the folks in power or high positions currently!)

  31. Bay Area Sparky says:

    I re-visited Dr. Lachs’ opinion piece in the Tennesseean…if it’s any solace, the reception has been very cool and in fact quite negative. As of yet, there has been no rebuttal or addressing of the dissent on his part. I’m not holding my breath either.

  32. I would read Dr. Lachs’ rant, but I’m too busy rubbing clothes on my washboard to clean them, then my horse needs a shoeing before I can go shopping in the village, and after that I need to finish my tallow candles so I can write a note to a friend this evening with my quill pen on parchment, so I can send it by horse and rider tomorrow.

    Sheesh.

    Maybe if the Luddite Dr. Lachs read better blogs he’d change his mind. I doubt it. He and others like him are simply out of touch, and should stop commenting on things they know nothing about, before they addle someone’s mind.

  33. Richard: Would he be shocked by bar code scanners in the supermarket?

    me: Why not? George H.W. Bush was!!

  34. Quoth Dr. Lach, “Not so many years ago, publication required convincing other people that one’s work had merit.”

    To which you responded, “Indeed. And it still does, in dying media.”

    I would argue that it still does in new media, in a de facto sense, but in a way much more directly connected to merit of ideas than to merit of profitability. Dr. Lach’s vision of the publication of yesteryear appears to be sepia-tinged with a sense of personal prestige, when in fact it was simply a process of necessity due to mechanical limitations. In other words, one may feel prestigious to have been accepted by the governing bodies of print media, but that acceptance has no direct connection to merit of ideas, only to merit in the marketplace. Published writers then were, in fact, bigger whores than today’s blogger. Publication required a commitment to write about what people were supposedly willing to pay to read, rather than a commitment to absolute truth.

    Because of our newfound ability to produce with almost no overhead, writers are now free to write in a marketplace that is a direct, rather than representative, meritocracy. The underlying concept of “convincing other people that one’s work had merit” still exists, the only difference is that it is no longer beholden to a gatekeeper who must justify his salary by defining “merit” as “profit” and himself as “necessary and important.”

    I absolutely love the usurpation of “merit” that we humble proletariat have managed to achieve through our simple ability to collectively distinguish the meritorious from the bullshit, without anyone telling us which is which.