Monday, July 23, 2007

The End of Politics as We Know It

The Democratic candidates "debate" tonight was controlled by the vidiots. Instead of employing verteran journalists, political scientists, or philosophers to direct their questions at the potential next most influential politician on the planet, the video-apocalyse let YouTube contestants present the questions in short videos. Of course, I did not watch it, but read about it--in near unbelief and then in disgust. When I told my wife, she said "I have a sinking feeling."

Neil Postman warned of politics as entertainment via television twenty years ago in Amusing Ourselves to Death, but this transcends even the nonsense he deplored then. The TV format demands short, superficial answers, even without the vidiot takeover. But things have gotten massively, egregiously worse now. I'm afraid we've crossed a line and gone over a cliff--laughing all the way. The candidates were required to make their own videos to present to the audience. Being live and in person is, of course, not enough. The videographer is more important than the speechwriter or even the one-liner. (The makeup man or woman is right up there as well.)

I wish I could wake up from this nightmare, this horror show of anti-intellectualism and pop culture prostitution. A self-respecting candidate with any sense of honor or culture would have refused to participate in the farce that few can see as a farse. The Presidency of the United States is nothing to laugh at, but everyone was...without shame. We have forgotten how to blush; but we remember how to pose.

This is part of the phenomenon known as Inernet 2.0. You are in charge; you provide content; you are the critic--no matter who you are. Anyone can have a blog, post a video on YouTube, write an Amazon review, have a MySpace entry. No experience or expertise is required. And some call it democracy. It is rather the "cult of the amateur" as Andrew Keen puts it in a new and noteworthy book of that title. Wikis replace bona fide encyclopedias. Experts are replaced by digital entrepreneurs or, if not replaced, blended into the crowd of no-nothings when they should stand out from them given their knowledge.

Information has replaced knowledge.
Information has swamped wisdom.

We are all videographers now.
We are all vidiots now.
We are all entertainers now.

We are the hollow ones.
We are the noisy ones.
We are the televized ones.

We have created--artificial--happiness (and we blink)
--apologies to Nietzsche and TS Eliot.

26 comments:

MJ said...

Nice.

But I submit that journalists (veteran or not) are never the level of political scientists or philosophers. They are trained to research (usually through basic or gossip means) at a basic level usually without any real acadmic training in the fields they write. That information is then didacted to the lowest levels of understanding. The opposite is true of academics and other intellectuals.

Jeff S. said...

I remember Postman commenting on the Lincoln/Douglas debates and how each would speak for hours, maintaining their thought train throughout and giving lengthy responses as well. We have sunk well beyond the single comical question of "boxers or briefs" to entire debates full of nothing.

John Stockwell said...

DG wrote in part:

Anyone can have a blog, post a video on YouTube, write an Amazon review, have a MySpace entry. No experience or expertise is required. And some call it democracy. It is rather the "cult of the amateur" as Andrew Keen puts it in a new and noteworthy book of that title.


How ironic that Dr. Groothuis is writing this on his blog. Indeed, he doesn't seem to have much trouble with the "cult of the amateur", when he, himself is the amateur, such as when he is delivering his faulty potifications on such topics as evolution and biology.

Anonymous said...

It's narcissism: everybody must care what I think nobody how unqualified I am.

We should blame the pop-psychologists; they’ve been pushing the self-esteem culture to an unhealthy level.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Mr. Stockwell:

There is no irony. I am not an amateur intellectually on the topic I wrote about--or on ID.

1. I have written and taught on the philosophy of media for years, including peer-reviewed journal articles as well as books and book reviews.

2. I did not condemn all blogs, but only amateurish ones and the mentality that goes with them and the rest of Internet 2.0. I am an academic who has a blog. It happens. I am not against it.

3. Many anti-ID people will condemn anyone without a doctorate in science as an amateur, but that is poisening the well. (They also condemn pro-ID people with Ph.D. in science.) You must address the arguments. I have pubished, lectured, and debated in this area as well.

4. So, your comments miss the mark entirely.

Kcole said...

It certainly seems we have crossed a threshold. Politicians are (and have been) playing to the market of the vision-less masses. We are demanding stupidity!

In his book "Building a Bridge to the 18th Century", Neil Postman suggests that we look to the past to improve our future. The burden is on us to rediscover a vision that is bigger that ourselves. How about De Civitate Dei? or "wee must Consider that wee shall bee as a Citty upon a Hill".

Sir Fab said...

Dr. Groothuis:

I, unlike you, saw practically the whole debate. Once again, this is a free country and you are perfectly free to mischaracterize or misjudge things you have not seen (or refuse to watch.) I would suggest that is not a wise course of action, but it is typical of, let's call it, "a certain frame of mind."

Perhaps it was because questions came from regular folks, instead of the usual pundits, pseudo-enlightened or trained journalists, philosophers, etc., that the debate felt fresher than normal. The debate was certainly more informative and enlightening than, say, the fake townhall meetings in which President Bush allows only pre-screened, pre-authorized Republican supporters to ask questions designed to corroborate his policies.

Finally, I believe that the credit you give to veteran journalists is not deserved. I remember watching moderated presidential debates in 2004. The President refused to answer most questions and elaborated on unrelated but more convenient topics instead, which had nothing to do with the original question that was asked. The least I would have expected from trained, reputable journalists was the inevitable follow-up question: "With all due respect, Mr. President, you did not answer the question. Could you please do that?" That never happened. So I am sorry, but I hardly share your respect for a class of people mostly made up of serfs who dare not speak truth to power.

P.S. I know you don't watch TV, but I really think you should run a Google search for Stephen's Colbert performance at the White House Correspondents's Dinner of a couple of years ago. I find it impossible to disagree with Mr. Colbert's deconstruction of the complicity of the press in the perilous times that we are living through.

Mark O said...

It is a sad day indeed.

As the idol of the individual looms ever larger on the American landscape, the voice of the individual is championed - no matter how ignorant that voice may be.

Sadly, it seems evangelical American Christianity has fallen in step with this movement, if not leading the charge.

Hello emergent church goer. What makes you "feel" good? Why bother with stuffy old doctrines and theological propositions?

Douglas Groothuis said...

Perhaps I was thinking of "veteran journalists" of another era. It could be that there are none up to the task today. I don't know, since I've been out of TV culture for about two decades. I guess the Curmudgeon was being to optimistic! Ouch.

Tom Hinkle said...

Doug said, "This is part of the phenomenon known as Inernet 2.0. You are in charge; you provide content; you are the critic--no matter who you are."

And, let me add, YOU vote, no matter who YOU are. There was absolutely NOTHING wrong with a debate where candidates had to answer questions from common, everyday voters. As the article stated, it elicited more honest responses than the usual canned talking points. What is wrong with that, especially when you keep in mind that there have already been previous debates and there will be more in a more traditional "moderator" format?

Also keep in mind that not everyone who submitted a video got air time--SOMEONE or some committee had to sort through the videos and pick the ones to be shown. If they all had been shown, the debate would have lasted for days if not longer. It's a fallacy to put this in the category of "every idiot having a blog or YouTube video."

The ironic thing is that I agree with your assessment of the poor state of media. I read Postman, too. But, coupled with the fact that you lose at least a measure of credibility criticizing something you haven't seen, you seem to have an elitist attitude that is unbecoming. Would you be in favor of taking the vote away from the common person? I almost think you would.

Douglas Groothuis said...

1. I'm all for informed citizen participation, but not video mongering.

2. I can evaluate what I didn't see since I read two accounts of it and because understand the nature of television.

3. No TV debate is going to be very serious or worthwhile, but I was amazed at how low things can sink.

Glen Woods said...

I watched several of the video questions/responses on youtube's site. Yes, some of the questions were goofy. Some were not very helpful. But then, certain questions were quite penetrating. Case in point: The question from a couple in Darfur (surrounded by kids in that area) who works with the refugees and who asked what will be done substantively about the crisis there.

I think it is so typical that the journalist in the article you cited chose to focus primarily on the negative, rather than the positive. This gives their readers who did not actually view the debate the impression that the entire thing was a meaningless circus. I suppose there is some merit to this impression since most political gatherings have the flavor of a media circus, albeit one whose content and delivery is managed by the elite.

However, this was one of the rare times when I was actually interested in what the politicians had to say, since they were responding to average people, rather than only to the political, journalistic and academic elite. I am all for honoring those who have worked hard to learn skills and develop knowledge for the good of society. I also am all for giving an opportunity to legitimate voices with insightful questions who normally would not receive airtime.


Blessings,

Glen Woods

John Stockwell said...

DG wrote in part:
3. Many anti-ID people will condemn anyone without a doctorate in science as an amateur, but that is poisening the well. (They also condemn pro-ID people with Ph.D. in science.) You must address the arguments. I have pubished, lectured, and debated in this area as well.


It is common sense to inquire into the qualifications of a self-proclaimed "expert" in anything. It isn't any different than a job interview. We ask if the individual has education and experience that matches their claim of expertise. If they don't have these, then they cannot reasonably be considered experts.

The proponents of ID claim that it is a science. Yet, if an individual who has no scientific expertise in a field related to those currrently claimed to be impacted by ID (which is to say information theory, biology, biochemistry) is also an "expert in ID" then ID cannot be a science.

DG claims to be an "ID expert" yet, DG has no apparent scientific background (and indeed, has exhibited a profound misunderstanding of science in his publications) hence, DG should either admit to being an "ID amateur" or admit that "ID is not science".

David said...

I think you just proved DG's point, my friend.

Douglas Groothuis said...

There is a difference between not being an amateur and being an expert. I am not an amateur in the philosophy of science and ID, but I don't claim to be a expert. That I reserve for Mike Behe, Bill Dembski, Phil Johnson, Stephen Meyer and others. By the way Behe and Dembski have doctorates in science, as do other ID proponents.

What are Mr. Stockwell's scientific credentials?

Ed Darrell said...

You can't have it both ways, condemning the journalists and then complaining when the questions go directly to plain folks.

Both formats produce insights of value, for those who listen and watch. Who pays attention to anything, anymore?

Ed Darrell said...

Many anti-ID people will condemn anyone without a doctorate in science as an amateur, but that is poisening the well. (They also condemn pro-ID people with Ph.D. in science.) You must address the arguments. I have pubished, lectured, and debated in this area as well.

No, it's the charlatan promotion of nonsense I condemn, whatever the source. Crank science is crank science, even from Nobel winners.

ID advocates won't advance arguments, and won't defend them when trapped into admitting they exist. That doesn't make ID science, or non-crankery.

Fletcher said...

Ed Darrell:

You wrote "ID advocates won't advance arguments, and won't defend them when trapped into admitting they exist. That doesn't make ID science, or non-crankery."

A bit of a generalization don't you think?

I personally attended a public debate that Doug Groothuis had with two other guys (one was David Eller, an ID proponent science professor, the other a babbling attorney that didn't make any sense most of the time) and I can tell you first hand that Doug was the only one advancing arguments.

Eller resorted to ad hominem attacks, and was actually a "smart ass", for lack of a better word. He didn't advance any scientific arguments at all that I could notice. Doug was advancing arguments which were not even responded to.

Sir Fab said...

To Fletcher:

I toyed long and hard with the idea of going to the debate you referred to in your post. I decided to skip it because I did not think that the credentials of the two fellows who debated Dr. Groothuis were solid enough. I had a feeling that the two individuals that Dr. Groothuis debated might do more harm than good to the cause they wanted to support.

In any case, any good debate should involve peers that are qualified to discuss the subject at hand: biologist vs. biologist on biology, philospher vs. philosopher on philosophy, lawyer vs. layer on law, etc. To set up lawyer vs. philosopher, scientist vs. layman, or to have two philosophers discuss biology or other scientific topics may make for interesting television, radio, or public discussion, but it rarely serves the advancement of knowledge or truth.

Posting to blogs is one thing (and anyone, even you and I, can do it regardless of qualifications); formal debates should be a more serious matter.

John Stockwell said...

Fletcher wrote:
I personally attended a public debate that Doug Groothuis had with two other guys (one was David Eller, an ID proponent science professor, the other a babbling attorney that didn't make any sense most of the time) and I can tell you first hand that Doug was the only one advancing arguments.

Eller resorted to ad hominem attacks, and was actually a "smart ass", for lack of a better word. He didn't advance any scientific arguments at all that I could notice. Doug was advancing arguments which were not even responded to.


...which is, of course, immaterial. The scientific community does not engage in debating of this variety. This sort of thing is just grandstanding.


The forums of the scientific community are technical symposia and peer reviewed publications by scientific organizations. The ID community is free to have their own versions of these venues.

If ID turns out to be useful, then it will necessarily create results that dovetail with, as well as revolutionize, results of mainstream science. Only then will ID be accepted as science. (Don't hold your breath.)

John Stockwell said...

DG wrote:
There is a difference between not being an amateur and being an expert. I am not an amateur in the philosophy of science and ID, but I don't claim to be a expert. That I reserve for Mike Behe, Bill Dembski, Phil Johnson, Stephen Meyer and others. By the way Behe and Dembski have doctorates in science, as do other ID proponents.

So I guess DG is claiming to be a "talented amateur". I am not sure that a person who studies philosophy of science can learn anything about science that way. The best philosphers of science start out as scientists.

Going by his writings, Phil Johnson is a lawyer who seems to have no more than a layman's scientfic expertise or understanding. No scientic expertise there. (If Phil Johnson is an expert in ID, then ID is not science.)

Behe certianly has the scientific credentials, but Dembski is more of a mathematician-philospher. Both have had their basic notions effectively shot out of the water, but sort of go on merrily without acknowledging that fact.


You forgot Jonathan Wells, who actually has a PhD in a field that is relevant to developmental biology.

As far as "ID as science" is concerned, the topic is still not really delivering any goods.




What are Mr. Stockwell's scientific credentials?

Oh, not much really. I have only been working in the field of geophysics for about 25 years, authored a few technical papers, coauthored a leading textbook in seismic imaging, and been the PI of a project that supplies open source seismic software for about 11 years. Got a couple of awards from professional societies. Not much really.

...more than DG, though.

Douglas Groothuis said...

So, Mr. Stockwell, the scientist, knows a priori (apart from empirical evidence) that all my arguments were just grandstanding, and that real scientists don't debate.

That sounds like a circular argument if I ever heard one.

Ed Darrell said...

Dr. Groothuis, the point is that science isn't done in front of crowds with flapping jaws.

Science is done on the lab bench, Feynman said, and it's a good measure, a solid standard (especially when we recognize the "lab bench" can be anywhere). Where is the work ID has done on the lab bench? There is none.

What are the key ideas ID labs are researching? Oh, there are no significant ID labs, and the insignificant ones have produced zero research in 20 years.

Apologists like pleasant sounding and elegant arguments. Some apologists like to turn up their noses at media that attract and inform the masses. But hard results are what counts; and sometimes the citizens know what it is that affects them, what they need in life, and who is the leader who can inspire a nation.

There could be no foot washing if no one walked where their feet got dirty.

John Stockwell said...

DG:
So, Mr. Stockwell, the scientist, knows a priori (apart from empirical evidence) that all my arguments were just grandstanding, and that real scientists don't debate.

That sounds like a circular argument if I ever heard one.


I am not making an argument. I am stating a fact.

Dr. Groothuis, himself, repeatedly for years has asserted time and time again his disaproval for the many short-attention span oriented aspects of our culture that depends more on image than on substance.

Well, I have news for you Dr. Groothuis, debates such as those that you pride yourself on engaging in are simply soundbytes of another variety. The breadth and depth of scientific investigation and rigor of the scientific thought process simply cannot be captured or accurately represented in that format. Indeed, debating is useless to the scientist, which is why scientific education does not include such forms of discourse.

(Whenever I post on your blog, I am not debating, I am lecturing.)

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Mr. Stockwell wants to preclude debate as an avenue for rational persuasion so "the scientists" can have it all locked up in their labs.

Interesting!

By the way, I do not "pride myself" on doing debates. I do them rarely, cautiously, and I hope well. My main vocation is teaching.

John Stockwell said...

DG wrote:
Mr. Stockwell wants to preclude debate as an avenue for rational persuasion so "the scientists" can have it all locked up in their labs.

Interesting!



Science is a free marketplace of ideas conducted in the open forum of peer-reviewed scientific journals.
To claim that scientists "have it all locked up in their labs" is simply hyperbolae.

The standup debate died a natural death as a mode of presenting scientific results simply because this format does not separate debating and communication skill from actual information content.