Thursday, October 21, 2010

The power of print

I was reading a newspaper article about performance scores in local schools. There were a number of times while reading the text I went back to an included table of information to confirm statements.

It dawned on me that if I had been getting this information over the broadcast (mostly TV) media it would have been almost impossible to check or recheck a statement. The broadcast visual is in the background and then, poof, it’s gone. The same for the pundit or talking head who presented the audio.

The internet may be more flexible to read and double check than broadcast media, but only if the information is available.

Weekly and monthly magazines offer a much more permanent file of information than does even the internet. It’s not difficult to browse through an old magazine (especially in the barbershop or doctor’s office) and re-evaluate an old story. Try doing this on the broadcast media or internet, it’s not something you’re likely to do, or be able to do.

But back to my base thought. Will the gradual demise of the print media result in our looking at information a different way? Will today’s broadcast always supplant yesterday’s information? Will we become more susceptible to propaganda?

We can always find appropriate information on the internet, but can we find the most important information? The paradox is that information which is most available to us is the information we have the least ability to act on.

Riots in France? What are you going to do about it? The same for Pakistan’s internal strife, corruption in Afghanistan, England reducing it’s budget. Plenty of internet coverage, but mostly a rehash of the print reporting.

But, what about what’s happening in your home town? Does the internet have coverage of your city council or school board meetings? Even if the internet were to report on these, it would only be a rerun of the local paper’s print reporting.

But strangely enough, that’s the news you can most easily act on. Not just the official government actions but the high school sports schedules and scores and local events. Can you get movie listings and times without resorting to print media? Without the internet getting it from print media?

Once you don’t know what’s happening around you locally you’re on the way to ignorance of what most directly effects your day to day life. It’s only a small step to then not paying that much attention to what else is happening in the world.

We’ve come to accept punditry as information when it’s just opinion. We’re being fed propaganda as information. I recently came across the term “management by propaganda”. I think we’re much closer to accepting propaganda as news or information than we think.

I haven’t come to any conclusion but speculate we will become much more shallowly informed and more easily mislead. If the last several years of spin and propaganda haven’t made you feel manipulated then you’re already accepting that as real information.

God help the country.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Paradox in solving economic situation

Reading letters to the editor recently, I see the impossibility of anyone coming up with a publicly acceptable solution. The suggestions are either mutually exclusive or contain contradicting recommendations. An obvious solution to government debt is to reduce government expenditures. Whether it’s by reducing programs or reducing personnel, it ends up with the same amount of money circulating in the economy.

Every program eliminated results in less money going to someone. These some ones then lose a paying job. This in turn increases unemployment and reduces the money available to various families to spend in the economy.

Technically, the money not spent by the government will remain in taxpayers pockets. These taxpayers will then spend it on some service or product that will require an employer to hire the out of work former government employee.

On the other hand, people could spend less money, saving for a rainy day, which in turn would put some worker out of a job because his employer doesn’t need as many workers.

Those who want to shrink government forget this means less of something. Are we willing to reduce the numbers of government meat inspectors or turn the air traffic control system to the private sector?

It’s all a closed system where everything affects everything else. Most people can find some one thing they see no need for to cut out and, once they’ve done that, presume the problem would be solved as soon as the dummies in charge realize where the money is being wasted.

No one seems to think someone else want’s to cut out things we think are important. Here’s where the art of politics comes in. By knowing what their constituents think is important and what isn’t they can bargain together, each taking a negative reaction and each taking a little credit

My villain for all this is our, and the world’s, living beyond our means. As long as property values and incomes were going up we could cover our debts. But, once some sector (housing)turned down our house of cards collapsed. When this is all over we will be a more frugal society. The impact won’t be anything like that which followed the great depression but will a smaller version.