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April 02, 2012

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I think some people seek out fear. They are predisposed to be fearful and seek reinforcement of that. In fact taht need to find a basis for fear might be one of the distinguishing characteristics of the 27% percenters.

Doc, thanks for this. I think I agree, in the sense that so much more is available on the net, and people who take the time, can look at both (all?) sides of the sensation(s) of the day.

So, for people who aren't unbalanced to begin with, and who can sift the wheat from the chaff using the net and other sources, so much of what others might fear is really more, if not far more, hype than reality.

Ok. But, does that mean there are not very real reasons for fundamental concern? Many here and elsewhere view income/wealth distribution and climate changes as potentially apocalyptic events. I have my own set of long term concerns (maybe I need help, maybe it's all in my head).

What if (1) TV is mostly sensationalist BS and (2) the net is so 'here and now' that real, long term, organic issues are barely acknowledged much less addressed. Assuming there is a viable, here-and-now solution.

Put differently, just because you aren't paranoid, doesn't mean there isn't something really bad out there.

There is something about the internet that causes people to project all manner of random nonsense onto it. The notion that is is more fear driven than TV seems of a piece with earlier fears that 'anyone can say anything at all!!!' so therefore we had to impose this massive regulatory edifice on internet speakers so that they could meet the (nonexistent) standards of journalists. Blogger ethics panels, story at 11, etc.


What if (1) TV is mostly sensationalist BS and (2) the net is so 'here and now' that real, long term, organic issues are barely acknowledged much less addressed.

I think before we start blaming the internet, we should maybe consider things like the institutional structure of American governance. American government has an unusually large number of veto points compared to peer systems, and the effect is that it is very very hard to effect real change. That seems like a bigger issue. I mean, they have the internet in Australia, but they also have a cap and trade regime.

just because you aren't paranoid, doesn't mean there isn't something really bad out there.

But if you are paranoid, the probability that any of your paranoid fears are actually real is pretty low. You shouldn't get credit for correctly recognizing one real fear if you insist that a million imaginary fears are also real.

I'm reminded of the "news" story, which I saw on local news some years ago, but which I'm pretty sure showed up on local news just about everywhere around the same time (a national, local story), regarding the levels of bacteria that could be found on most household kitchen counters.

Without questioning the accuracy of the information presented, all I could think was "Is this level of bacteria something new, and is it worth whatever effort would be required to significantly reduce it?"

I imagine the result of that broadcast was transiently to capture people's attention and to lead some of those people to wipe their counters down with diluted bleach on some regular basis until they got tired of doing it, after maybe a month.

On Wikipedia, I mistrust most highly anything that is significanly political. If I'm looking up the history of a rock band or something, I just don't care if it's not entirely accurate. If I'm looking up something technical, so long as it's esoteric enough, I tend to have more trust.

The thing about Wikipedia is that it usually presents a given subject with the aspects I'm interested in right in front of me, which doesn't seem to be the case as often on more authoritative sites. It's easier to go to Wikipedia first, get the piece of information I need, and verify it afterwards (if I think I need to) than it is to go to, say, a dot-gov site to find that same info in the first place.

On TV, when I do watch it, I find myself responding, often out loud, to the BS the talking heads spew than I used to. I don't know if that's a result of my on-line experiences or what, but I seem to be attempting to make the one-way communication into two-way communication, if in a futile and (at least seemingly) neurotic way.

As far a fear goes, I enjoy fear, but I like zombie-apocalypse or alien-invasion fantasy-based fear. Stuff that's never going to happen but that's fun to consider. I'm not sure what that means or if there's a difference between authoritarian conservatives and others in the consumption of that kind of stuff. (We already know there's a difference in Fox News consumption. Is that offset by zombie-apocalypse consumption?)

regarding the levels of bacteria that could be found on most household kitchen counters.

I worry about the bacteria count on keyboards.

On the Internet, the things that make me fearful and sad are the depressive rants. You know the ones: the post, usually in a comment thread but sometimes as the OP, where the author just rattles off a long, long single-paragraph list of every huge and horrifying problem they're upset about, and they all merge together into a spiraling vortex of hopelessness to create a cumulative impression that everything is worthless, the universe was created by a malicious entity, and the collapse of everything good and true is seconds away if it is not happened already.

For some reason, those really get to me.

Recently, there was a sad post by Kathleen Geier on, I think, Washington Monthly about the inexorable quality of right-wing political drift that was tailor-made to attract those. One commenter said society was about to collapse into a ten-thousand-year stone age. Another one said, no, actually the extinction of all sentient life would happen in the next few decades. Still another said they were at least happy they'd die in 20 years or so and not have to deal with inexorable failure any more.

I don't know why I pay attention to this stuff. For some reason I have a hard time staying away from it. There's some kind of tightrope between complacency and learned helplessness that is hard to stay on.

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