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September 25th, 2008
05:32 pm
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And this is why the American empire will fall
Here's some recent depressing but ultimately revealing trivia: Brad Pitt most dangerous search on the web
Security firm McAfee said that the film star's name is more likely to direct a user to malicious sites than any other celebrity's name. ...

Around 18 per cent of searches lead to wallpapers, screen savers and photos that carry some sort of malware. Searching for Brad Pitt screensavers bumps the infection risk up to 50 per cent.

What's most depressing isn't the proliferation of malware; that's a direct annoyance to me in my line of work, but the nation can survive bad computer programs.

What it can't survive is why Brad Pitt is the most dangerous search on the Web:
"Americans' obsession with celebrity lifestyles makes them an obvious target, " said [Jeff Green, senior vice president of product development at McAfee].

Spammers, malware writers, and other various Internet evildoers are -- you have to acknowledge -- pragmatic. Their profits depend on doing what works; they send out spam because people buy from it, and similarly, they poison celebrity searches because that's what people care most about.

And when people obsess about trivialities, real issues get buried, and rot and corruption set in. Nowhere is this more visible than politics.

America famously elected its last president because of his public persona as a "guy you'd want to drink a beer with." Beer guy gave us record deficits; eight years of housing bubble expansion that we're just now starting to see the aftershocks of; further steps away from rational (i.e. nationalized*) healthcare; an unnecessary war that five years later is still draining American blood and money for no tangible benefit; de facto indifference to the storm destruction of a major American city; naked cronyism; and a shockingly anti-intellectual, anti-science attitude that has affected policy decisions small and large.

Now the guy running for office from the same party is running a campaign telling people that the election is not about issues, he's "proud" of his ad ridiculing his opponent as a celebrity; and he's now talking about cancelling the first presidential debate, possibly as a way to keep his VP pick from talking in public. (Since she keeps spouting absurdities and incoherencies, that may not actually be a dumb campaign move.) But at least he's "suspended his campaign" due to dramatic economic issues he won't bother to read three pages over. For some value of "suspend" that looks identical to business as usual. Not to mention so many brazen and transparent lies straight from the campaign itself that I'd get RSI trying to link them all (though commenters are welcome to pitch in their favorites).

In any country with a rational and informed population, McCain would have long ago tanked. He'd be in the 27 percent basement. When his name came up in polite conversation, people would mutter and pull at their collars and change the subject.

But he's still in close contention for the presidency. Clearly, for some time now we have not been a serious nation with a populace capable of making rational decisions on political issues.

I don't think it's a lost cause yet ... but we're very near the tipping point. And if the disgrace of the last four years isn't enough to bring us back from the brink, I have a very hard time imaging what could.

How did we get this far? bradhicks thinks it's deliberate ignorance, and though there's a persuasive case for that (or for a lowest common denominator explanation), my own belief is that it's the fault of the mass media. Some of it is ingrained, like the he-said-she-said soundbiting that passes for news and seems incapable of contextualizing discussions with facts; some of it is deliberate, like the GOP working the refs for decades with wounded howls about the "liberal media" while thumbing the scales with Fox News.

And some of it, well, is exactly what I'm talking about here. Drama sells better than maturity. Petty gossip gets ratings. So gossip gets elevated and enshrined while the adults trying to fix our damn problems are marginalized.

--
* I am so sick of the conservative/libertarian snappy comeback to this: "Yes, let's give your health decisions to the people who so capably manage [the Post Office, the DMV, etc]." The implication being that clearly government-run bureaucracies are worse than corporate-run bureaucracies (which is hardly a settled question**); and that free enterprise works better for everything everywhere, so the same must be true for health care. Except it isn't if you actually look at the statistics. We spend more than any other first-world nation for our private insurance-based system, and for our troubles we get no coverage for 15% of the population, and mediocre performance and overall health#. The people most satisfied with their healthcare in America are the ones in the government-run VA and Medicaid programs. And gods forbid anything happen to me while I'm uninsured, because the phrase "preexisting conditions" scares me far more than "waiting lines" or "bureaucrats".
** I wrote this rant back before McCain provided the perfect snappy comeback for me.

Current Location: ~spiral
Current Mood: enragedrantlicious
Current Music: Yngwie Malmsteen, "Masquerade"
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From:mr_silvers
Date:September 26th, 2008 01:15 am (UTC)
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My feeling is the voters with the most power to sway elections can do so via media means and monetary means, affecting the masses with the trivial or with ad campaigns rivaling the maligned sessions of brainwashing tested out by the government, thusly ensuring those who can benefit them the most will make into a position of power.
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From:momentrabbit
Date:September 26th, 2008 01:53 am (UTC)
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That interview clip with Couric.. that's almost word salad.

Wow.
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From:luna_torquill
Date:September 26th, 2008 04:25 am (UTC)
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What's gone wrong is that one of the two major parties (don't get me started on the two-party-only political system that supported this) started deliberately pandering to what would normally be a fringe group: authoritarians. Everything else falls in place if you consider how authoritarians think:

* Identity trumps policy, aka who you are is more important than what you do.
* Never question your leader. Anyone who does is the Enemy.
* Strive for conformity, be part of the herd. Thinking is not necessary.
* Conforming to rigid societal roles is not just desirable, it is moral. (see: anti-feminism, racism, nuclear families, etc.)

If you take those -- and they're just a few parts of the authoritarian worldview -- and add in the GOP and corporate support, you get media outlets that spout blatant lies and have huge numbers of dittohead followers, an extremely polarized electorate which doesn't seem to care what politicians say or claim their policy is so long as they look and sound like Joe Blow, and mindless cookie-cutter Christian evangelicals that can't think any further than their bowl of ice cream and a glam mag.

The worst part is, the infiltration of the media spreads the infection, because mainstream "news" outlets and the sheer number of radio shows tell people that this sort of worldview is normal. It's become how the popular, successful, and trustworthy people think, rather than the extreme and rather (societally) sick fringe it is elsewhere.

You can't get a GOP supporter to switch sides no matter what you say. The only thing that shakes them is a blow to their authoritarian foundations, similar to the sudden wake-up some cult followers have when they lose faith in their leader. They'll swallow anything before that point.

It doesn't contradict your prediction of the fall of this society, it strengthens it. Very sad.
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From:mouser
Date:September 26th, 2008 04:38 am (UTC)
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Brad Pitt is a more dangerous search then song lyrics? Impressive.
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From:zon14
Date:September 26th, 2008 11:19 am (UTC)
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Brings to mind the following.

"Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people." - I don't remember

I'm not sure if we can really blame the media or what for all this. It seems to have gone the way of Pravda, where everyone reads it, but nobody believes a word of it.

True corporate takeover did do a massive retreat on responsible journalism. Some say it's what sells. But then, Rupert Murdock's networks are bleeding cash like you wouldn't believe. So one is left with the propaganda explanation.
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