News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The same priorities, but less time

The Northern Valley Beacon was started as a vehicle for fact-checking and amplifying information released to the public by the media and internet sites, including web logs. The problem with web logs is that postings get responses from other bloggers, both positive and negative, and sometimes we get tempted to answer them. When you do answer them, you find yourself either standing in the stream-play of a pissing match or in a finger-up-your-buddy's-hole crowing contest about how utterly precious we bloggers are. We find the latter more revolting than the former.

Bl0ggers of both ends of the political spectrum--except for a few like Doug on Dakota Today--persist in a logical fallacy and a cheap rhetorical trick. They drift off into the ad hominem representation of other people rather than respond to what the other people are actually saying. In its crudest form this practice devolves into name calling. In its more fanciful form, it involves casting individuals in stereotypical and belittling images. The mildest condemnation we can make of this practice is that it is a form of intellectual incompetence and often is result of a warped ego. And it is a form of intellectual incompetence that enjoys great bipartisan support.

In our efforts to avoid getting mired in blogging-games and trying to maintain a focus on information, we do not offer links to other blogs unless we cite them for some reason. We seldom respond to other blogs. Insofar as blogs do sometimes become facets of events and developments, we do review them. Actually, some of our silent supporters review them and call our attention to them on occasion.

For some time, we have been puzzling over how to use the efficiency and popularity of the Internet to contribute to a thoughtful and credible examination of public discourse. We keep running into something that Marshall McLuhan noted 40 years ago and coined in his epithet that "the medium is the message." Messages in blogs tend to get subsumed by the medium. Like the juvenile acronyms used in instant messaging and discussion boards, customs and terms in blogging establish a context that morphs away the orginal content and intent of postings by forcing them through what has evolved into a cultural filter.

Some time ago S. I. Hayakawa (a professor of linguistics, president of San Francisco State U., and a U.S. Senator) talked of the age of communication as thrusting we humans into a blizzard of words. Rather than serving as the intellectual lifeblood of humankind, words by their superabundance, became a stormy environment against which we have to battle for our bearings and our personal survival. The Internet has increased the blizzard exponentially. Most people are no longer educated in rhetoric so that they may discern words which give accurate reports of the real world and words which are mere symptoms of the mentalities of those who utter them. Reading critically and accurately has become a strenuous act. Most people do not have the time to sort through the drifts of words that encounter them each step of their life. We have been joining with other students of rhetoric and literature to explore how the Internet could be used as a clarifying force in human discussion rather than an impediment and barrier to understanding.

When we examine the false reports and logical failures in the traditional news media of our time, we are daunted. But when we examine the falsehoods, inaccuracies, and failures of logic in blogs, all compounded by slovenly and incompetent writing, especially in blogs with regional settings, we realize we are puny swimmers trying to surmount a tsunami of verbiage.

So, we are concentrating on other matters and not spending much time on blogging. Consequently, we have a backlog of subjects on which we should make postings but have to expend out time and energy on other matters. We hope to get around to them. They are:

  • Response to a letter we received on our blogs about the resistance to the Northern Beef Packers plant in Aberdeen and the racial attitudes in which that resistance has been mounted.
  • John Thune's visit to Aberdeen in regard to flagging use of the regional airport and his previous stances and actions regarding transportation in the Aberdeen area.
  • More on the control of energy production and distribution in this part of the state by foreign corporations.
  • The increasing barriers in government to public knowledge of what is going on and who is in control.
  • The serious problems that affect higher education in South Dakota and the serious threat to Northern State University's survival as a comprehensive institution.

Meanwhile, we are shoveling the April snow in our driveway and the perpetual detritus from the blizzard of words.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States