“I noticed that all the prayers I used to offer to God, and all the prayers I now offer to Joe Pesci, are being answered at about the same fifty percent rate. Half the time I get what I want, half the time I don't...Same as the four-leaf clover and the horseshoe...same as the voodoo lady who tells you your fortune by squeezing the goat's testicles. It's all the same...so just pick your superstition, sit back, make a wish, and enjoy yourself...” George Carlin
I don't post much of late.. I do not apologize because I am not presumptuous enough to think that people anxiously await my next blog post. And it isn't that there are no potential postings in the draft folder of blogger.com. It is because as blogging has evolved, it is a degraded activity. One of the original bloggers for the Beacon was asked why she no longer blogged. She said for the same reason she doesn't frequent biker bars. It contributes more to human degradation than to any valuable or thought-provoking dialogue. If you look at blog posts and their comment sections or the comment sections in even the most reputable news sites, you find that the majority of comments are recitations of the mindless slogans of political hacks, or the uninformed expressions of the petty and peevish and ill-willed. And they nearly always descend into personal attacks and insult among the commenters. While the Internet provides valuable access to information sites, its interactive features display the mental and moral failures of humankind and show a horde of people busily engaged in degrading human life. Although, they are either too self-adsorbed or stupid to realize it.
Groping goat testicles to see if one can elicit some kind of personal affirmation is not about engaging in an informing conversation that can produce understanding of other perspectives. Most blog posts and commentaries do not engage in the journalistic or rhetorical purpose of convincing us to consider different viewpoints. The reaction they generally produce is to suggest that much of the human race is flirting with idiocy as a way of life.
Much of the problem comes from the major media's attempts to attract readership. The Huffington Post is probably the biggest practitioner, although Salon is right up there with it, in its attempts to compete with the social media for inane trivia and puerile obsessions. It has people actually working on posts that concern themselves with getting a glimpse of celebrity boobs.
There are two aspects of the new media that tend to reduce literacy in its audience. It does not concentrate on providing accurate and verified information, but focuses on diverting attention so that the advertising and entertainment function becomes its primary concern. And, as teachers and writers have known for some time, digital information reduces reading comprehension—teachers and editors find that that the cut-and-paste and Internet search processes often lead student writers and readers to manipulate words with little knowledge or understanding of what they actually say.
Threads of comments abound with the hackwork slogans and platitudes of politics, but most threads demonstrate that very few people can stay on topic. Most respond to blog statements by reciting their favorite bits of cant, whether or not it has any merit of veracity or knowledge of the subject. So many people are conditioned like Pavlov’s dog salivating at the ring of a bell. Their responses are conditioned patterns of behavior, not the result of comprehension through actual cognitive activity.
This matter of the illiteracy of so much of the public is a symptom of the real problem in education. For many years, people in the conservative movement have criticized public education when it does not condition students to think and say and do things that conform to the dogmas of the conservative mentality. Any educational activity that motivates independent and original thought is a regarded as a threat. Teachers are evaluated not on how they teach students to use and develop their thinking skills and their learning habits, but on how they indoctrinate students into a canned set of dogmas as measured on standardized tests. The constant preparation for standardized tests limits the classroom activity and content to teaching to the test. Teachers are evaluated on how well they have done their indoctrinating and the schools are ranked on well they enforce the indoctrination process. No individual thinking and things that inspire it, such as literature, is allowed.
The new illiteracy is catered to by the social and legacy media in their quests for audience. No form of writing illustrates that quest more than the listicle. A listicle is an article based upon a list of some kind. Examples are:
The first problem with listicles is the matter of ranking things. Were the ilthings listed derived from criteria established by some comprehensive, scientific process Or were they the product of some writer contriving some lists that might grab some readers’ interests. The basis for ranking things is the assumption that some things are better than others. For people, it denies the idea of equality. And many people are devoted to the notion that some things are better and superior to others. Most listicles operate on the belief of inequality. And that is dangerous mental territory.
While many listicles may seem trivial and entertaie ning, the format of the listicle reinforces that notion that underlies mass, standardized testing. That ntition is that the premise of the universe is inequality and things can be ranked so that the lowest of things on the inequality scale have earned negative discrimination. Under the rules of inequality, teachers can be found ineffective and fired; schools can be designated for condemnation and closure; some races as inferior; some people as unworthy of life. The listcle reinforces that notion the all things can be defined and ranked on some criteria of worthiness, denying the premise of our decomcracy that all people are created equal.
The criteria of most listicles is derived from groping those goat testicles. In this age of inequality, they are all we-ve got. Unless you are a very discerning reader. And our education system is designed to rank them as unworthy.