The PJ Tatler

I'll Be Your Filter

America used to have a single unified national culture. For over a century from the rise of the first mass-circulation newspapers in the early 19th century up through the 1950s just about everyone in the country shared the same information sources and thus formed their opinions based on the same “data set.” This helped to solidify a national identity but it also had terrible downsides. When the publishers and editors of the major newspapers realized that they essentially had a monopoly on information flow, the era of partisan spin and yellow journalism emerged in which newspapermen molded opinion, fabricated or suppressed scandals, and directed the course of current events either to advance a political cause or simply to drive up circulation and revenue.

Another downside was that a monolithic national culture prevented the flourishing or growth of subcultures. The mainstream dominated to such an extent that most people didn’t even know there was a non-mainstream. The baseball World Series, for example, was for decades the unrivaled climax of the sporting year, and the entire country awaited the outcome because they were told to do so by the media. But if you were among the few weirdos who didn’t like baseball, instead preferring badminton or rugby, you were out of luck; all news outlets obsessed over baseball often to the exclusion of everything else.

The first big fracture of the unified national culture happened in the 1950s with the emergence of what we now call “youth culture,” which of course went into overdrive in the 1960s and eventually subdivided and proliferated into countless little subcultures. Over the ensuing decades, as the baby boomers grew from rebellious teens into The Adults in Charge, their one-time “underground culture” became the dominant culture of the nation, while the former “mainstream culture” sank in a sea of subcultures and now remains merely as a curious subculture itself kept alive only by the allegiance of ossified super-seniors.

The arrival of the World Wide Web in the mid-90s and the subsequent rise of the news aggregators and blogs and search engines in the new century finally put the nail in the mainstream’s coffin, as for the first time people across the country could pick and choose their information sources to match their interests and philosophies. By now, at the end of 2011, it’s gotten to the point where people can and do have a completely personalized “data set” customized to their liking. This applies not just to hobbies and interests but also to politics and news. Each American now has the option to choose any number of Web sites, Twitter feeds, media outlets and blogs to serve essentially as “news filters” through which information reaches us. Depending on which filters you choose, you can have a completely different view of the world from that of your neighbor, your best friend, your brother.

Yes, there remains a default “neutral” data set, now referred to disparagingly as the “mainstream media,” but it seems (at least from my point of view) that fewer and fewer people pay it much mind, as only those too old, too young or too ignorant need to rely on others to do their filtering for them any more. Partly this is because personalization is more engaging, but partly it is also because the general public has grown more aware that the MSM is not neutral at all — it just pretends to be. It still engages in all sorts of “bias through omission,” covering only those stories which promote its agenda, whether it be political partisanship or the need for ratings. It’s no different than the yellow journalism of a century ago, just more surreptitious; let’s call it “vanilla journalism.”

Too many pundits these days spend their energy exposing, deconstructing or mocking the MSM narrative; that was fine when it was needed, but these days I think that the majority of Americans don’t care and don’t even know what the MSM is up to. The MSM is a marginalized and increasingly irrelevant filter used only by a small minority of news consumers.

Anyway, all of this is just a roundabout way of saying that when I wake up in the morning and look at my version of “the news,” it arrives at my eyeballs through a set of very eccentric and individualized filters I have set up so that I can specifically see those things I’m interested in. And so I often find out about odd little incidents and events and facts and so forth that bypassed most news consumers. And when you wake up and look at your version of the news, you too have your own filter — one of which, if you’re reading this, is me, or at least the PJMedia Tatler column, which you have (consciously or unconsciously) chosen to be one of your sources of information. “What have the Tatler authors got for me today?” you’re asking yourself right now.

Sometimes a particular single news item strikes me as so noteworthy that I’ll blog about it specifically. But other times, such as today, I’ll be somewhat-but-not-excessively intrigued by several different current events, none of which inspire me to highlight individually. In such cases I generally just shrug them off and go about my day without blogging about them at all, but today I’ll do something that many other bloggers do on a daily basis but which I’ve never done before — a “news dump,” or survey of mildly interesting or infuriating stories presented essentially without comment.

To paraphrase The Velvet Underground & Nico: I’ll be your filter.


OCCUPY SANTA CRUZ ADOPTS OBAMA CAMPAIGN SLOGAN

The children of Occupy Santa Cruz (“OSC” in their lingo) must have vaguely remembered that the phrase “Yes We Can” was popular a few years ago for some reason (forget exactly why), and so thought it was a good idea to re-use it as their own new slogan for their campaign to “reboot” OSC:

Click here to see the original in context (and if they’ve blocked incoming links from PJM, paste this address into a browser window: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/11/27/18701113.php).


ISLAMIC CREATIONISM HITS BRITAIN

I’ve been warning people for years about Harun Yahya and his brand of Islamic Creationism; in my opinion, he’s more problematic and more influential than all the American Christian creationists combined, because his reach is worldwide. Well, looks like England is starting to experience the Harun Yahya effect, and it’s not pretty:

Muslim medical students boycotting lectures on evolution… because it ‘clashes with the Koran’

Muslim students, including trainee doctors on one of Britain’s leading medical courses, are walking out of lectures on evolution claiming it conflicts with creationist ideas established in the Koran.

Professors at University College London have expressed concern over the increasing number of biology students boycotting lectures on Darwinist theory, which form an important part of the syllabus, citing their religion.

Similar to the beliefs expressed by fundamentalist Christians, Muslim opponents to Darwinism maintain that Allah created the world, mankind and all known species in a single act.

Steve Jones emeritus professor of human genetics at university college London has questioned why such students would want to study biology at all when it obviously conflicts with their beliefs.


Earlier this year Usama Hasan, iman of the Masjid al-Tawhid mosque in Leyton, received death threats for suggesting that Darwinism and Islam might be compatible.

Sources within the group Muslims4UK partly blame the growing popularity of creationist beliefs within Islam on Turkish author Harun Yahya who, influenced by the success of Christian creationists in America, has written several books denouncing Darwinist theory.

Yahya associates Dawinism with Nazism and his books are and videos are available at many Islamic bookshops in the UK and regularly feature on Islamic television channels.

Speakers regularly tour Britain lecturing on Yahya’s beliefs.


THE MOST BIZARRE SPORTS BRAWL YOU’LL EVER SEE

If you haven’t yet seen this video of football legend Joe Kapp receiving an award from the Canadian Football League alongside one-time archrival Angelo Mosca, you’re in for a “treat” — that is, if you enjoy seeing old men beat each other to a pulp:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kThLSiykiHY


RICHMOND VA AUDITS TEA PARTY FOR DARING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT UNFAIR TREATMENT

This one’s already making the rounds so you may already know about it, but the sheer audacity of liberal city governments needs to be exposed over and over:

Outrage!… After Demanding Refund From City, Richmond Tea Party Gets Letter – “You’re Being Audited”

The City of Richmond charged the local tea party $10,000 to hold three rallies at the Kanawha Plaza … But, the #Occupy squatters were allowed to set up a tent city on the plaza for free.

After complaining about this double standard and demanding a refund the Richmond tea party received a letter last week that they are being audited.


OCCUPY OAKLAND DOUBLES DOWN, THREATENS TO RE-TAKE PLAZA AFTER EVICTION

Without a home base to embody their cause, Occupy Oakland, recently evicted for the second time from their camp at Frank Ogawa Plaza, feel restless. Solution? Try, try again!

In direct defiance of police orders, they’re now going to try re-occupying downtown Oakland for the third time:

Re-occupying Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza on Tue 11/29

On Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at noon, Occupy Oakland activists will retake Frank Ogawa a.k.a. Oscar Grant Plaza in downtown Oakland with a 24-hour, 7 day-a-week vigil. Occupiers hope to create a model for a new wave of “Occupation” protest throughout the United States.


UC BERKELEY HOSTS CORNEL WEST STAGE SHOW WITH CARL DIX, CO-FOUNDER OF THE REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST PARTY

August academic Cornel West is joining forces with Carl Dix for a spectacular stage show at UC Berkeley this Friday:

Cornel West & Carl Dix – a dialogue: What Future For Our Youth?

Two of the country’s most outspoken and politically engaged Black intellectuals – Cornel West and Carl Dix – will be speaking at UC Berkeley, at a moment when the campus has become a national focus of student protest, the Occupy movement, and a public outcry over police brutality.

This event will address issues at the at the heart of the campus and Occupy protests, the racism and inequalities facing society’s most oppressed, as well as broader issues of moral responsibility, the roots of injustice, and the prospects and pathways for fundamental social change. It is free and open to the pubic.

Mr. Dix and Dr. West have joined Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy protests, and have recently launched a new initiative against mass incarceration.

CORNEL WEST is one of America’s most provocative public intellectuals and has been a champion for racial justice since childhood. His writing, speaking, and teaching weave together the traditions of the black Baptist Church, progressive politics, and jazz. …

CARL DIX is a longtime revolutionary and a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. In 1970 Carl was one of the Fort Lewis 6, six GIs who refused orders to go to Vietnam. He served 2 years in Leavenworth Military Penitentiary for his stand….

Also see: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/11/11/18698929.php?show_comments=1#18700595