Everything Louder

vu overloadI’ve been watching the cable news a lot lately, and it fills me with dismay. I’m seeing coming to fruition a crop that I’ve been warning about for over 40 years. I’ve referred to it as the Death of a Liberal Arts Education.

As this crop of useless weeds chokes the life out of the nutritious and necessary political and social fauna and flora, I find that we’ve arrived at an even greater loss: Utter Dialectic Failure!

That’s a topic for future posts. Right now I want to ask:

Why is the needle always set to pegged?

Turn on the TV. Go to the movies. Watch the cable news stations. Read some comments online.

We’ve become a very loud society. Even before the web the internet was described as a public park filled with people standing on soap boxes proclaiming their views at the top of their lungs.

pressure overloadAnd no one listening.

The web — and how everything comes with a comment section now — has just amplified this to serious overload conditions.

And still no one listens.

[The words listen and silent use the same letters!]

The tendency — as always; part of the human condition apparently — is to blame something or someone else. “Everything would be great (again)… if not for X!”

It’s not X (or Y or Z).

It’s U + S… Us!

We have to change.

We have to take facts and the truth seriously. We have to take education and knowledge seriously.

We have to stop being so polarized and be willing to admit when the other side has a point. Both sides usually do.

We have to stop being so obsessed with us versus them, because — as the document says — it’s we the people.

We have to grow up.

And until we understand that, the song will remain the same.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

16 responses to “Everything Louder

  • rung2diotimasladder

    Loud gets attention, until everyone and everything becomes loud. I’ve stopped listening a long time ago. I find that it’s not just political pundits, but also general noise. You can’t even pump gas without some advertisement blaring at you (I’ve learned to seek the “mute” button in advance). It seems to me that even the music in the shopping malls and in restaurants has gotten louder…or am I just getting older?

    In any case, it seems people like noise.

    On political noise, I can’t stand O’Reilly. That dude grates on my nerves the second he opens his mouth. I can’t stand discourse that purports to be “about issues” but is nothing more than hysterical screaming. And I’ll concede that he makes good points sometimes, but the manner…the manner…yuck.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “Loud gets attention, until everyone and everything becomes loud.”

      Exactly. And then to get attention, you have to get louder. And eventually we end up with Donald friggin’ Trump. Who is loudness personified.

      “You can’t even pump gas without some advertisement blaring at you”

      If certain SF scenarios are correct, that’s only going to get worse. Remember the targeted ads from Minority Report? That technology is basically here; it’s just too expensive… for the moment.

      “…or am I just getting older?”

      I’m pretty certain that, unless your last name it Button, you are, in fact, getting older (you crazy time traveler, you).

      “In any case, it seems people like noise.”

      Even I like to crank it up sometimes, but quiet and silence is nice, too!

      “On political noise, I can’t stand O’Reilly.”

      Heh! (And kudos for spelling his name right!) Every time I find myself starting to like him (because he is smart and, as you say, makes good points sometimes) he goes and says something that makes me scream. Literally. (And I mean literally literally.)

      Totally with you on fake discourse. Exactly what I mean by Dialectic Failure. (And I don’t mean your flux capacitor shorted out — that would be a dielectric failure. In this case, society is shorting out.)

      The thing that’s really surprised me is that Fox News (FNN) may be better journalists than CNN or MSNBC. You have to filter out their extreme bias and constant Obama-slamming (although I don’t like the guy, either), but they do offer value I’ve found.

      They cover stories CNN and MSNBC ignore, although the problem there is that, without a second source, it’s harder to spot the bias. For instance, only FNN covered that Iran tested two ICBMs in the last months of 2015. In apparent violation of UN rules (and the new treaty?).

      What FNN doesn’t explain is whether those are two of dozens and Iran does this all the time, so it’s no big deal, or whether this was, in fact, special and noteworthy.

      Still, as we’ve discussed, it’s the sociological aspects of it all that fascinate me most. I don’t blame the news… it only exists because we watch it (so I blame us… well, everyone except me and a few select people).

      [sigh] Yeah, that’s right. Everything would be great (again) if not for everyone else! o_O

      • rung2diotimasladder

        On Trump, I’m still mystified by him. I tend not to take politicians at face value, so I have a tendency to think he knows exactly what he’s doing, especially given his polls. I can’t imagine he really thinks what he’s saying. I suspect he just gets fired up and says whatever the hell he wants. But perhaps he really is an idiot. And if he is what he is, then that would be too scary. Too scary. Like, if he gets elected president I’m moving to Canada scary.

        And I can’t stop thinking about Jeb. Why did George get to be president? They don’t even seem to be related. (Not that I’d ever vote for him or that I like him, but in comparison to his brother he seems like an Einstein.)

        I wish I could like Bernie (being a former Vermonter myself) but if he says “one percent” or “one tenth of one percent” or even the word “percent” one more time, I will scream. (Actually, I already have.) Yes, we know that a small number of people are really wealthy and you want free college tuition. MOVE ON!

        I did see Minority Report a long time ago and don’t remember much of it, but I suppose it could happen. On the other hand, we’ve become increasingly adept at blocking out advertising. Ads will have to change, and they already have to some degree. There’s the targeting, which is somewhat effective, but then there’s also Groupon and Livingsocial…which we actually open our doors to. Those have changed it seems to me. It used to be about finding local deals, but they’re becoming increasingly more Amazon-like. I notice the same stupid ads over and over and I’m considering getting rid of both (but if I did that, I wouldn’t get many emails, and that would be sort of sad.) 🙂

        I know what you mean about Fox. I don’t watch it myself, but my husband gives me the news reports of the day. You wouldn’t believe how much news he watches. He wakes up, reads the NYT nearly cover to cover, goes to the gym and watches all the right-leaning stations simultaneously, then comes home to watch other news stations, including the PBS News hour, until about eight when we turn on Netflix. I would vomit if I had to take in that much.

        I know what you mean about spotting the bias. It’s hard to know what’s really going on. Sometimes the news focuses on a certain kind of thing which may or may not have been happening all along without getting reported, but then they report it and it becomes a big deal.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “I have a tendency to think he knows exactly what he’s doing”

        People who know him do say he’s pretty smart, and he has accomplished a lot (it’s not easy getting buildings built in NYC).

        It’s possible he’s clinically bonkers in some way. Even now, common wisdom (and the numbers) suggests he can’t possibly win (although in these crazy times, who knows). But if he’s completely lucid and intelligent… why is he doing this? Does he really want to be President?

        One of his campaign organizations… I mean MSNBC has shown a lot of him speaking at his rallies, and he sounds to me like a comedian doing a bit. That overblown hyperbole is the purview of comedy bits.

        So what the hell is he doing? Deliberately taking the piss (as the Brits say) out of the GOP? (Wouldn’t that be a hoot if it was all a plot!)

        The real test will be those first Primary states (OH, NH, SC, NV). If Donnie Boy loses there, will that be (finally, thank God) it? My Christmas wish is that he is clinical and we get to see him implode on stage at some point.

        In my wildest fantasies it’s a plot to decimate the GOP and identify the stupidest segment of the USA so they can be rounded up and loaded on the B ark.

        “I can’t stop thinking about Jeb.”

        He’s the one GOP candidate I’d most like to see on the ticket. It would be a sign that the GOP is returning to sanity.

        Cruz, really, is just as scary as Trump. More, really, since Cruz has political savvy and clear and present intelligence. Rubio is almost as scary as Cruz from a progressive standpoint. (But I’m pretty sure neither could win the General election.) It’s just in comparison to Trump that those two look “not so bad.”

        Which leaves Carson and Christie… I wouldn’t be thrilled with either as President, and I don’t think either has a chance. If they drop out, Bush has a better shot (assuming he doesn’t drop out).

        My current theory is that USAnians — being USAnians — will lose interest in their shiny new toy and move on after a few months, especially if he loses a few Primaries. I think people just might get tired of the act.

        OTOH, he’s defied prediction thus far, so who the hell knows. It’s probably a sign of the coming apocalypse, or something. “When a chump clown becomes the leader of a once mighty nation, then fire and acid shall rain down upon the flock.”

        “I wish I could like Bernie”

        He’d be okay, but I know what you mean about his one-note song. That’s what turned me off to his appearance on Stephen Colbert’s new show. He didn’t answer Stephen’s questions; he just did his one-note song.

        “On the other hand, we’ve become increasingly adept at blocking out advertising.”

        It’s the classic lock maker versus lock picker arms race!

        “I would vomit if I had to take in that much.”

        Perhaps he’s addicted, too. I’ve realized it really does tap into that asynchronous reward system that’s involved in, for instance, gambling and smart phone addictions.

        All those systems involve focusing on something that asynchronously provides some form of “reward” — getting a new tweet or email, winning (rather than, as usual, losing) a bet, getting a new factoid from the news.

        “I know what you mean about spotting the bias.”

        That’s why you need multiple sources to play off against each other. And, frankly, FNN and MSNBC are clear political organs, so you have to take that into account. I consider them mostly mirror images of each other.

        But all three are television stations and what they produce is mainly a matrix for the commercial air time. So long as they’re driven by ratings and selling that air time, you can’t take them too seriously.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        “(Wouldn’t that be a hoot if it was all a plot!)”

        I normally don’t buy into conspiracy theories, but the novelist in me can’t help but jump to this conclusion. The implications of what’s going on now are surreal. I see a lot of my friends bashing Trump on Facebook, but I can’t seem to join them, not even with a thumbs up. I just see their bashing as a lack of irony and imagination.

        When Trump first started his shenanigans, I came up with the idea that he’s really on Hilary’s side. I was so excited about my theory that I looked online to see if anyone else had thought of it, and was disappointed to see that they had. Oh well, you can’t win them all. (I suppose I could liken myself to Leibniz since I came up with the theory independently.) But now that things are taking off for him, the conspiracy theory that he’s on Clinton’s side seems pretty weak. I can’t help but feel that something even more ironic is happening. He’s like a jester holding up a mirror to America, turning it into a REAL reality show. He has everyone talking about him, everyone watching. It seems that’s what he wants. And it’s understandable that the democrats would focus on him—picking the worst of the Republicans to put down is a tactical move. But they’re putting down the rhetoric, the mindless crap he’s spewing, and who knows whether or not they’ve attacked the real man behind the rhetoric. (I suspect he’s both clinical and intelligent. I think he started this as a joke, but perhaps now he’s got mixed intentions. He hasn’t been altogether nuts in the Rep. debates, not the way he’s been in his rallies. Hmmm.)

        Plus, some Trump supporters don’t necessarily believe in the things he says, but like him for being an outsider, for not playing the game. I don’t know what to make of this phenomenon, but I’m not going to bash him just yet.

        On the others, Jeb stands out as the most reasonable of them all. I can’t help but feel the irony of this too. It’s kind of sickening to think we had to live through George when Jeb was there. Not saying I like Jeb, only that it would have been so much nicer to listen to him speak all those years instead of George. He can think on his feet, he can make avoid saying utterly stupid things. His voice doesn’t grate on my nerves. That’s all I mean.

        Carson is also a wild card. At first I liked his soft spoken demeanor, but…no.

        Rubio is interesting. I don’t agree with much of what he says, but he’s clearly an intelligent guy. Too bad he’s on the wrong side.

        Cruz…oh hell no.

        I’ve been enjoying the Republican debates, I have to admit. I know a lot of liberals don’t watch. As if they’re afraid their ideas might get tested…same thing that goes behind their avoidance of Fox news. I can’t wrap my mind around it. But I’ll admit this too—I watch the Republican debates because I can’t wait to see them bash each other. It’s so much more entertaining than the liberals agreeing with each other. (Although the last Dem. debate was a little less hand holding.)

        “He’d be okay, but I know what you mean about his one-note song. That’s what turned me off to his appearance on Stephen Colbert’s new show. He didn’t answer Stephen’s questions; he just did his one-note song.”

        I saw that too. Boy was I pissed for exactly the reason you mention. Bernie doesn’t seem capable of thinking on his feet, although that doesn’t seem to square with his temperament. He’s got his speeches and that’s all he can say. I don’t know whether that’s strategy on his part (perhaps he has people telling him what to say, what not to say), or whether he’s really out of things to say. If it’s the former, he’d better loosen up and let it out, otherwise I’m gonna think he doesn’t have any more ideas. I suspect he’s been instructed not to seem “socialist”…but I think given the current atmosphere, he could use his time in the spotlight to say what he really thinks. Then who knows what could happen. Right now Hilary creams him in debate. It’s like he’s not even there…she just gets really specific where he gives us his “one percent” rant. She barely has to attack him. She’s a damn good debater and he’d better come out swinging, with specifics. (And I don’t want to hear about how he voted in the past against Iraq…there again, he seems like some old dude who’s dropped the ball and so keeps repeating himself.)

        Shit. Who are we gonna vote for? This is the craziest election I’ve ever experienced. (Then again, my first vote wasn’t that long ago, and it was simply “not Bush.”)

        I guess you and my husband are “news junkies.” 🙂

        The mirror image metaphor makes a lot of sense. I might’ve told you this story, so forgive me if I have (especially after my rant about Bernie). Once my husband and I decided to pretend we were reporters during the FLDS child-raid in Eldorado, TX. We happened to be passing through, believe it or not, at the time when they were doing genetic testing. We also happened to have our video camera in the car—a real camera, not a phone camera. When we pulled up we saw a swarm of reporters and so we decided to jump in and see what we could find out. Turns out they knew less than we did. They were asking us for information! They seemed like a bunch of lazy but nice people…and they shared info with each other, cared about each other (one guy fell down when the swarm moved and everyone stopped to make sure he was all right.) It was a strange experience. I really felt like I was part of a bee hive…a sort of collective intelligence. (Except Pauly Shore was there being a jerk. Everyone ignored him. He must’ve noticed something strange about me and my husband because he pushed his camera in my face and started pulling out women’s lingerie and sex toys while asking me if I thought the ladies in the FLDS would appreciate these. I responded in a boring way so that I could be sure the footage wouldn’t appear in some stupid TV show. I hate being filmed, so I was really pissed, but had to act like I wasn’t.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Sounds like we’re pretty much on the same page politically. A Clinton-Sanders ticket sounds interesting at first blush, but I wonder if they haven’t already drawn strong enough lines to make that awkward. Polls seem to be indicating that Sanders has better GOP-beating power than Clinton, yet Clinton seems the inevitable nominee.

        The Primaries are going to be very interesting!

        Merry Christmas to you and yours! Have a safe and happy time!

        “…Pauly Shore…”

        Ew… 😮

      • rung2diotimasladder

        I had no idea about the Sanders-beating-GOP poll. Interesting.

        And yeah, Pauly Shore is eeewww. Even worse in real life. An absolute jerk.

        Merry Christmas to you too!

  • dianasschwenk

    It’s funny Smitty. I used to speak louder and louder to be heard at meetings (everyone did so) and then I read somewhere if you want to be heard, dial it down and so I tried it at the next meeting. Everyone was talking over the other and I began to speak in a low voice, when people noticed they stopped talking and strained to hear me. It was very interesting! ❤
    Diana xo

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I can imagine! Counter-effects can be very effective.

      Long ago I was in a seminar to help us be better online support people. The teacher told us how people in different regions speak at different paces. For example, USAnian Southerners often speak (and live) at a more languid pace compared to “busy bee” Northerners (personally, I think those Southerners have the right idea).

      It turns out that fast speakers sometimes (subconsciously) try to speed up slower speakers by speaking even faster. Meanwhile, the slower speakers are trying to slow down the faster ones by speaking even slower. You can imagine how that works out.

      The real consequence is the fast speaker thinks the slow speaker is dim, and the slow speaker thinks the fast speaker is rude! Not the effect you’re going for in online support.

      The trick is for the (aware) faster speaker to slow down. Or the (aware) slow speaker to speed up. This causes the other to meet “you in the middle” as it were.

      The effect may not be huge, but it does work; I’ve done it. (OTOH, I have an ultra-fast-talking dear friend, and it never works on her. I just figure: Is that a whole lot of words in a really short time, or are you just glad to see me? 😀 )

      But these are interpersonal techniques that depend on the other(s) considering you a valuable part of the team (whatever the team might be). Doing the opposite doesn’t always work on the larger scale or when you don’t have a voice (probably women’s suffrage or civil rights could not have been obtained by speaking softly).

      Donnie Trump might be a counter-example. Doing all the wrong things seems to work all too well for him.

      Maybe the real lesson is: Always surprise them! XD

  • Sirius Bizinus

    The noise is getting to me. It’s like I’m watching family join a cult when they’re on Facebook and other screaming media. They’re getting super angry at everything that they’re coming across. And I just wish it would stop.

    That I can’t help anyone just makes the feelings worse.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      With ya on every word, bro. It feels like modern life is a form of insanity. And you can let yourself get caught up with the stampeding herd, or you can try to stand your ground (to your peril), but you ain’t gonna even deflect but a few, if that, let alone stop anyone.

      So I guess it is what it is (whatever that is). Take what heart you can from the occasional oddballs you meet who also live out on the flatlands of the bell curve and see the same view as you (one of the great saving graces of both literature and the internet).

      And there are signs of pushback and adjustment. There is a huge social inertia to the human race that keeps us going. For instance, there is growing recognition that smart phones are really cool and useful, but also very dangerous (in several ways). We’re slowly adjusting to their presence in society.

      There are also damping factors. When you strike a gong or bell (or anything that can vibrate), you get what’s sometimes called a ring wave (more technically, an underdamped harmonic oscillator). The struck thing vibrates at its resonant frequency, but the mass of the object vibrating uses up the energy of the strike, and the vibration dies out in a characteristic way — a ring wave.

      Metaphorically, society can be struck by, for instance, a new invention (e.g. printing press, smart phones) or a significant, traumatic event (the plague or 9/11). The mass of social inertia absorbs the energy of the strike and, eventually, the vibrations die down.

      As with any struck object, sometimes the object is in a slightly new position afterwards…

      The question now is whether society can eventually absorb the energy of so many repeated strikes in such a short time, or are we more like a bell that’s being over-rung… or a bridge that’s vibrating at resonant frequency due to wind or feet marching in step.

      What’s scary is that the vibrations do seem to be increasing. Lots of trend curves are increasing exponentially. We’re already ringing so hard that someone like Trump can easily increase the noise. (If you’ve ever rung a big bell, it’s hardest to get it going. Like a big ship, once going, it doesn’t take much to keep it going, and only a little more to make it increase!)

      So just hope that our damping factors eventually absorb all this energy and we settle down to some new position that manages all this new stuff without being so insane. I do believe social inertia is so great we almost certainly will find our way through this.

      We just happen to live in a kind of revolutionary time. The last hundred years has seen quantum physics, flight and space travel, very personal computers (and just computers, period), and trivially easy global communication. They’ve all become part of the social fabric.

      Also: global warming, global terrorism, and a global economy. The big blue bell is getting its chime rung but good.

      Maybe I’ve just read too much Earthlings uber alles science fiction, but you know what? I’d still bet on the human race.

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    As we discussed on another thread, I stopped watching cable news some years ago. The information to noise ratio was simply too low for me. Instead I get my news from the internet.

    Of course, there’s a lot of noise on the internet too, but I find it much easier to filter it out. And reading obnoxious statements annoy me a lot less than listening to them; maybe because I don’t have to listen to their tone of voice or watch their body language.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “I stopped watching cable news some years ago.”

      Indeed, but don’t let that blind you to this post’s real point: that noise exists on all levels; not just cable news (which is merely a symptom).

      TV news (in its purest form — think Edward R. Morrow) is the original reality show in that it deals with the real world, not scripted stories. TV news analysis (this time think of Morrow and McCarthy) starts to bring in the element of personalities, especially in the political arena.

      There’s a spectrum, with TV news on one end and shows like Housewives of [city] on the other. At some point in that spectrum, the genre of game shows (a different kind of reality show) flows in, and shows like Survivor, Big Race, and Big Brother, all embody the game show slash real people idea. By the time you get to the Housewives end, it’s pure personality.

      Shows like Meet the Press and Mythbusters are more on the news side of that spectrum (albeit at different points). Many people like reality shows that offer some knowledge of fashion or cooking along with the dramatics.

      What’s going on in CNN, MSNBC, and FNN, is a form of reality show without contests. And that “everything is a reality show” mindset is exactly why (IMO) we haven’t immediately laughed Donnie Boy off the stage. It’s just more of the same.

      These shows reflect society, which just fascinates me!

      As we’ve said elsewhere, there are definitely better places to get raw news! 🙂

      “…maybe because I don’t have to listen to their tone of voice or watch their body language.”

      Think about the implications of that… vocal tone and body language are a huge part of communication. What you’re really saying is that you can communicate there so long as there is a powerful filter that blocks key parts of the signal.

      In particular, words can lie with much greater ease than those other channels.

      But we shouldn’t focus on just cable news or interweb comments… the noise and furor are part of every aspect of life. If you’re able to truly unplug from the world for a week (a feat most are incapable of these days), when you came back to it, you’d see what I mean.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        The fact that I detest reality TV probably has some carryover for my disdain of cable news.

        I really don’t feel like I’m missing anything by not hearing Trump’s voice or watching his body language. I can tell by the written quotes that he’s a disaster. On those occasions where I do need to actually watch someone say something, I can pull up the inevitable youtube video. What I find is I usually forego is a lot of the emotional reaction, which I feel happier living without.

        As for laughing Trump off the stage, I think it’s a mistake to think people are supporting him purely for the shock jock aspect. For better or worse (mostly worse), he’s saying what a substantial portion of the Republican electorate want to hear. He’s just being much clearer about it than the dog-whistle statements the establishment candidates typically make.

        Trump isn’t the problem. His supporters are.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “Trump isn’t the problem. His supporters are.”

        Indeed they are. Donnie Boy is riding a wave of emotional public distress, a great deal of which is entirely justifiable (for instance, issues with economy, poverty, and race). Some of that angst is selfish, but there are some major problems in this country.

        And the truth is that it would be nice if Obama had a dash of Trump in him.

        But Trump is a problem. His comportment enables the worst natures of distressed and angry people. It’s irresponsible. His behavior has brought into the light — and legitimized — ideas that have no place in civilized society.

        Someone with the leadership abilities of Trump could chose a different tone while still being Trump. It’s possible to harness the energy without the hateful rhetoric.

        The biggest concern I have is the potential “perfect storm” of social factors — economic stress, job uncertainty, social unrest, terrorism — creates an easily ignited powder keg. In the current social context, what Trump is doing is foolish and dangerous.

        So he’s definitely a problem, but I totally agree the root problem — as the post points out — is us.

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