The Learning Curve American Style (Rough Draft)


On the topic of opinion editorial and interpretation of empirical fact.  
In setting out to lay down ideas for a podcast my initial thought was to allow for it to evolve over time.  Leaving room for refinement and space for a gradual development.  Oftentimes you see such endeavors aimed strictly at one medium or a more focused central idea.  I see nothing wrong with that but which idea I focus on may shift over time to encompass the wider range of my interests.  Thus I won't limit myself to say photography because I also do video.  Along those lines but in this essay I'll lay out some ideas that help underscore my perspective.  Whether the reader agrees with each point isn' the central question rather it's a walk through with examples of decision making.  


I may do commentary on politics and news from time to time as well because sometimes the spoken word provides for greater clarity of expression.  In "text form only" in the current social media climate it is likely to be taken the wrong way sooner or later.  In my case it tends to be by those who are expecting something more strident and less measured.  The truth is I don't let myself get all worked up on a given subject generally.  It's counter to my philosophy.  Thus some mention of the central ideas in my worldview would also be a natural subject.  No that I think emotion doesn't have it's place but it has to be balanced with objectivity and reason.


One such idea is I try to avoid all vestiges of hatred and prejudice and I do my best to apply that to people and things I disagree with. Although I may disagree with just about every word that comes out of a given politicians mouth that's just a conflict of ideas.  I draw the line at the tendency to dehumanize opponents.  It's not a thing you generally see in the mainstream American Free Press generally but it's relatively common elsewhere and in personal discourse pretending to be objective news.  One could take part in the tit for tat of partisanship but I have a preference for trying to stick to the high road a bit more. No one is perfect of course but in avoiding the extremes it's my theory you will have fewer reasons for regret later.  In allowing others their space you may also find you have created a space for yourself.  That's not to say criticism isn't warranted it's more a measure of the length to which one takes it.  An example would be a politician I disagree with.  I could go strictly after their character and paint them in a darker light.  I could also choose to focus on the actual problem and positions.  In going down the road of personal attacks though I think you lose some if not all substance.  Character assassination as such is something I shy away from. 


On the other hand I'd give the example of the lying politician.  It's one thing to simply misstate the facts so on that I'd question whether it's even a lie perhaps.  However if it fits a pattern and applies to a wide variety of subjects for instance that's a different matter.  All too often the character assassins seize upon popular prejudice and take the lesser crime I mentioned and use it to characterize the person overall.  In the latter case the issue of lies is more significant because of the percentages of truth versus falsity.  It's in the eye of the beholder how you weight that.  A statement that proves incorrect does not necessarily equate to a lie or we'd all be doomed to hell.  One should admit the error.  Where I think you get into a clearer area is with repeated and unrepentant lies.  Of the sort for instance coined by Adolf Hitler called "The Big Lie".  There are lies and then there are lies.  The Big Lie isn't equivalent to the garden variety often associated with American politicians individually but rather it's a sort of national lie that seeks to transcend the individual. 


Even there one could also characterize as a misstatement of facts.  I'll use a specific example on it in the past discussions of climate change.  It's been divided largely along party lines in the United States for at least a couple decades now.  In my worldview the voice of science is the voice I'm going to give the margin of error to.  Scientists aren't perfect but neither is anyone else and they at least apply what is known as scientific methodology.  Taken on the whole those who say 95% of scientists are mistaken about human impacts on the planets atmosphere are at the least misstating things I think.  Often though it's a deliberate misstatement of the facts.  When you have an entire political party representing tens of millions of people doing it I think you get to the level of a national lie.  The Big Lie.  It dosn't have to be unique to a single person.  I am of the opinion that untruth of that sort has set the stage for a politician to rise up in America though who lies so freely and often as to meet the standard of The Big Lie as it is generally conceived of in terms of authoritarian dictators.  That's the risk you run when you play such games.  The Republican Party has seldom seen such breadth in terms of candidates as it did in the primaries that gave rise to Trump.  Yet Trump was singular in how he stood out from the establishment of the conservative movement.  The uniqueness of a candidate largely abandoned by a big segment of his own party in the form of those who said "never Trump" and who found the man and his positions to be deplorable.  The ground had already been laid for a Trump-like persona long before those primaries I'd say.  Laid in the untruths and rejection of science in the American right wing.  The abandonment of the shared middle and the town commons.


Trump is what he is and the reader can reach their own conclusions.  I have no problem with people who voted for him.  That's a personal choice.  I will say I am quite confident he lied to you to get your vote though and that he continues to lie to the American people and the world on a largely unprecedented scale.  He's 70 years old at this point so I fully expect him to continue lying roughly 80% of the time.  With him there is a misstatement of fact that is a constant as well.  He makes his own and ignores all else.  I'm of the opinion that when you usher in a national policy that is essentially wrong about a large number of things on a factual basis sooner or later that is going to catch up to you in ways it might not have in the private sphere.  For better or worse we are in it now for the experiment of the new century.  Can a man who has a limited grasp of common facts about even the most rudimentary aspects of American democracy manage to not destroy or severely damage the country?  It's an open question at this point.  I do hope so though.


Philosophically the reason I reject Trumpism comes down to epistemology and education.  It's not unique to me though.  People who are more educated didn't vote for him in as large of numbers as those who are less educated.  The more you know the more it's really evident the man is appalling ignorant on any number of topics.  In fact I'd argue he's already proven he's not ideally qualified for running any public enterprise and it's debatable whether he was all that successful as a private entrepreneur.  What remains to be seen is whether the checks and balances of our government can work to constrain the recklessness he demonstrated in private business in a way the markets themselves never did.


I could detail the reasons I think these things but there's a catch 22 to trying that.  It all depends which universe you exist in as information goes.  The American free press isn't dead but it has evolved into something new in the 2000's compared to the 1900's and it's clearly driven by the relative and growing ubiquity of the network.  People tend to lambast MSM or mainstream media but I find that a faulty methodology.  Traditional media is a better fit albeit one that is doing it's best to adapt to the new times they find themselves in.  A truer picture is to employ internet concepts.  How many "eyeballs" a given form of media is attracting on a regular basis.  Taking that as a metric over say "brick and mortar" you get a different picture and it's all one big media that can be subdivided.  There are left, right, and centrist media.  There are media that cater to everything you can think of such as race or gender.  MSM is mantra used by new media to try to discredit the traditional free press.  Yet what it really amounts to is infighting in the new era free press.


It's a crucial point.  In order to heal the rifts in the country people are going to have to accept there just isn't any such thing as a monolithic media.  Rather what I look for is whether a given source is using some form of scientific method.  It can be applied to social science and fields like history as well as physics and such.  Where I draw a line is in how it's presented as factual.  There are those who essentially are arguing a point of view and then there are those who present facts.  One is not equivalent of the other.  In a reputable source they differentiate.  Opinion is fine but it should be acknowledged as such.  For instance it's a fact that President Trump lies more often than previous presidents and in a way that's different.  There are however various ways you can analyze it.  That's where the oped comes in.  The problem with a lot of new media is they lack the resources to gather the basic facts.  Instead they find themselves presenting opinion as the fact.  Were they admitting it was opinion and not hard fact I would not be as critical and it's the case with both left and right wing media.  The further you go to either extreme the more likely it will crop up because as you move further from the median there are fewer and fewer resources.  Where they get in trouble is the example I already laid out.  When they go against science and data that has been collected ad is publicly available.  Their opinion might be that 95% of scientists are wrong about the climate.  That does not make it factual. 


Probably the most egregious of these are those that are oriented on conspiracy theories.  Here president Trump provides a convenient example of the inconsistencies.  There are real world conspiracies and then there are ideas such as NASA transporting child slave labor to Mars.  In a real world situation it's easier for me to believe a billionaire might have the resources and poor judgement to encourage Russia to interfere on their behalf in our elections than it is to believe the later.  Yet there is a segment of the population who does believe these things even if it's not the Mars one.  If two ideas have a common source that should tell you something about both of them thus the person postulating absolutely ridiculous things one minute should be suspect the next minute when they are saying something else.  On the other hand when it's not coming from one source but rather a group of government agencies the likelihood of it's been true is exponentially higher.  Just like if 95% of scientists believe something to be true it's very likely true such is the case when you get a large group of experts.  As to opinions?  I'll quote my stepfather: opinions are like assholes everyone has one.  How well informed that opinion is would be the key question of validity not whether you hold one or not.  Reason is the key quality I look for.


This provides the outline for the first of what I envision to be many podcasts.  You'll find in general that I'm willing to criticize any and all political parties but not on the same subjects generally.  Some people argue they are all the same.  That's poorly informed in my view.  That being said they are all imperfect not just the big ones.  To the extent that I self identify as anything it's as what I call a left libertarian.  Government and things like taxation are onerous but necessary things to provide for the common defense and the welfare of the people.  Libertarian in the small "l" sense of the word not the political party although I do find them interesting.  That's a whole other discussion though defining libertarian in a modern post industrial society in a way that is relevant.  I'll save that for another occasion.  I will elucidate one point though.  The central question of libertarian thought is liberty.  In the sense of the individual and and of the society.  It inherently involves questions of equality.  Unfortunately many Americans today equate the idea of equality with something they call "PC" or political correctness. It isn't.  It's not even a question strictly of race although in the USA that is a central question.  It is also a question of social caste increasingly.  Rich and poor.  It's my central belief that this is the issue that will begin to eclipse the others in terms of inequality as this century progresses.