Back in College I once took a Sociology course on Mass Media and Semiotics. Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols. Of the few things I seem to recall learning from that class was the following kernel of wisdom imparted by our professor: “Media doesn’t so much tell you what to think, as it tells you what to think about“.
Case in point, currently the mainstream news, the internet blogosphere and social media are being saturated with coverage on the recently convicted Stanford University rapist Brock Turner, whose actions are without doubt both reprehensible and indefensible. As a result of this coverage, many people are understandably feeling a sense of outrage over the news, the manner in which the incident has been handled and a comparatively lenient 6-month sentence handed out by Judge Aaron Persky. An online petition has been formed that now consists of over 1 million signatures calling for this Judge’s removal.
In the midst of the current barrage of reporting, op-eds, blogging, viral videos, and social memes, regardless of what you may think, while you are busy thinking about the Stanford rape case, you are however not busy thinking about the case of Felipe Peralez, a former La Joya, Texas cop who as of 2015 was charged and found guilty of raping a woman while she was in custody over a probation violation at the La Joya City Jail where he supervised. Like Brock Turner, Peralez also received just a six month sentence (plus 1 additional month in County jail).
In 1954 the U.S. House of Representatives formed a committee under Rep. B. Carroll Reece and tasked it with investigating the use of funds by tax-exempt organizations such as the Carnegie Corporation, Ford Foundation, and Rockefeller Foundation, for subversive purposes.
What were the Reece Committee’s findings? Judge for yourself based on the written summary of lead researcher to the Committee, Norman Dodd in his own words.
In summary, our study of these entities and their relationship to each other seems to warrant the inference that they constitute a highly efficient, functioning whole. Its product is apparently an educational curriculum designed to indoctrinate the American student from matriculation to the consummation of his education. It contrasts sharply with the freedom of the individual as the cornerstone of our social structure. For this freedom, it seems to substitute the group, the will of the majority, and a centralized power to enforce this will – presumably in the interest of all. (p. 11)
Looking out over a nearby lake one morning, I observed as the fish were occasionally throwing themselves into the air and flopping back down again, to snatch at some tiny insects skimming the otherwise placid water. I noticed too that there were some birds hovering about, who without warning would suddenly dive down like Kamikaze fighter pilots, crashing through the surface and emerging up into the sky again moments later.
As I contemplated the scene before me, I put it together in my mind’s eye that while some hapless water-bug bandied about the surface of the lake in search of a nibble of algae, and blind to the dangers below, a no less unsuspecting fish reaching to satisfy its own appetite would thereby make itself a mark for a hovering gull, and, had I been set on making a meal for myself and armed for it too, I likewise would have taken the gull’s singular trajectory toward it’s breakfast as the opportune moment to strike.
Still, I imagined further, that lining up for my shot with steadied breath and focused concentration, there might well be some more grisly beast lurking just outside my periphery, biding it’s time to stick the proverbial fork in me, so I thought better of it.
After eleven absolutely awesome days in magical Mexico, the return flight on (Mexican airline) Interjet did not disappoint, playing non-stop reruns of The Pink Panther cartoon. Overall a pleasant flight, the only unpleasant part of which was having to fill out the customs declaration. It’s becoming practically impossible to tolerate the kind of cognitive dissonance such demands invoke.
It wasn’t so much that I minded filling out the questionnaire, except for the part about providing an address, because I see it as dangerous to let a group of violent sociopaths know where you live. The part that really got to me though was signing the damn thing.
So I didn’t. I Couldn’t bring myself to do it.
This week I attended a special screening of the documentary film Peace Officer, a winner of numerous 2015 film festival awards.
Peace Officer is a feature documentary about the increasingly militarized state of American police as told through the story of William “Dub” Lawrence, a former sheriff who established and trained his rural state’s first SWAT team only to see that same unit kill his son-in-law in a controversial standoff 30 years later. Driven by an obsessed sense of mission, Dub uses his own investigative skills to uncover the truth in this and other recent officer-involved shootings in his community while tackling larger questions about the changing face of peace officers nationwide.
The film was compelling, and while primarily centered on Dub Lawrence, who who will surely graduate life with honors (and appears to exude an amount of joy uncharacteristic of his circumstances, whether it be lowering himself by crane into a backed up sewer drain or recounting the 4-year long investigative odyssey into his son-in-law’s homicide), I felt there was also a near equal allotment of camera time given to the various other subjects of the film including those on either side as well as those sitting on the fence in regards to the topic of police militarization and accountability.
When something activates my interest in the social media sphere, I tend to drill down on it. In the form of Facebook posts and YouTube videos that entails reading through as many of the comments as possible, and not only the comments, but the comments to the comments, and the comments to those comments. I find it massively interesting to see what people of all walks and worldviews are actually thinking and saying on a topic, especially on a topic of controversy.
said FB post
I offer this recent Facebook thread as an example, not because I endorse its content, but because I read copiously through the comments to judge how people from all sides of the argument and everywhere in between are weighing in, and I think if you do the same, from a dispassionate detached point of view (as much as possible), you are likely to find it interesting too.
I am of a belief that mankind, in some sense, is suffering from a sort of epistemological crisis, if I may use that term.
The Compass That Calibrates Itself
Ought there not to be such a thing as a water connoisseur? Somewhere in this wide world, I can imagine that there are indeed a collection of individuals, perhaps banded together over the internet from remote corners of the globe, who share a deep devotion for an appreciation of the simple aspect of imbibing H20.
If true it would strike us all as a curiosity, no doubt, if only because pure water is thought to be an odorless, flavorless substance. In and of itself it has no taste, no texture, no color, no viscosity, yet it serves as the base by which all other liquids through the introduction of some other component do take on those characteristics.
Nonetheless, let’s imagine what it would be like to be a connoisseur of water.
Birdman (imdb) is a complex and thoroughly entertaining film that follows the intertwining relationships of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), a washed up Hollywood action movie hero whose star has fallen and hopes to rise again via staging a noble return to his thespian roots on Broadway.
Much of the film, and in particular it’s dramatic ending as well as a powerful confrontation between Keaton and one of the film’s antagonists, deals with elements of inner transformation which this article will entertain to delve into below.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Birdman yet, I highly recommend trying to catch it in theaters if you still can. It’s quite a singular and remarkable film. Then come right back and read this review.
A friend and I were talking last night and he said something that cut to the very core of what I believe deeply but often fall short of being able to convey. The effect of what he said was so striking to me it was like having a diamond suddenly polished from a piece of coal before my eyes, revealing the essence of a single shining and translucent reality, or truth.
We live under a collective, where individual action and autonomy must be curtailed if it does not conform to the stated ideals and objectives of the group at large. What’s more, individuals are not free to live apart from the collective. You don’t have a choice.
The evidence, is that if you live within the bounds of a certain geographical region commonly known as a “Country”, then you can and will be physically forced and coerced into paying your “fair share” of the entire group’s operating expenses. Since the whole world is divided into countries, there is no use in saying “if you don’t like it leave”, as there is no where one can go that one would not be subject to the same collective force and coercion.