In America’s heartland there is a modern temple to the denial of five nines (99.999%) of what we’ve learned about the universe in the last couple of centuries. The Creation Museum is a sleek, elegant, well presented indoor theme park almost entirely lacking in actual knowledge. It is derided worldwide, and is a source of shame for our once forward thinking nation. It is also, I grant, an edifice to the principle of free speech.
The ham, showman and charlatan who created this institution in Kentucky after he was laughed out of his Australian homeland seems to be quite sincere about the project. Ken Ham is actually his name. And he has been raking in major profits for nearly three years from this place, well beyond even his early hopes. Apparently there is more than one born again every minute.
Busloads of young Christians long to go on pilgrimages to shore up their Young Earth ideology. The younger ones (under 12) can even get their picture taken on the back of a dinosaur, just like those that people rode. That is, before the old west cowboys killed the last of them off. That’s why all those T-Rexes are found out on the great plains.
You don’t have to take this from me on faith, follow the links from the Wikipedia article on the Creation Museum. See actual video tours.
So, why am I venting my bile right now? Wasn’t this already adequately covered on this site?
I just learned that a young collateral relative, a bright young man, is looking forward to his trip there this weekend! Half a dozen years ago, he was in public schools, in every advanced program they offered. Advanced science and math and lead cello in the district orchestra. Then his parents removed him from all that intellectual wealth to put him in a small Christian school. He still excelled, eventually garnering college board scores that got him invitations to Harvard and Yale and such. But he wants to go to a small school with an influential chapter of the Campus Crusade. Sigh.
Most of this is re-posted from this FaceBook note.
I heard one new idea in last night’s State of the Union. In response to the Supreme Court deciding that multi-national corporations should have all the rights of individual breathing citizens — allowing them to spend whatever they want to influence elections (as reported here) — Obama suggested that all contacts between lobbyists and public servants be publicly documented. This includes the identity of the client corporations and amounts of money and time involved. The applause were uneven.
This morning a new FaceBook group appeared: ‘Our Corporate Congress’: Make NASCAR-type patches mandatory Congress-wear. I’m not much of a joiner, but I like this idea. Allow the Congressman from Exxon to proudly wear the oil patch right next to his Monsanto and Pfizer badges. Let the senator who filibusters public transit bills proudly show his AAA patch and Ford logo.
It’s certainly not breaking news that the commercial news media tends to abhor careful detailed rational discussion. This reluctance of local media outlets to report meaningful news has been going on for many years.
But what is “news”? In my opinion, the most important news is information that sheds light on the way our community functions. High quality “news” informs us of the way our government is working. It warns us of collective dangers, including those dangers that we will face in the distant future. It gives us the information we need to take steps to protect ourselves, both as individuals and as a community. It is skeptical of outrageous claims, and honors the scientific method. It repeatedly reports on information that many viewers/readers might find inconvenient or disturbing, although it also balances this with information that makes us celebrate the state of our community and nation.
Reporting the “news” accurately means holding up a big mirror to viewers/readers, and those who report accurately will work hard not to be community cheerleaders who filter out “bad news,” no matter how much they want to please, distract or entertain the audience. Couple this definition with the fact that the most serious issues of the day are unwieldy. They are either legally or factually complicated, or they have been so corrupted with political spin, that reporting on the issues meaningfully will require long hours of one or more aggressive veteran reporters who are constantly being supported by his/her editor and employer.
I recently attended a conference sponsored by True Spin. My take-away is that that the majority of what passes for local “news” is starkly at odds with the above definition of “news.” Mason Tyvert summarized the types of things that are now required to pass as “news”:
It’s black Friday today, and I was somehow reminded of Ron Popeil, of Chop-o-Matic fame, inventor of many well-known household products. He has sold more than a billion dollars worth of rotisseries. I noticed that many of Popeil’s infomercials are available on YouTube, including this one featuring his food dehydrator:
Popeil, who was quite successful as an inventor, was equally impressive as a marketer. He explains his approach to inventing and marketing here.
Tonight it occurred to me that even though I saw Popeil’s commercials decades ago, I remembered much of Popeil’s shtick. I especially remember the audiences applauding on cue. It was somehow effective even though I knew that these people had been paid to applaud on cue. What I didn’t know was how the audience members were paid, and it was not with money, as you’ll read here. As you can read in the same article, Popeil is now getting ready to market what he characterizes as his final invention, a deep fryer.
I was recently chatting with a friend who has been a Scientologist for several decades. He was attacking the White House for its conspiracy with other networks to censor and muzzle Fox News. He later sent me this screed on the Campaign for Liberty blog under the Subject “Fox News is Right”. The CfL is one of the political arms of Scientology. Check out their mission and board if you want. The introduction to the post is (in part, go read it yourself):
Why is America under such a vicious and prolonged [internal] attack against its basic beliefs? Why are some Americans attacking the hand that feeds them? Why tear down a working system? None of the attacks make sense. It is as though we are living in a looking glass world. I am looking backwards and it seems left is right and wrong is right and right is wrong. Politically correct speak replaced plain speak and the silent Christian majority are called domestic terrorists.
Okay, I paused at this point and replied (in part):
Lost me at “silent Christian majority”. An iconic building in every neighborhood, billboards every mile, ads every hour on radio and TV channels not already owned outright by Christian networks, and their creed printed on money and embedded in children’s daily oath to the flag does not fit my definition of “silent”.
I didn’t mention the wholesome Christian activities of blockading health clinics, continuous protests with gory signs on streets and campuses, bombing clinics and shooting doctors.
But the actual point of the article is that the KGB is alive and well and still trying to take over America via a conspiracy with the Psychiatric Industrial Complex. They have (the article claims) powerful mind control methods that are being used on the public.
If so, I asked in reply, how did we ever manage to get rid of CheneyBush?
Today, my friend sent me (among other Scientology political pieces) a YouTube video attacking Obama’s plan to sign the latest international emissions control treaty. It took a while of watching to figure this out, among the doomsayer speech of One World Government, global warming denialism, and the demise of America and such. Many of the positive comments to the video seem to be from garden variety End Days Christians, but the platform is quite visibly Scientology.
The point of all this is, Why are the Scientologists aligning with Fox and Christian Fundamentalists? For recruitment? For political palatability? To hijack a powerful propaganda machine?
Read and listen to what they actually say, and get back to me.
We have previously posted regarding the latest reprint of Darwin’s “The Origin of Species”, by Ray Comfort. If you don’t know about it, it has a 50 page forward full of untruths, confusion, and misdirection in an attempt to discredit the original text that follows. Yes, he’s trying to use Darwin to discredit 200 years of thoroughly tested evolutionary biology.
Unfortunately, Amazon.com reviews and ratings confuse it with another (reputable) reprint by the same name, as discussed in detail here:
There has been a lot of talk lately about coming up withe new models of providing information, such that the consumers will “continue” to pay for content. Not so fast, says Paul Graham:
Publishers of all types, from news to music, are unhappy that consumers won’t pay for content anymore. At least, that’s how they see it. In fact consumers never really were paying for content, and publishers weren’t really selling it either. If the content was what they were selling, why has the price of books or music or movies always depended mostly on the format? Why didn’t better content cost more? . . . Economically, the print media are in the business of marking up paper.
But don’t people pay for information? Only certain kinds of information:
People will pay for information they think they can make money from. That’s why they paid for those stock tip newsletters, and why companies pay now for Bloomberg terminals and Economist Intelligence Unit reports. But will people pay for information otherwise? History offers little encouragement.
I’ve recently bought a new laptop, and have been battling Windows Vista for a week to get it to run some of my clients’ apps. I had considered paying an extra hundred dollars to retrograde my system to XP. But I figured that the future is coming, so I might as well get a handle on it.
Then tonight I saw a commercial:
Did I hear this right? Microsoft is practically admitting the Vista nightmare is drawing to a close. The last clause is, “…more happy is coming”. When my free upgrade to Windows 7 comes, I hope it solves some of my problems. But I doubt it.
Youtube was supposed to be one of Web 2.0’s shining examples of user-generated original content. In a world (in 2005) when everything worthwhile was already online and fully consumed, Youtube was supposed to provide us with a new outlet to both create and consume. I know it is hard to recall Youtube’s original intent as a creative landscape, but keep in mind that the site’s slogan was and is “Broadcast Yourself”.
Most of us don’t broadcast ourselves, or watch broadcasts of other selves. The last time I fired up Youtube, I was looking for a free way to stream James and the Giant Peach. Any cute skits or beautiful shorts I discovered thereafter were barely bonuses; they were just tasty little incidentals to be quickly forgotten. Most people go to Youtube to view unoriginal creations- movie, TV and music clips or mashups thereof.
Youtube’s most viewed videos of all time are music videos like “7 Things” by Miley Cyrus and Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music”. My little sister uses Youtube as a combination DVR-Itunes-Pandora player. Nothing original seeps in unless I send it to her myself- and then it’s usually just a video of a cute animal, not a creative work.
Ah, but Youtube does have some high-caliber producers of original goodies! People who put on elaborate comedy skits with costumes, professional lighting and substantial editing. People who pull in millions of views. People with whom Youtube has formed profitable, advertising-driven partnerships. These people are broadcasting themselves. But they aren’t like “us”. They are all from Hollywood.