Tag Archives: society

The Genetic Killer

This article originally appeared on Disinfo.com

Another proposed “solution” to the mass shootings in America is sure to upset many camps; privacy advocates, mental health care advocates, and even those calling for the heads of the murderers. Soon we will have the results of genetic analysis of Adam Lanza, which may be used by scientists to model genetic predispositions of violence, or by defense attorneys in their pleas. This controversial science is being criticized from all sides, condemned as “misguided and could lead to dangerous stigmatization.”

via Vaughan Bell at Mind Hacks:

But the request to analyse the DNA of Lanza is just the latest in a long line of attempts to account for the behaviour of individual killers in terms of genetics.

Perhaps the first attempt was for a case that bears more than a surface resemblance to the Sandy Hook shooting. In 1998, a 15-year-old high school student called Kip Kinkel killed both of his parents before driving to school and shooting 24 students, one of whom died.

In his trial a child psychiatrist argued that Kinkel had “genetic loading” that made him susceptible to mental illness and violence.

His appeal also relied upon this angle. His lawyer argued that “owing to a genetic predisposition, and therefore through no conscious fault of his own, the defendant suffers a mental illness resulting in committing his crimes.”

Perhaps for the first in decades, an appeal to genetics was used in an attempt to explain the killer’s behaviour.

The genetic arguments became more sophisticated with the trial of serial killer Cary Stayner where a psychiatrist and geneticist presented a genealogy of the his family showing how mental illness and violence ‘ran through the family’.

By the time of the trial of murderer Stephen Mobley, the defence based part of their case on molecular genetics – suggesting that Mobley had a version of the MAOA gene that made him susceptible to violence.

It’s worth noting that none of these appeals to genetics have been successful in the courtroom but it’s interesting that in light of the tragic events in Sandy Hook there has been, yet again, a look towards genetics to try and make sense of the killer – this time presumably based on the yet more advanced technology of whole DNA sequencing.

On this occasion, however, the reasons seems less related to issues of legal responsibility and more for scientific motivations, supposedly to better understand the ‘DNA of a killer’.

As the Nature editorial makes clear, this is foolish: “There is no one-to-one relationship between genetics and mental health or between mental health and violence. Something as simple as a DNA sequence cannot explain anything as complex as behaviour.”

There is a valuable science of understanding how genetics influences violent behaviour but analysis of individual killers will tell us very little about their motivations.

It does, however, reflect a desire to find something different in people who commit appalling crimes. Something that is comprehensible but distinct, alien but identifiable.

This may give us comfort, but it does little to provide answers. In the midst of tragedy, however, the two can easily be confused.

While I have mulled the utility of psychopathy testing before (mostly to weed out serial killers and white-collar criminals), I certainly don’t want to demonize mental illness. I also don’t want to see this turned into a genetic witchhunt, with public registries that would affect hiring, insurance rates, or result in other forms of discrimination or revocation of rights. Not only is it unknown for sure if Adam Lanza (or even James Holmes, for that matter) suffered from mental illness or disorder, but depending on the definitions, as many as 1-in-4 Americans might fall into this camp. This framing also narrowly and unfairly decides what is “normative,” always a dangerous proposition for society.

This sort of ‘registration’ might end up much worse for our liberty and democracy than any gun registration, by orders of magnitude. Especially if, as indicated by our elected leaders and the NRA, we are more concerned with tracking and banning these individuals than providing resources and help.

It sets a scary precedent, but it is also the observable evidence-based realm of science. Should we even go there? What do you think?

Read the artice in Nature, and follow Mind Hacks for more in-depth analysis of complex psychological and neurological issues.

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Hate and Paranoia

2012-03-31

As mentioned on prior shows, I believe it is imperative for the attacked mass of humans worldwide, even in our own backyard, to band together against the powerful, predatory, psychotic forces who have wormed their tendrils into every crack of public and (soon) private life. This is made more difficult, of course, when we have been split into ideological camps for so long that many people cannot overcome ethical disputes or biases, vote against their own self-interests, act against their better judgement, or, in some cases, are too far radically gone to partner with an otherwise inclusive movement.

The number of hate groups counted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) last year reached a total of 1,018, up from the previous year and continuing a decade-long trend. Though the conspiracy-minded antigovernment “Patriot” groups first started frothing at the mouths during the Clinton years in response to the events of Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992 and Waco, Texas in 1993, there was a small dip in enrollment during the early Bush and 9/11 years. But a significant growth in numbers has been seen with the rise of the surveillance state, an over-powerful federal intelligentsia, income inequality, and the obvious nature of the financial sector’s hold on our once-democracy. Unfortunately, these groups are also a reactionary, sometimes violent, opposition to the progress of civil rights and race relations, steeped in conspiracy-mongering and the demonization of Islam, immigration and dehomogenization, homosexuality, and Barack Obama himself. With politicians, pundits, public figures and an entire corrupt media empire built to propagate such divisive falsehoods, it can’t come as any surprise that we’re seeing a rise in anti-gay groups, anti-muslim groups, nativist extremists, sovereign citizens, kkk, birthers, white nationalists, neo-confederates, neo-nazi racist skinheads and even Christian Identity, a radical theology that describes Jews and people of color as biologically descended from “Satan.”

Some of these groups are seditious, others aspire to extreme violence. But all of them exist somewhere on the radical end of a wide spectrum of the hate mindset that America allows for, and that some organizations help engender. In internal memorandum from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) one of the country’s leading organizations against same-sex marriage, a plan was outlined to help its cause by exploiting unease among blacks over the issue.

The undated memo was one of several documents unsealed by a federal judge on Monday in a case in Maine, where the group, , helped finance a successful ballot initiative in 2009 overturning the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage. The organization is partially responsible for Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban) with shady donations from powerful elites such as a staggering $10,000 donation from Governor Mitt Romney’s PAC prior the November election in 2008.

The project’s goal, according to the memo, was to recruit blacks who opposed same-sex marriage to represent the group, and then “provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.” The memo describes an initiative called the Not a Civil Right Project, “The strategic goal of the project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies.”

It is truly a sick and twisted reality we inhabit, that gays and blacks and other minorities cannot feel safe walking the streets of America. Trayvon Martin is yet another in a long history of racial profiling and state-sanctioned (or ignored) murder of minorities, from Emmett Till to today, with decades and centuries of abuse and vigilante racism which white supremacists call a ‘civic duty’.

It’s worth noting that despite nearly 200 attempts, a federal anti-lynching law was never passed in the United States. And even during the catastrophic events of Hurrican Katrina in New Orleans, the unwarranted shooting of blacks was not investigated. Black men, women, and children are beaten, attacked, brutalized, shot and killed by members of the police force, sometimes in their own homes.

The narrative of our nation allows for this. The conflict, the debate rages on because the national conversation delights in it. Only an article in Salon, for example, mentions that under  Florida’s “stand your ground” law, Trayvon was allowed to stand his ground and use force to defend himself. With a strange man following a 17-year-old boy in the dark, in a country where 60,000 children are abducted by strangers a year, he was right to be wary. And if the gun was visible as George Zimmerman approached him, Trayvon would have been allowed to use deadly force against Zimmerman. A Republican sponsor of the “stand your ground” law has indicated in media accounts that, based on the information currently available about the incident, he does not believe that the “stand your ground” law applies to Zimmerman.  It seems that no one has yet asked whether the law would have applied for the protection of Trayvon Martin.

Under the law, as the aggressor in this situation, Zimmerman had no right of self-defense.

  1. The police dispatcher had advised him not to follow or approach Trayvon Martin.
  2. On the 911 call, Zimmerman initially said that he was concerned about break-ins in the area.  Deadly force is not legally authorized to protect property.
  3. Zimmerman said that he thought the “suspect” might be high or using drugs. Both are offenses that do not warrant the use of deadly force in apprehension efforts.
  4. Zimmerman also said, “Those assholes always get away …,”  which clearly indicates that he had decided that Trayvon was guilty of something — he was no longer merely a “suspect.”  So his approach, whether with his gun in hand or concealed, was with the intent to confront a “criminal.” Such an approach would be aggressive rather than passive.

Regardless of if Zimmerman did, in fact, utter a racial slur on the 9-1-1 tape (the case becomes a hate crime investigation if he did), he does not need to be a racist in the extremist sense that some people assert, or his own father disputes. He lives in a society where laws like ‘Stand Your Ground’ offer an assurance to powerless-feeling people by allowing them to wield the basest power there is–violence–with near impunity. It encourages people to be intimidators for fear of intimidation. It is not surprising then that since the law went into effect in 2005 killings in Florida justified by ‘self-defense’ have risen by 283%. We know that the mind can be affected by perceptional changes, even weilding a gun makes a person more biased to seeing others hold guns, research suggests. Add to that the ever-lying-in-wait racist mindset of Americans (or humans), the threat of race violence will always haunt many people of color. There will be more Trayvon Martins in the future if we don’t take every opportunity to publicly and openly discuss how race factors consciously and subconsciously into policy-making.

This is in addition to the paranoia and fear being fed to all of us in America on a daily basis (and for the last decade or so), both real and imagined. The police state is flourishing despite such facts as, as writer Bruce Schneier for the Economist points out, in the entire decade or so of airport security since the attacks on September 11th 2001, the TSA has not foiled a single terrorist plot or caught a single terrorist. The TSA regularly misses guns and bombs in tests and real life. Even its top “good catch”—a passenger with C4 explosives—was caught on his return flight; TSA agents missed it the first time through. Meanwhile the Department of Defense and the White House want control of the internet back (or the cat back in the bag). The FBI is teaching its agents that they could sometimes “bend or suspend the law” in their hunt for terrorists and criminals, along with some pretty racially-charged rhetoric. Photographers across the country, regardless of politics, are being arrested for taking pictures of police (though the forces risk losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in civil suits for stamping on civil liberties). Some modern science is being corrupted and is dysfunctionalDoctors in Pennsylvania are not allowed to tell their patients of the dangers of fracking they’ve discovered in their communities. And even the NYC Dept of Education wants to ban the word “dinosaur” from standardized tests!

All in their war against all things Awesome. Those of you who are truly Awesome (and you know who you are) will heed the call.

PLAYLIST
Aunt Mary – in the hall of the mountain king
Ska Boss – The Aquabats
Piano Black (Ian O’Brien Remix) – Seatbelts
Four Sticks – Led Zeppelin
Doctor Doctor – UFO
Fireball – Deep Purple
Miles Runs the Voodoo Down – Miles Davis (Tribute)
Mother’s Little Helper – The Rolling Stones
Dream Weaver – Gary Wright
Heffalumps And Woozles – Disney
Lalo Schifrin – Bullitt
Black, Brown And White – Big Bill Broonzy
Season Of The Witch – Donovan
Carsual Swing – Fauna Flash
Escape – Amon Tobin
Rocket Ship – Stark Reality
Stoned Guitar – Human Instinct
Moisture – The Residents
The Sound Waves Reversing – Man Or Astroman
Transcendence – Nujabes + Fat Jon
Sarah Vaughan – Whatever Lola Wants – Buddha-Bar (CD Series)
Dirty Harry – Gorillaz
Redworm – DJ QBert
Spooky – The Puppini Sisters
Alain Goraguer- La Vieille Meurt
Albuquerque – Weird Al Yankovic

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-03-31: Hate & Paranoia by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

When does fucking the system cross over?

Is it better to be Stephen Cooper, and steal your money in obfuscated, technically legal ways hidden behind corporate espionage and litigation? Or D.B. Cooper, who hijacked a plane, extorted hundred of thousands, and leapt into the sky with a parachute and much badassery, never to be seen again? When does fucking the system cross over from skullduggery to douchebaggery?

This debate can be seen on the political stage between left and right, and even within the debates for the GOP nomination. More and more, the elite are attempting to distance themselves from their unpopular corporatist takeover, while still retaining their record-level greed and avarice. Within the movements of the left, the debate rages on protest methodology and ethics. Many hacktivists are ready to embrace the Robin Hood image, while others simply fight for privacy and liberty, others greedily attempt to get rich as unethically as big banking cheats, and others still just want to watch the world burn. Clearly, written in the faces of the police who clash with protestors, the conflict is very real and very painful. Most of us (except for wealthy policy-making plutocrats) did not have much choice in our positions, socio-economically, politically, or in some cases perhaps even ethically.

Guy DeBord’s Situationalism (which I have studied for years… on Wikipedia) tells us that each generation is in a futile cycle, in which is rises up against the entrenched dominant patriarchy, reclaiming their language and symbols as their own in the social battle, eventually doomed to grow up and become what they hate, usurping and claiming the language and symbols of the young in their corporatist regime. We saw some social, sexual, secular and popular culture advantages to DeBord’s revolution of the 1960’s, but many of those counterculture types sold out and got white-collar jobs, and many of their progressively populist politicians now accept tremendous bribes. Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, as the old saying goes. This is also known in tropes as ‘the Bad Guys Won.”

And how well do you have to know thine enemy, before you become what you hate most. “We’re not so different, you and I.

Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre was a French Revolutionary, a capable articulator of the beliefs of the left-wing bourgeoisie. He was described as being physically unimposing yet immaculate in attire and personal manners. His supporters called him “The Incorruptible”, and although originally inspired by liberal Enlightenment ideals, his adversaries called him dictateur sanguinaire (bloodthirsty dictator). He was instrumental in the implementation of the Reign of Terror, which ultimately ended with his arrest and execution in 1794.

The Republicans are already writing their history books referring to the Occupy movement as “a bunch of goddamned chumps.” When I call back East and South to my conservative friends and family for the holidays, I discover a range of opinions and ‘facts’* ** mostly absorbed from FOX “News” and Glenn Beck. According to them, the “99%” is an unnecessarily divisive scheme of class warfare. Occupiers are lazy, unemployed, and probably on the take. Unemployed people just chose to be. They think that ten percent of the country would rather be on food stamps than find gainful unemployment. The Occupy movement has no clear message, and Anonymous are more than likely terrorists. Their criticisms (legit, illegit, and 2 legit 2 quit), can be easily countered with a few minutes of internet research, or by the shifting focus of Occupations around the country and globe to focus on and vocalize specific issues of economic injustice and income inequality. They are not, despite the false rhetoric, socialists and anarchists, though a radically inclusive movement is bound to have those, as well as gang members and hacktivists. The majority are people who have been disenfranchised both financially and emotionally from the democratic process, at a rate equally proportionate to the eroding of our democracy by corporate lobbying and tax fraud politicians. Many of their key themes, like it or not, are in keeping with the populist Tea Party movement. Occupy has singled out targets of protest, and Anonymous has clearly been keeping a list of individuals and organizations for cyber attack.

The claims that Occupy and others are being ‘bought off’, or on somebody’s ‘payroll’, or as one (particularly absurd) flyer posited, a ‘George Soros Psy-Op’, are patently false. Will it remain so in the future? Though the movement is sometimes split (by its very nature), on how to utilize its collective funds, it is even more contentious when nonviolent resistance resolutions have been adopted. Will these displays of respectful civil disobedience and rational discourse prevail? Or will they eventually be overshadowed by riots, destruction of property, graffiti and cop hatred? Historically, the argument could be made for either approach as more successful. When does it cross over?

The GOP candidates (not including Ron Paul, but there are other issues with him) all seem to be in perfect step with their corporate sponsors and overlords, seeing the proletariat uprising with chagrin, concern, or panic. Having gotten away with so many crimes, they cannot stand to allow the energetic movement to shift the country’s dialogue to the left, or even back into rational democratic debate. The attempts to lift the veil, in of themselves, are as dangerous to the prestidigitatious status quo as jihadist terrorism or communist invasion. So they equate them all using their media powers. They have been fucking them system bloody for so long now, it can be said that any young group is, by default, cast into the role of Robin Hood. That is, unless the system is so very fucked beyond any hope.

And if that is the case, then their runaway train wreck will take the elitists out with it. As journalist Chris Hedges points out, protest movements reach their tipping point when the enforcers (police, military, security) have a crisis of faith and either join the protestors, or cease protecting the elite. Even top military brass are saying that our networks are indefensible.

The inevitability of failure is clear to this ridiculous regime against consumer needs and an middle class class to succor. American love good underdogs, and will take notice once issues begin to directly affect them, especially where  civil liberty and privacy are concerned. Many of the technological threats from the oligarchy are hollow and laughable, with hacktivists ready to take down infrastructures, a deep net of both criminals and innocent privacy-seekers, and readying domestic right wing militias gone unchecked for decades. How will the 1% sustain themselves when the police switch sides, when the cities crumble, and when the serf class they were brainwashing riots in the streets for food, medicine, and pay cable? It is not the mainstream news, or Washington, or Wall Street who ultimately decides. It is not even the various fringe or voluminous protest movements. When the average and usually disconnected American casts their public opinions, that is when change will be forced, that is when the snowball cannot be stopped, and that is when the sides will be defined for the history books.

When does fucking the system cross over? As Robespierre found out, when total madness ensues, and everybody loses their heads.

*”Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, nobody is entitled to their own facts.”

**”You know what they say about opinions… everybody’s got one!”

X-mas Rated

Remove yourself from it for a few years (or work retail) and it begins to look very absurd, indeed.

Full of odd tropes, so many that it seems every single thing in the world has a Christmas version, every television show, series of toys, comics, characters, discography, magazine, aesthetic changes for a few months in service of tradition careening out of control more and more each year.

There are Santa prons, there holiday specials, and even the Japanese (for which less than 1% of the population are Christian) can go absolutely bonkers for the holiday.

For Christ’s sake, ham becomes ‘Christmas ham.’

These themes pervade such as; ‘this is going to be the best Christmas ever,’ ‘this is a very special Christmas,’ ‘the last Christmas, the very last Christmas,’ ‘Christmas is in danger!’, ‘we need to save Christmas!’ ‘the Miracle of Christmas!’ And not merely in fiction, but IRL as well.

Religious fundamentalists and fanatics decry the commercialism of the holiday, even going back nearly a hundred years. It is not merely the Grinch, Scrooge, or any other of a countless nefarious foe out to eradicate the holiday with a push of a button, but marketing departments, conglomerates, thieves, cheats, secularists and competing religious/philosophical worldviews.

For some such as myself, the holiday has no real meaning, nothing that the warmth of family, friends, and community cannot provide on other holidays or year round. A pleasant nostalgia that could also be served by watching TMNT or playing NES. Part of the absurdity I find in the fanaticism of Christmas stems from the seemingly arbitrariness of choosing this particular holiday. Why not St. Patrick’s Day? Or Easter? The madness associated with Halloween is fun and outrageous (and now exported to every part of the globe), but on no such scale as the industrious and brobdignagian Christmas.

Even allowing the synthesis of a long-running Christian dominance over Western society (and later the world) with strong pagan roots, I’m amazed at the incredible surge of ‘meaning’ that appears to have historically manifested in the last couple centuries. Almost as if Christmas is quickening towards some kind of ‘holiday singularity’. The corporatization aside, even the larger celebrated secular Christmas tradition looms large over society, literally enveloping a quarter of the year. Fair-weather Christians attend church on this day, and people who profess no kinship to friends and families may buy gifts or cards out of misplaced obligation. Children and indeed adults pretend to be ‘extra special good’ in the weeks leading up to Santa and also Christ’s arrival. Acts of madness ensue in mall parking lots. A mini-apocalypse, since Christians known not the time of his return, but do know his birthday.

Every musical artist ‘worth their salt’ has to release multiple Christmas tracks, sometimes part of a compilation with others, often an entire album or two of their own. The majority are covers of what are now considered ‘holiday standards,’ enough to fill entire radio stations for months. Others compose their own holiday ballads, in the hopes of making it their own repulsive standard, and in fact may later be covered themselves.

If you stop to consider, there is an entire genre of music that is only popularly played during one time of the year, and you probably know most of the lyrics.

And when I think of the number of Christmas songs performed by Frank Sinatra, I can also mull over the many years of Christmas experiences the Chairman may have himself had, filled with joy, sorrow, loss, togetherness, loneliness, prosperity, charity, or bitterness. His experiences, both good and bad, are like all of ours, and more or less contribute to the shared cultural phenomenon doomed to repeat each and every year.

For you see, you can’t really remove yourself from the season at all. It is in you.

Christmas for many is religious, or nonsecular, or secular, or commercial, or a state of deep depression. I don’t mind the fetishism of the day and its symbols and themes, even if it has been fully taken over by mass consumerism and capitalist scheming. I don’t even necessarily mind that it is overtaking Thanksgiving and Halloween, though many do, and those days should certainly be observed for their own intrinsic kickass nature. Christmas itself, for a period of each year at least, becomes a religion unto itself. We worship with our pocketbooks. By our consumption of holiday treats and the same old movie classics.

There are those who, regardless of their spiritual nature, idolize and glorify Christmas, despite the number of atrocities that occur during the month. There are those that get depressed, as suicide rates rise (myth) and crimes increase. More break-ups occur in November through January, attesting perhaps to our inner cheapness. So why give in to it at all? Why bother being so upset and lonely, simply because society is emphasizing the special romantic togetherness that others have? Just boycott and ignore it.

‘The true meaning of Christmas‘, itself an overused trope, has been alternately defined by everyone from Tiny Tim and Linus to Ernest and John Lennon. And the downright freaky.

In posing this question to others, I received several theories. The evolution of Christmas, from romantic prose and Germanic saintly gift-giving, the search for a proper holiday mascot, and the formulaic standardization of Santa Claus by Coca-Cola and Norman Rockwell, has been one long growing culture of capitalizing on such heavy heartstrings. Others have suggested that we are more susceptible due to our winter blues, cabin fever, the wistful changing of the seasons and yes, the end of our very calendar system. The need to share warm food and family unity, much like Thanksgiving, harkening back to our harsh harvesting days. Another pointed out that the advertising and sales push is driven by the year-end audit, the taxable stock, and need for final quarterly revenues in the black.

Capitalism has certainly latched onto this endless cycle of tropes and dogma, ignoring that Santa himself doesn’t make or spend money, we all remember that the very first Christmas gifts were very expensive indeed; gold, frankincense and myrrh. Even the message of Rudolph is clear: your peers will have no respect or value for you unless your uniqueness provides some basic utility to the employer. This year, Best Buy actually looks to actually out-do Santa Claus.

Which begs another question, of not just why Christmas, or why not some other holiday, or why anything at all, but why not all year-round? The parallel dimension of all-year Christmas may look frantic, insane with shoppers and muggers, and surprise military attacks and shady legislation, wars still fought and the rich getting richer, but would also be a world with consistently impressive tips, donations, charity, the ostracizing of Scroogely misers, kindness to children, brotherhood and understanding to people around the world, and that most lovable absurdity of all; gift-giving.

And what of the universe with no Christmas at all? Would they miss it? Would some other institution inevitable take its place around some other holiday, or destined to be near the cold, wintry end of the year regardless? So necessary and ingrained in us that no Twilight Zone trickery could remove it?

Christmas permeates every thing, there is no escape, easily 1/12th to 1/4 of our lives is Christmas. And if one wished to, one could use decorations and sites of the internet (because why bother taking any of them down?) to celebrate all year.

I guess it doesn’t matter. You can celebrate in whatever way you want, even if that means deliberate boycott, solitary solemn worship, family reunion, or all-out spending spree. You can have no regard at all for the day but still relish the excuse to give gifts. It means many different things to many different people, and that even includes complete apathy.

As with everything, I advise not wasting any of your vitriol on the holiday season. Christmas hatred is perhaps the worst absurdity of all.

Calvin presents 'Pascal's Christmas Wager'

“I will stop taking Christ out of Christmas is you stop taking Thor out of Thursday.”

Blinded!

With science journalism paltry and underfunded in the dying newspaper industry era, and blogs still not the dominant political force of commentary (despite being the dominant social force), it would be insincere to hope that better science education would find its way into the contused field.

Journalism in this country is SHODDY WORN USED LIKE A CHEAP (excuse me *ahem*) and it is a mistake to think that more science in journalism is just for the benefit of science journalism. No, but for the very embiggening of the power of journalism itself, the scientific method must be more rigorously applied.

While even our so-called tech-savvy president seems to only react and respond and capitulate to the center-right to far-right mainstream media or Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and the Wall Street Journal, he seems to be out of touch with progressive fact-finders like TYT and TPM. We cannot count on K Street, Wall Street, and Congress to utilize the internet for better information, indeed, they often do not even let the experts speak to them concerning technical matters for which they are ignorant.

Skepticism and critical thinking has not just historically been scientific or philosophical, but provides important watchdog services to journalistic integrity. As it has become, the fourth estate instead refers to the corporate mouthpieces of myopic agendas. Hard-hitting news has been almost completely replaced with flashy entertainment. Why is it that the most fantastical line of an article is taken out of context and made into the sensational (and misrepresentational) headline?

Though the internet is unimaginably vast, with enough dedicated investigation, a less relativistic definition of truth is soon revealed.

We need that widespread dissemination of information, like viruses, or even better like vaccines against the stupid, memes of novelty wave out and spread, with particularly brilliant, mutated individuals using their unique perspective to build each Hegelian block. At the same time, the massive hive thought MUST utilize critical thinking and skepticism in order to falsify incongruent precepts, since the democratizing forces of social media also allow crazies to discover one another, confirming each other’s biases, regardless of reality. Most of us only hear and accept the voices we already agree with, and deepen our belief systems accordingly. Ethan Zuckerman’s TED talk addresses how to escape these traps.

Brain plasticity has made us the apex species of the planet, and diverse adaptability and resourceful critical thinking and second-guessing has allowed us to survive at all. Thinking outside the box and truly examining ideas and theories should be done by all, as I am truly convinced that good thinking will lead to correct conclusions, but only provided the input data is factual and reliable. Stupidity and ignorance result in hurting the entire herd.

Scientific methods lack in both mainstream and independent (even hacker) journalism, leading to the press quackery of Arianna Huffington, Glenn Beck, and Alex Jones.

Even the once-laudable Ron Paul has extremely questionable theories regarding alternative medicines, homeopathy, and the FDA (as well as race, but that’s another topic). I suppose you have the ability to cherry-pick from the opinions of ‘experts’ and professionals, but no one can logically justify cherry-picking data. And celebrities are terrible judges at this stuff anyway.

Brian Dunning of Skeptoid has recently published his list of the Top 10 Worst Anti-Science sites on the web, and although pathetic examples such as the Daily Mail and any of the various Examiners do not make the list, the internet-renowned Huffington Post does. But how would one know to find such a list unless they were already clued into the skeptical network?

The of-course-brilliant Neal Stephenson has written an article concerning the need for good science fiction writing, as it fosters critical thinking, as well as the lofty fantasy of engineers and futurists. Since none of us exist in a vacuum, if we all want to progress then the best way to facilitate this is with better knowledge on scientific subjects. Sure, Google provides great answers for those researchers who know how to look effectively. For many, this is a daunting task.

How can one know the truth with so many liars and so many internets? The veritable flood of information from our social media sites alone threatens to drown us, with a wealth of news sites and supposed experts spouting often contradictory opinions and personalized “facts” at every turn.

It comes down to trust, and reasonable common sense. Most outlandish claims are just that. And when logic appears fuzzy, it usually is. Erroneous “facts” abound on the web, but so too does the number of resources for checking such facts. Not everyone has the time to do this, and as a result they will be under-served or mis-served bad informations.

Just as it is the responsibility of writers to inspire, and scientists to discover, and politicians to represent constituencies (har har), journalists owe the populace hard facts and realistic conclusions. No justification can be accepted for anything less.

Ultimately, it is only the news agencies that will lose if they do not adapt. They will eventually lose face, faith, and the trust of their flock. Once lost, they will not return, and information consumers such as myself will be happy to aggregate our news from such tailored sources as TED, Wired, ArsTechnica, and NewScientist.

Only the Beginning

I recently watched ‘Trancendent Man’ a documentary about the futurist thinker and inventor Ray Kurzweil (on Netflix Instant), which talks about the future of technology, integrating with machines, the singularity, and a post-Digital-Revolution society, and ALL THE WHILE transfixed to both the televisor screen and the nearly intravenous flow of twitter on my phone, WHEN IT STRUCK; the hard jolting pause of realization that large majorities of people and societies around the world (and many in this country) do not have the slightest inkling, desire, ability, resources, freedom, or IO port to hang their digital hat on. It took hold of me like the cracking clear bolt of a metaphysical electromagnet coil, like billions of souls crying out for porn and pictures of cats saying stupid things, suddenly silenced.

With the unequivocally ever-rapidly snowball effect of technology (whether you agree with Kurzweil or not about some of the extreme implications this has on the future), society will be bracketed even further than it already has by divisive class policies and repressive economic imbalances. As we fully intersect with technology, many will be left behind. While those pre-borg immigrants will jump through every fiery hoop to lapse into digital escapism, the expendable income necessary is not available to large segments of the human race, still forced to face a harsh physical reality of hunger, war, disease and rape every day.

Three separate, earlier senses of foreboding combined into one bone-chilling premonition; the constantly recurring thoughts of dread for the starving and down-trodden of the world, the nagging wrecking ball of a mysterious and unknown future world, and the obvious historical tendency of those in power to abuse those viewed as below them. We have seen the brutal reality of war and genocide repeatedly played out over limited resources.

There may be a temptation in lazy thinking to assume that it will be primarily voluntary luddites of the future resisting this technology, but this is a reminiscent leftover of dogmatic Christian missionary mentality, and not everyone is able to join the wiry fray, nor does the trepidation of the unwilling-yet-able make them boorish peasantry, but perhaps there are a myriad of unfortunate circumstances or other considerations. As the singularity exponentially widens the chasm between the technocrats and the new order of plebes, does anyone really believe that those humans+ will have found some magical insight in the machine code that makes them suddenly retroact on hundreds of thousands of years (if not millions) of ingrained biological selfishness and power-mad despotism? That they will provide for the unassimilated as anything more than a slave class?

Ray Kurzweil, ever the optimist futurist, seems to hope so. Terence McKenna, too, when he speaks of a similar event in consciousness, Time Wave Zero, occurring at the crux of a historical quickening. A sort of critical mass, which he has proposed could be anything from the invention of time travel, some sort of mass awareness, or a finding and meeting with the ‘other’, deep from our inner shadows, perhaps the collective anima/animus or “soul image” from Jung. This is all well and good, but barring some actual social or political revolution, gas prices will rise, policy-makers will adversely affect markets, and companies will try their damnedest to price-gouge and choke-hold streams of “free” information.

But what of those unpredictable social ramifications? Will there be cyber-wars on a regular basis, will the hackers and terrorists be able to outpace the nth more well-funded forces of organizational infrastructure? (Who, incidentally, are still somewhat behind the game). Will the assimilated be able to or even care to break programming long enough to fight for social justice of others? As the borg grows and leaves humans further in the dust, how long before they are no longer equals, how long before the meatsacks remnants are expendable?

We haven’t left our emotionally-binding forms of flesh just yet, and a sense of freedom and human rights prevails as certain groups have already emerged and entrenched themselves for what will surely be a long and arduous struggle. Wikileaks, Lulsec, Anonymous, and countless other hacker collectives and rebels in areas even as restrictive as North Korea and Iran continue to fight with their particular electrons, 1s and 0s, for a totally free dissemination of information. Other violations of human spirit are coordinated, encouraged, and energized by digital social media as seen this year during the Arab Spring revolutions, UK riots and looting, and here in San Francisco more recently the Anonymous-led BART protests. For better or worse, humans all over the world are making it very clear to the cognoscenti of politics, authority, mainstream media and high finance, that censorship and restrictive policies can and will be met at some point with severe pushback.

These humans, I tell ya, you give them a little total freedom and it’s like they think they’re entitled to it or something.

This was all inevitable, no doubt. Some fires will rage, some systems will either crumble, alter, or steel themselves so furiously that their hollow insides dry-rot out. Our arrogant cliques of domineering world authorities will froth hard enough to lose all control at some point, furious of the hard fact that though the march of time may lead the universe to entropy, it also leads our species to a wider understanding of freedom.

Perhaps we will only settle into our proper and humbly sated nation-state period of equality, mutual understanding and dignity once the generations of globally-connected democratic-thinking individuals fully survive the repression of a resource-hungry egomaniacal post-WWII society.

XBox live digital natives notwithstanding.