|| i hate scorpios
A couple of weeks ago I bragged to UD that I would house his interlocutors in this conversation. Then I got so tired, like a kind of reading comments-induced fainting sickness, and I simply could not go on. It was the conversation. I think it's because conversations are now markets WHAT IS THIS OMG.
“Conversation,” of course, has long been the polite name for what happens every fortnight or so when the petty bourgeoises get maudlin and decide to do something about all these feelings that are so unpleasant. We handle this, like everything, as a matter of economic exchange, investing a mortal percentage of self-worth in addressing a poorly posed “question” or “issue”. “Responses”, “hypotheses”, “ideas”, “opinions” etc. are all brave sallies with the exclusive purpose of increasing one’s sense of self-worth. In theory, a conversation can be about anything; however, statistically, once an “issue” has been identified, conversations tend to take on one of the many forms of point/counterpoint.
Now let’s consider the conversation among UD's readers. Suffice it to say that UD is sort of asking for it, because he has a knack for seeming to "take a position".* To sentient beings, such a “position” is simply a rhetorical stance: UD is not making an argument as an expert in the field of behavioral psychology; in fact, he's merely restating one of several googleably mainstream positions in the field as a premise for further thought. While we are inundated with the ostensible consensus on a causal nexus between the media and human behavior —the argument goes— such a link has not, in fact, been proved. And while "media violence" is clearly an easy scapegoat for the country’s leaders —far less frightening for the modern oligarch than poverty, police violence, institutional racism, lack of health care, unlivable conditions, rampant and growing economic inequality or any of the other constituent conditions of the giant space robot deity who orbits near every other month to lean down and bowl an enormous salary-diamond down through the Ether to pay all the coincidentally wealthy lest they feel complicit with capitalism— it is unclear what the advantage is to the rest of us in making the media into the fall guy.
This is because the purpose of entering a conversation is to gratify our ego boundaries by withstanding the onslaught of differing opinions unmoved, and so we are more than willing to ensure that we remain forever enslaved in our cramped and adolescent quarters with their minimal view of ourselves and the world rather than change. This is why it is imperative to state your potential disagreement with someone else as soon as you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable with anything they're saying, before it can sink in and brainwash you.
There could have been any number of interesting conversations around the question of why it is such a powerful myth for us, blaming the magical picture-box showing us pictures of bad things, and UD provided a list of explanations in function of the categories proposed by Charles Munger in that essay he linked to for your reading convenience, so that you could actually discuss the post he wrote for you. However, most comments were either marriage proposals or vehement assertions that the media does in some way affect us.
Which, duh. But UD trickily substitutes "we do not learn how to behave by emulating fiction" for the whole sloppy gamut of how the argument plays out in mainstream culture, ranging from the media completely predestining our lives to mildly ruffling our feathers; he chooses to address the most extreme form of the argument only, and there’s no way to disprove it. It would be insane to argue that we learn how to behave by emulating fictional behavior, just as it would insane to assert that any one thing teaches us how to behave. If you want to disagree with UD, accuse him of sophistry for pretending that knocking down this extreme form of the argument is tantamount to disproving all the milder forms of it. To say that the media influences behavior would be a whole other kettle of carp. Some of you did attempt to say this, but fell into the rhetorical abyss in the process, attempting to "disprove" the stance UD carefully chose to limit himself to. If you know UD at all, you know that he chooses his opinions very carefully. You will never see him burst out with some of the hasty opinions I've publicly declared, such as that bees deserved to be enslaved or how that guy on Shear Genius is Kirsten Dunst. If UD is voicing an opinion, he's thought about it, a lot. Like those of most conversers, your opinions, with only a couple of exceptions, ranged from false to irrelevant.If you truly want to duke it out about whether and how the effects of media on behavior can be measured, you can take it up with some grad students currently taping electrodes to the heads of gold farmers in a laboratory near you. Seriously, do it! In fact, while it might seem unlikely to those whose only media source is UD’s blog, science still exists in the aftermath of his last post.
But just for the sake of argument, let's abandon the reality-based community for a moment and assume you’re right. Let’s say that we learn how to behave by watching TV. How are you engaging with UD’s post by asserting this?
It’s like some of the students in my Literature and History class who absolutely could not bear questioning the boundaries between disciplines. As though drowning, they would flail desperately into the discussion about what constituted history in a given text and attempt to abort the conversation by declaring, "well, that text isn't history."
Or better yet, it’s like when I used to babysit for some really bratty kids back in the day and I would try to tell them a story about Transformers and every little thing that deviated at all from their like three tenets of Transformerdom they were like, “Transformers don’t live in New York” and I’d be like ok, but in this story they do, and they’d be like “Transformers don’t go in houses” and so on, until they basically ruined any possible enjoyment they could have had of the story. And now they will probably see this, and because it is a movie they will accept that Megatron went to the North Pole, and also because they are now like 20 years old. But I bet if I called them up tomorrow and was like, “hey, I used to babysit for you, what about a story where Megatron burns the map leading to the source of all Decepticons onto a pair of eyeglasses” they’d be all, “Decepticons don’t have glasses”.
Decepticons don’t have glasses, Transformers don’t live in New York or go in houses, History isn’t whatever you say it isn’t and the media directly impacts our behavior. And now what? You want a new story based on your super restrictive belief system. No wonder Republican Presidential Hopeful Mitt Romney’s favorite novel is by L. Ron Hubbard.** How many choices do you have when living in such an insane aesthetic set of regulations yet demanding fresh textual flesh all the time?
Participating as you do in our Manichaean culture, you “believe” that every issue has exactly two sides, leading to the faith-based certainty that any assertion necessarily implies a sound, padded, comfortable and moderate “other side” from which interested readers can volley “feedback”, a polite way of calling their own feces which they triumphantly hurl in order to demonstrate their existence by shitting near to what others wrote, thereby fulfilling the double purpose of both proving their proximity (lol angstybee wuz here) and marking their territory (I shXX on UD lol).
Think about the worst thing you’ve ever read, terrible fucking writing, where you must physically maim yourself in an effort to survive the sucking-out of your soul by proximity to such god-awful dialogue, begging the characters to please stop telling rather than showing, biting your own hand, please, let me paraphrase it for you, it’s apparent to entire insect species what is happening, which is to perp-march readers through the holey plot, wrenching their arms behind them as painfully as necessary to keep anyone from wondering aloud what all that weather is for or what happened to Mrs. Nichols from a chapter ago, and why it’s relevant that Tony’s uncle went to Toledo.
This is what such “conversation” does to our lives.
Now, if I want to avoid embodying what I second-most dislike about blogging (which, after the idiocies of "conversation", is the relentless negativity necessary to sustain a critical posture without any menacing possibility of being changed in the process) I should provide an example of a good conversation. Which, to review, would consist of participants willing to change and, we can add, who possess an attention span that encompasses their participation. If you're unable to wade through the boringness of a whole post, don't respond to it in a confrontational manner. Not because it's "wrong", but because you will enter a bad conversation. We've all done it.
The Latin verb conversare means literally "to turn oneself about, to and fro." Conversation has the same root as conversion; and both involve transformation. In its earliest English usage, conversation means the action of living or having one’s being among persons, as in "Where is his conversation but in the empire of heaven?" Conversing means dwelling somewhere, as in "How many years art thou old and where conversest thou?"
But what's more impressive than how much the meaning of conversation has changed is how clear the distinction between transforming oneself and interacting with others seems to us. It's absolutely bizarre the extent to which we have removed being around other people from our sense of conversation, and conversation from transformation. And by "being around people", I don't mean only physical proximity, and by "transformation" I don't mean only physical metamorphosis. I mean something more like how it is that we attempt a solitary versare without others, turning all alone on our individual axes, spending all our energy in a rigid resistance to change, to remain unaffected by what is around us.
Let's stop spinning on our tire swings, let's get off the enormous nauseating tilt-a-whirl in which each of us spins in our individual teacup and in company cannot speak but vom. Only such extreme centrifugal force can keep us packed into the illusion of a unified subject, a lifetime spent either throwing up or about to throw up, except for the weird few, all of whom must have attended my high school, who relish being spun and wish amusement park rides could go faster and faster and faster; if I ever become a park, I hope they won’t be there; but the rest of you will be welcome.
*See this example courtesy of jf_franklin