2020 Election Polls, Like All Polls, Not Representative


It has been pointed out by many—including Finn McHugh in “Why the polls keep getting it wrong” and Mary Kay Ling and Doree Lewak, “Why election polls were so wrong again in 2020,”—that the 2020 election polls were not representative of the population queried. Trump supporters were underrepresented, as election results demonstrated.

The more important point, however, is not that the 2020 election polls were not representative but, rather, that essentially all polls are not representative. Actually, with rare exception, all survey research efforts, including public opinion surveys (regardless of topic queried) are unrepresentative.

Use Unrepresentative Results

Although valid conclusions or implications about whole populations cannot be deduced or inferred from unrepresentative results, survey researchers do not discard unrepresentative results. Instead, they use unrepresentative results and present them as indicative—or at least suggestive—of what’s really going on.

The Census Bureau, it’s generally agreed, uses unrepresentative answers: e.g., answers that undercount by ethnicity, income status, house ownership, and geographic location. Allan Cox, in his study of American corporations, admits he doesn’t have a representative sample from which “to make statistical probability statements” about corporate executives but, of course, he does use unrepresentative data to make statements about the characteristics of corporates executives. Carole Jurkiewicz and Kenneth Nichols, in their study of ethics in Master of Public Administration curriculums, refer to their “significantly” unrepresentative results that “restrain the generalizability of the[se] results.” But they’re hardly, if at all, restrained, claiming that “fundamental findings emerged” from the unrepresentative results

Unrepresentative results are used in asking studies of organizations, sex, eldercare programs, HIV infection rates, opinions about government, ethics, violence, child mental health programs, number of civilians killed by U.S. troops, illicit drug use, alcohol consumption, effects of corporate policies, and so on. Odds are, if it’s been asked about—and essentially everything has been, and still is, asked about—the answers are unrepresentative. This is to say, the ubiquity of asking guarantees that there’s lots of unrepresentative—that is, incorrect—information about everything. Think about that!

Justify Use of Unrepresentative Results

The widespread use of unrepresentative results is accompanied by numerous and varied justifications for doing so. Many practitioners (e.g., consultants, marketers, and the like) defend the use of the unrepresentative results of Internet surveys by claiming that they’re “useful,” or that the “data [answers] . . . provid[e] important insights.”

Cox says his “confidence” in “the quality of the samples . . . offsets any loss of corporate representativeness entailed in the design.” Schnaiberg (author of an Appendix in Cox’s book) justifies using these unrepresentative results because they’re the most representative at the date of publication. Cheryl King and Camilla Stivers (authors of Government Is Us) although admitting their data about public sector personnel is unrepresentative, justify its use by asserting that it’s “food for thought” and, as such, generalizable to “people who work in government agencies.”

Jurkiewicz and Nichols justify their use of unrepresentative data—not as did Cox by asserting confidence in unrepresentative results, and not as did King and Stivers in terms of eating and thinking—but, rather, by asserting that they were the “first” to describe their “fundamental findings” by their small, unrepresentative, non-generalizable data.

John Stevens and co-askers, in their study of information systems and productivity, justify the use of responses that are unrepresentative and therefore cannot be generalized, on the grounds that the results are “sufficiently” representative for their purposes and because the results can be manipulated by the statistical tools they are using. Here are their exact (and, I might add, peer reviewed) words: “The sample . . . is considered sufficiently representative and large enough to be authoritative for the multivariate analysis performed here and for the level of generalizability sought in basic research or construct validation.” Absolutely!

Pollsters and survey researchers of all stripes always find ways to justify their almost-always unrepresentative results. If they didn’t make these efforts and concoct justifications acceptable to others in the asking professions, they’d be out of business.

This post includes material from my book, The Problem with Survey Research, pp. 270-72, wherein sources are cited.

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Pollsters Wrong Again In 2020 Blame Nonresponse

Updated November 17, 2020

Pollsters, wrong in 2020, as in 2016, seek the source of their ongoing errors. Some, for instance, Jon Cohen, chief research officer at SurveyMonkey, blame nonresponse. As he puts it in an Axios post: `“The major problem, the fundamental issue in the polling industry, is declining response rate.”

Nonresponse, that is not answering, has always been a fatal flaw in all all types of asking (polls, surveys, self-administered questionnaires, computer assisted telephone interviewing, et al.) and regardless of whether the asking effort is face-to-face, on the telephone, online, at home, at the office, or at school. Wherever and however it’s done, every instance of asking produces nonresponse and usually a lot of it.

Actually, nonresponse is as ubiquitous as asking. With each passing day, at least since first documented in the 1950s, response rates for all types of asking have been falling domestically and internationally and in both commercial and university-based asking endeavors. 

Nonresponse is a great concern to most professional and academic askers because even a small amount of nonresponse–say, 10-14 percent–could, even askers admit, bias results, could produce what researchers deem, “unacceptable” answers. However, nonresponse rates typically are at least 50 percent, and nonresponse in the 75-80 percent range is not uncommon and, as such, are according to professional standards, unacceptable but, nevertheless accepted: there are many published studies with response rates of 10 and even 5 percent. If pollsters and other askers didn’t use “unacceptably” low response rates they’d be out of business. 

Some of the material in this post is from my book, The Problem with Survey Research, pp. 140-41.

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Posting Is Sharing

Posting on the Internet is sharing. What’s posted is available to, and thus is, or can be, shared with anyone who has an Internet connection. There’s no alternative to sharing what’s posted when it can be acquired by anyone who wants it. Sharing in the Internet+ Age is best understood, then, not as altruism (although sharing posts can benefit those who see them) but, rather, as a behavioral imperative of posting, access to the Internet, computers, smartphones, and other hard- and software. 

To be sure, most posts are not accessed by, and therefore not shared with, most Internet users. That’s because people online, by and large, are not interested in most online content. Nor are they interested enough in posts/content that’s blocked (e.g., with passwords or encryption) to acquire the skills or technologies required to circumvent blocks. But let’s not forget that with appropriate hard- and software any Internet content can be accessed. Consequently, no form of electronic communication is immune to access; any post can be shared with others.

Because posting is sharing, privacy and secrecy are, for all intents and purposes, not just gone; they’re largely impossible in the Internet+ Age.


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Accept Filter Bubble Phenomenon

Updated December 11, 2020

A better understanding of our situation in the Internet+ Age and therefore greater effectiveness in pursuing our interests require that we accept the filter bubble phenomenon. Our use of the Internet and attendant hard- and software almost guarantees that we’ll be in filter bubbles; that we and others like us will encounter only information and opinions that confirm and reinforce the beliefs, attitudes, and judgments we already hold. Being online is to experience confirmation bias: “a tendency,” as Pariser defines it, “to believe things that reinforce our existing views, to see what we want to see.” This situation, he continues, “is more or less unavoidable.”

It’s reasonable to accept the filter bubble phenomenon when we realize this online actuality, which we can’t help but experience, is simply an intensification of our offline natural, inevitable, situation of being with others like us and thus experiencing and believing what others like us experience and believe. The offline groups to which we belong—families, of course! nation-states, municipalities, neighborhoods, socioeconomic strata, clubs, churches, political parties, professional associations, trade unions, and other formal and informal associations, and let’s not forget our gender and ethnic brackets—as well as socialization/indoctrination/propaganda and coercion in all their forms, produce like-minded groups with confirmation bias. It turns out, being with people like us and acquiring confirmation bias—that is, being in filter bubbles—is both an online and offline phenomenon; an aspect of the human condition.

It’s not clear how the filter bubble phenomenon–the online and offline intensifications of interest/like-minded/confirmation biasing groups–will play out. How can we learn from others when we’re ever-more separated from them? How can regimes labeled “democracy” which, by all accounts, require consensus/coming together, function when this requirement cannot be met? Our future is not known, but it’s best to enter it realistically; in this case, by accepting the filter bubble phenomenon.

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Are We Focusing On the Wrong Problem?

Often there’s a focus on the wrong problem. When the problem is violence in city neighborhoods, many focus on guns, rather than on poverty and the lack of employment at the going rate. When the problem is the Middle East, many focus on religion/Islam rather than on oil. Here’s a poem that can help us consider that maybe we’re focusing on the wrong problem:

Did It Ever Occur to You That Maybe You’re Falling in Love?

By Ailish Hopper

We buried the problem.
We planted a tree over the problem.
We regretted our actions toward the problem.
We declined to comment on the problem.
We carved a memorial to the problem, dedicated it. Forgot our handkerchief.
We removed all “unnatural” ingredients, handcrafted a locally-grown tincture for the problem. But nobody bought it.
We freshly-laundered, bleached, deodorized the problem.
We built a wall around the problem, tagged it with pictures of children, birds in trees.
We renamed the problem, and denounced those who used the old name.
We wrote a law for the problem, but it died in committee.
We drove the problem out with loud noises from homemade instruments.
We marched, leafleted, sang hymns, linked arms with the problem, got dragged to jail, got spat on by the problem and let out.
We elected an official who Finally Gets the problem.
We raised an army to corral and question the problem. They went door to door but could never ID.
We made http://www.problem.com so You Can Find Out About the problem, and http://www.problem.org so You Can Help.
We created 1-800-Problem, so you could Report On the problem, and 1-900-Problem so you could Be the Only Daddy That Really Turns That problem On.
We drove the wheels offa that problem.
We rocked the shit out of that problem.
We amplified the problem, turned it on up, and blew it out.
We drank to forget the problem.
We inhaled the problem, exhaled the problem, crushed its ember under our shoe.
We put a title on the problem, took out all the articles, conjunctions, and verbs. Called it “Exprmntl Prblm.”
We shot the problem, and put it out of its misery.
We swallowed daily pills for the problem, followed a problem fast, drank problem tea.
We read daily problem horoscopes. Had our problem palms read by a seer.
We prayed.
Burned problem incense.
Formed a problem task force. Got a problem degree. Got on the problem tenure track. Got a problem retirement plan.
We gutted and renovated the problem. We joined the Neighborhood Problem Development Corp.
We listened and communicated with the problem, only to find out that it had gone for the day.
We mutually empowered the problem.
We kissed and stroked the problem, we fucked the problem all night. Woke up to an empty bed.
We watched carefully for the problem, but our flashlight died.
We had dreams of the problem. In which we could no longer recognize ourselves.
We reformed. We transformed. Turned over a new leaf. Turned a corner, found ourselves near a scent that somehow reminded us of the problem,
In ways we could never
Put into words. That
Little I-can’t-explain-it
That makes it hard to think. That
Rings like a siren inside.

Source: Poetry (January 2016).

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Importance of Code Increasing

Updated October 30, 2020

The importance of code is increasing. That’s because more and more of life is online and when online it’s all a matter of code.  Consequently, we’ll do better if we  understand code and we’ll do our best if we learn how to code.  

Understand Code

In the 21st century everyone needs to understand code. That means, first, to know that there is such a thing as code, that code exists. In addition, we need to understand that the Internet itself, as well as everything on it, is made from code: all programs or software, everything that appears on our screens, all apps, websites, .com(s), .org(s), .edu(s), .gov(s), .net(s), images, text, colors, social networks, . . . everything!  Even some things that don’t show on the screen, such as all malware (including computer viruses, worms, and spyware) are made from code.

Code, by making all that’s online, makes, as Douglas Rushkoff points out, “[t]he . . . environments in which we all spend . . . so much of our time these days . . . where we do our work and play,” and we need to understand that these environments “have been constructed by people (or at least for people) with real agendas [interests]. They want us to believe,” Rushkofff continues, “certain ideas, spend our money on certain things, and connect to certain people in certain ways.” Code, in other words, embodies interests and we need to understand that these interests may not be—and in many, if not most, cases are not—compatible with our own interests.

We also need to understand that code, by making all that’s online and thus our environments, controls online behavior. Code, says William Mitchell, “control[s] when you can act, what kinds of actions you can take, and who or what you can affect by your actions.”  Code has this extensive range of control because it determines access to the Internet and, when on the Internet, code controls access to the content on it. Code controls our interactions with others on social media platforms because the structures and processes of social media platforms are made of code. Code–Eli Pariser informs us in his best-seller, The Filter Bubble–determines the “news we . . . consume;” what we “watch, read, and see.” Increasingly, he continues, “the power to shape the news rests in the hands of bits of code, not professional human editors.” Or, to describe this power non-metaphorically, the power to shape the news is in the hands of coders. They are the news editors of the Internet+ Age. Moreover, with each passing day, Pariser writes, more and more of “our public functions, from police databases to energy grids to schools run on code.” Even a workaday matter like a shopping trip, as pointed out in a BBC Teach post, “now relies on code to make it run smoothly.”

Consequences of Not Understanding Code

The consequences of not understanding code are appreciable. To not understand that code exists and that all that’s online is made of code is to be oblivious of a crucial component of life in the Internet+ Age. It’s not being cognizant of what’s increasingly ascent in determining what we experience and the quality of those experiences. Also, when we don’t understand code we’re “unaware,” says Rushkoff, “of the biases of the programs in which we are participating,” oblivious of a source of significant control over our lives, and ignorant of the importance of code in matters significant and mundane.

Learn How to Code

Although there are many notable advantages for understanding code, maximum effectiveness in the Internet+ Age requires that you learn how to code. That’s because code is the language of this Age. To be a literate person you need to learn how to code, how to write programs, how to design software; only then can you change the online environment coded/programmed by others and make it more compatible with your interests. Either you make code/programs to your liking or the code/programs made by others makes you. In other words, “program or be programmed.” 

 Another way to think about the significance of being able to code, in addition to enhancing effectiveness, is in terms of “power.” Simply put, those who are able to code have power. In Mitchell’s words, “control of code is power. . . . code . . . is the medium in which intentions are enacted and designs are realized, and it is . . . a crucial focus of political contest. Who shall write the software that increasingly structures our daily lives? What shall that software allow and proscribe? Who shall be privileged by it and who marginalized? How shall the writers of the rules be answerable?” 

Consequences of Not Learning How to Code

When you don’t know how to code, how to design software, you relegate the code/software you’re experiencing to others, thereby trusting them that their software, their programs, in Rushkoff’s words, “are really doing what you’re asking and in a way that is in your best interests.” And, he continues, “the longer you live this way, the less access you have to the knowledge that it could be any other way.” This is to say, when you don’t know how to code, you’re “at the mercy of” coders and/or those who pay them and, moreover, you’re not aware of alternatives to what you’re experiencing. Rushkoff calls code “the steering wheel of our civilization.” So, if you don’t know how to code, he contends, “[y]ou may not know what’s going on, you may not have much of any impact on the future of our species, and you may begin to feel like technology knows more about you than you know about it.”

Postscript to Code

There are two additional points I would like to made about code that don’t fit easily, if at all, into the above discussions concerning code. The first is that code is likeable, and the second is about the time and effort to understand and/or learn how to code.

Code is likeable. To understand code, and even more so, to know how to code is to like it. As Alexander Galloway indicates when he writes about the foundational code of the Internet, the suite of protocols named TCP/IP: “protocol is an incredibly attractive technology. . . . a technology of inclusion, . . .  openness.”. And let’s not forget, code brings us the software that increases our individual and organizational effectiveness, as well as the software that entertains us. Code is a tool of betterment–what’s not to like about that?

My second point in this postscript is that we have the time and the ability to understand code and to learn how to code. I agree with Rushkoff that it’s not “too difficult or too late” for most people in most circumstances to accomplish either or both. And as we realize the likability of code and see that increasing numbers of people throughout the world, including children, are understanding and learning how to code, we become confident that we have the time and talent to attain code literacy.  

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Internet Access A Technological Matter

Updated December 20, 2020

Internet access is a technological matter. Anyone with appropriate hard- and software —electricity, computers, smartphones, satellites, antennas, ISPs, Internet browsers, and so on—can access the Internet and its content anywhere anytime.

As more and more people acquire this technology, access increases. In 2020, it’s  estimated there are nearly 4.1 billion Internet users worldwide, up from 3.0 billion in 2015. That’s over 53% of the world’s population. Almost everyone (about 90% of the world population) is expected to have access to the Internet—but not necessarily to all the information on it—by 2030  

Access is increasing even in countries that forbid or extensively restrict access to their general populaces. In North Korea high-ranking government officials and a few thousand others “with special authorization” have the hard- and software required for access. In 2018, Niall McCarthy pointed out that top-level Chinese government officials and others in their favor have access to the Internet, and over 640 million from the general population, twice as many as in 2008, have restricted access. High echelon politicos and their cohorts in Eritrea, Sadia Arabia, Ethiopia, Iran, and other countries that deny access to their citizens have access. This is to say, Internet access is available essentially anywhere in the world—all that’s required is appropriate hard- and software. 

Google, Mozilla, and other companies and individuals have developed hard- and software, sponsored challenges, and taken other actions that increase the number of people connected to the Internet. Google’s Project Loon, for instance, a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, extends access to people in rural, remote, and natural disaster areas worldwide. In 2013 “[a] sheep farmer in Canterbury, New Zealand [became] the first person to connect to balloon-powered Internet through an Internet antenna attached to the roof of his home. . . . [and in 2017, Project Loon,] [c]ollaborating with the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Authority, FEMA, AT&T, T-Mobile, and many others, . . . provide[d] basic connectivity to 200,000 people in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Also  in 2017, Project Loon provided access to “tens of thousands of people in flood affected areas across [Peru].”

Mozilla and the National Science Foundation have developed the Wireless Innovation for a Network Society (WINS) Challenges that provides “a total of $2 million in prize money . . . for wireless solutions that get people online after disasters or that connect communities lacking reliable Internet access.  A 2018 winner was HERMES (High-frequency Emergency and Rural Multimedia Exchange System), described by Peter Kotechi, in his article, “A $7000 `disaster suitcase’ could provide Internet access to rural areas and places hit by natural disasters.” HERMES, he writes, “uses suitcases, short-wave radio, and GSM [Global System for Mobile communication] technology to let people make local calls and sent text messages without using cables or satellites.”

Voice interaction with computers—e.g., via smart speakers, such as Echo—increases access; a point made by award-wining writer and journalist, John Lanchester. People, he writes in the London Review of Books (Feb. 2, 2017, p. 22),  “talk to the machine normally and without obeying specific conventions . . . [and that’s] a big opening up of access to many millions of the `digitally excluded’ . . . .II]t is the poor and old,” he notes, “who at the moment suffer most if they can’t access the net, especially as more and more government [programs] go online.” Voice-based web access is increasing, helping more people access the Internet; not only the old and poor, but also the illiterate. In Mali, where less than a third of the population can read or write, a project called, Voices, writes Hal Hodson, “lets farmers in remote villages broadcast what produce they have available.” Also, Google’s Voice Access app, as stated in the app’s Play Store listing, increases Internet access for people with disabilities; those “`who have difficulty using a touchscreen due to paralysis, tremor, temporary injury, or other reasons.’”

EVADING RESTRICTIONS TO ACCESS

Access to information on the Internet is advanced by the ongoing development and widening use of hard- and software that evades or overcomes restrictions of access to Internet content. For instance, over a decade ago and, as Vaclav Havel writes in the “Forward” of Liu Xiaobo’s, No Enemies, No Hatred, “[d]espite the best efforts of government officials to keep it off Chinese computer screens, Charter 08 reached a nationwide audience via the Internet.” In practice, as Eli Pariser points out in The Filter Bubble, “the [Chinese] firewall is not so hard to circumvent. Corporate virtual private networks [VPNs, discussed below]—Internet connections encrypted to prevent espionage—operate with impunity. Proxies [and other technologies],” he continues, “connect Chinese dissidents with even the most hard-core antigovernment Web sites.” The evasions mentioned below often, but not always, require evaders to have, depending on the technologies employed, certain levels of general computer expertise and/or specific skills in coding and programming. 

VPN, Virtual Private Network

VPNs can be used to circumvent restrictions on Internet content. Some smartphones come from the store with a VPN already installed. But it’s easy to install a VPN on devices that do not have a VPN. Golden Frog, a VPN provider, explains how to obtain access to blocked sites/information through its VPN, VyprVPN:

“1. Sign up for a VPN service. VyprVPN offers a variety of different VPN protocols, including proprietary Chamelon technology that defeats VPN blocking.

  1. Follow the instructionsfor downloading your VPN and launch the application on your preferred device[s].
  2. Log inwith your credentials.
  3. Choose which server to connect to. VyprVPNlets you choose from over 70 server locations around the world, so you can select a location free of [with minimal] censorship.[2]
  4. Use the Internet or your appsas you usually do and enjoy [a minimally censored] . . . Internet experience.”[xvii]

VPN usage is increasing worldwide. Thus, more people have access to more online information.

Domain Fronting

Domain fronting can be used to overcome government blocks of sites. Procedures for setting it up are straightforward and available from many sources, including an article in Wikipedia,  See also, “Domain Fronting with CloudFront: A worked example.” Domain fronting conceals traffic to the block site with a domain that’s not restricted. In 2018, when the Russian government tried to ban the messaging app Telegram, the company evaded the government’s block by domain fronting. And although Google recently changed its infrastructures/codes “ in order to avoid the use of domain fronting,” Andrea Fortuna shows how domain fronting can be done without the use of Google      

GitHub

GitHub, a company that hosts software development projects, can be used to increase access. For instance, Emily Feng calls attention to programmers in China who used GitHub to collectively organize against working conditions and extended and illegal hours. The government, she says, is reluctant to shut down GitHub because it’s a site Chinese developers and tech companies rely on to share code and software and thereby advance China’s economic development. See also, See also Klint Finley “What exactly is GitHub anyway?

Additional Procedures for Increasing Access

Additional procedures for increasing access to information on the Internet are described in numerous sources, including “How to access blocked websites? 13 working ways to bypass restrictions.” Also relevant is Philip Bates’ article, “5 ways to bypass blocked sites without using proxies or VPNs,” as well as the Wikipedia article, “Internet censorship circumvention.” These and a constantly growing number of other sources indicate that there’s an industry of companies, individuals, and software devoted to increasing access. 

CONCLUSION 

Although with enough effort, government blocks to access can have some effect, even the most determined and repressive regimes cannot stop the flow of data on the Internet. Technologies that block access can be overcome or circumvented by other technologies. “[T]echies,” Jonathan Zittrain writes in The Future of the Internet, “can make applications that offer a way around network blocks. [Moreover, such] applications can be distributed through the network, and unsavvy users can then partake simply by double-clicking on an icon.”

To advance the universally agreed-upon and acclaimed benefits of being online, our focus should be on making the technological requirements for access available to everyone. Technology, not politics, is primary in the Internet+ Age.

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Review: Jonathan Crary, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep

Updated June 12, 2020

Good Description, Poor Prescription

Crary describes in 24/7 what I call the Internet+ Age, a time when the Internet plus attendant hardware (smartphones, sensors, and so on) and software (e.g., Google, the cloud) integrate individuals into “the 24/7 operations of information processing networks.” Almost everyone, he points out, is (so to speak) all in and there’s no way out: we’re in “a switched-on universe for which no off-switch exists. . . . [N]o moment, place, or situation now exists in which one can not shop, consume, or exploit networked resources, there is a relentless incursion [of the Internet and attendant hard- and software]. . . into every aspect of social and personal life.”

Crary’s account of the all-in-no-way-out relationship between individuals and their society/world–a relationship in which individuals are integrated into the larger system in which they are a part and, thereby, controlled by it–is not unique. It’s similar to Marcuse’s one-dimensional society, McLuhan’s “world of total involvement [of] everybody” (The Medium is the Massage, p. 61), and Wolin’s “inverted totalitarianism” (Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism). It’s a notion as old–and as accurate–as Rousseau’s, “man … is everywhere in chains,” as well as a basic tenet of anthropology and sociology and, of course, an empirically established principle of behaviorism and system analysis.

Crary’s contribution to our understanding of the contemporary situation, although not unique, is significant because he shows, more clearly than anyone else I’m aware of, the centrality of the Internet, smartphones, electronic networks, and so on, in the one dimensionality of our contemporary situation.

Crary is displeased with our situation, with “the homogeneity of the present,” and wants “radical social transformation.” Some people (I include myself) propose that we find the levers for change and betterment within the existing situation, within the Internet+ Age, a time in which we’re increasingly online. No way! says Crary. We must “struggle . . . elsewhere,” offline in “already existing relationships forged out of shared experiences and proximity.” And, he continues, we must “subordinate. . . . electronic media” to these offline “struggles and encounters.” Otherwise, the technologies and “networks [of the Internet+ Age] . . . will . . . reproduce and reinforce the separations, the opacity, . . . [and other Crary-undesired phenomena] inherent in their use.”

Crary and his elsewhere outside radicals are as likely to succeed today in producing “radical social transformation” as did their 1960’s Marcusian-outside-radical-goal counterparts. Consider the accomplishments of Marcuse’s outsiders: his lauded leftist intelligentsia, the socially marginalized, “the unemployed and the unemployable . . . . outcasts and outsiders, and the exploited and persecuted” (One-Dimensional Man, p. 256). Angela Davis comes to my mind, as she did to Marcuse’s, but she is/was a social transformer? Where’s the social transformation? Eldridge Cleaver, another 1960s persecuted leftist radical, transformed himself in 1975 from Black Panther to fashion designer, then to Christian Republican and, later, to other personae, but that’s it in terms of Cleaver and transformation.

At best, Crary’s elsewhere radicals, Marcuse’s leftist intellectuals, the persecuted, et al, as well as all other outsiders–however named–bring about incremental change; the only kind of change (excluding divine intervention or similarly-sized disasters) there is. Those (again, I include myself) who want to increase the effectiveness of incremental changes which, over time, result in breakthroughs and a significantly better state of affairs, must work within, not outside, the existing situation and that means we must be online, not offline, and use the Internet and attendant hard- and software. Otherwise, we fail to optimize our efforts to move our world/neighborhood in the right direction.

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Passion Should Be Avoided

Updated May 27, 2020

Passion, like love, is on the increase. It’s hard to find anything that some people don’t have a passion for. Passion, however, should be avoided. It can blind you to your interests and, without exception, it impairs rationality. Don’t be passionate! Be interested. Be rational.

 

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Is All News Fake?

Updated May 24, 2020

Is all news fake? In one sense, yes, because all accounts of what happened are incomplete and biased. ” In  Marshall McLuhan’s words, news is fake “because it has to be made, then selected, and the very, very tiny bits that are actually written up and reported and presented to the public are fictions in every sense of the word. . . . They [news stories/accounts] are fictions in the sense that they do not correspond to actually what is going on, but they are made, literally created.” (pp. 169-70.) What’s really going on, he continues, is a “happening” and “[a] happening is not a point of view. A happening is all sides at once with everybody involved in it.” (p. 234)

The news, in other words, cannot capture what’s actually happening, the constant flux, interconnectedness, and interdependencies of the real world. The news is always an abstraction of the real world. Failure to recognize the distinction between what’s an abstraction and what’s real/concrete is to commit what’s called, the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. Don’t commit the fallacy of misplaced concreteness! Remember, as soon as anyone documents an event it becomes tainted by what is, of necessity, omitted and also skewed by the interest/perspective of the documenter that determines what is included in the story. The news is always other than what actually happened and, in that sense, always fake.

 

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