Monday, January 10, 2011

Weighing in on a national tragedy in an uncomfortable way

There has been much talk about the shooting of Representative Giffords and the death of innocent bystanders. Many causal sources have been proposed:

CSM reports that Europe believes that the political climate in general is at fault, and this is due to America's decline in power and its failure in two world wars. link
Sarah Palin and extreme Right-wing rhetoric link
Public School systems link
Ayn Rand, Mein Kampf, Das Kapital, and George Orwell link
Some "They do it, too!" from the right link
Some point to gun laws link

As long as we're weighing in political opinions, I might as well take a swing: the shooters actions are a clear indictment of capital. Capitalism encourages news sources to instead offer flash, fiction, and meta-commentary that conform to our predispositions -- this brings in a larger market share of viewers. The need for counter-factuals, scientific inquiry, and criticism is abolished. All that matters in every walk of life is profit. This drive for profit increases the number of persons, which, due to our limited capacity as thinkers, increases the number of sub-cultures which develop. Capitalism, in pursuit of the greater spectacle, further exacerbates these sub-groups so that they lose more and more common pragmatic rules of communication that are a necessary precondition for rational discourse. Each sub-group obtains its own epistemic values and assigns a differing distribution of weight to facts presented, which creates discontinuities between large groups of people. These discontinuities are further exacerbated when we attempt rational discourse, and noise is generated.

The internet is not to blame. This internet is to be praised for making this reality more apparent.

With noise, misinformation, confusion, political turmoil, meta-commentary, and economic hardship comes a climate that generates a person willing to shoot a politician for unknown, indistinct, un-rational reasons. And, for those thinking this a ridiculous causal hypothesis, I couldn't agree more. But I ask you this: Is this a better explication than anything offered so far?

If we were really interested in causal factors, then we'd likely wait on police reports or turn to the field of psychology. Everything offered in the news thus far has been sociology/politics. We're using the event to construct a narrative which argues for our politics -- we have a political axe to grind. I don't think this is even necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps we should reevaulate our rhetoric in light of having what that rhetoric means being shown to us. We should certainly reevaluate the role capitalism plays in everything complained of so far, such as irrational political discourse. However, as I am a proponent of rationality within political discourse, I think it best to understand that the news presented thus far has been political speculation -- like metaphysical speculation, but less structured.

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