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Thursday, Feb 7, 2008

Super Sunday. Super Tuesday. Super Signing Day.

In America, three events this past week, all national in scope. Events declaring this place—regardless of one’s feelings about the events, themselves, or their situs (America, itself)—a “Super Society”. For those of you unfamiliar with American ways, we are speaking, respectively, of the final professional football game of the year; the largest slate of primary elections to ever be contested in a single day; and the first day a high school football player can declare the college he intends to don a helmet and pads for, thereby serving as four-year grist for their multi-million dollar sporting mill.

And, for those of you unfamiliar with American ways, these are all major cultural events, witnessed by millions on-line, through newspapers, or on radio and television. One event, a culmination, another the weigh-station, a third, the prelude, of significant societal phenomena. Believe it or not, these three events tell us so much about what the United States is—what its preoccupations are, what it stands for, what America means.

A football game. An election. A meat auction.

No kidding.


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Thursday, Feb 7, 2008

At Crooked Timber, John Quiggin takes on the oft-repeated notion (he singles out law professor Cass Sunstein) that the internet is exacerbating polarization by allowing people to only read opinions they agree with and to get all their news through a soothing interpretive filter. Sunstein wants to promote an ideal of diversity and can sometimes sound a little Habermasian in his implicit celebration of some sort of town square where people respect one another’s views and debate them openly and in good faith. And we all want that. But the internet is probably helping promote that vision, rather than undermining it.

Sunstein argues that the echo chamber effect tends to reinforce existing views and produce a poisonous partisan divide.
It seems to me that exactly the opposite is true. The partisan divide in the US is being reinforced because people are more exposed to the other side than before.
Before the Internet, the average liberal or social democrat was largely insulated, on a day-to-day basis, from the kinds of views represented by Free Republic or Little Green Footballs. Similarly, unless we sought out right-wing magazines we were insulated to a large extent from commentators like Goldberg, Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter. Now we can see them minute-to-minute and it’s obvious that the idea of treating them as part of a legitimate discussion is absurd.

As far as my political leanings go, the phenomenon Quiggin describes seems more accurate—I never would have taken right-wing views as seriously without seeing the vehemence with which they are expressed. I tended to assume that those espousing them were simply in bad faith, trying to dupe bigots, xenophobes, and religious zealots in order to trojan horse in oligarchic policies of plunder. Now I have the scary impression that they are serious and in earnest, and it has made me more invested in politics, even though I am even more aware of the futility of ever changing anyone’s mind about anything. It seems more like an endless struggle to keep the forces of reaction and atavism at bay, whereas I used to idly dream of the days when a real politician would wash through the system with irresistible compromises that would persuade everyone and make everyone content—the fallacious bipartisan/third way fantasy sometimes dismissively dubbed Broderism.

Quiggin goes on to say the echo chamber effect only applies to the right-wing zealots themselves, whose arguments aren’t founded in conversational discourse and admit no revision or compromise or “relativism.”

Having established a self-sustaining ideology, immune to any form of empirical refutation, US Republicans have indeed created an echo chamber. But this process works across all media (Fox News, the Washington Times, talk radio and so on) and beyond, to the replacement of scientific research by the products of think tanks. Moreover, it does not rely on the exclusion of alternative views so much as on the availability of a distorting filter in which any opposition can be ridiculed out of existence.

Reactionary conservatives, who have nothing left to learn as the full truth has already been revealed to them, see no benefit to dialogue or the open discussion of ideas, so they would never participate in a public forum of discussion of any kind no matter what the configuration, and they will always use available technology to further circle the wagons. Meanwhile the rest of us are reveling how much wider a range of opinions we can sample and shade our own ideas with.

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Thursday, Feb 7, 2008
by PopMatters Staff

Brazil Classics 7: What’s Happening in Pernambuco, New Sounds of the Brazilian Northeast
Siba: Vale Do Juca MP3

Otto: Bob [MP3]

Nacao Zumbi: Carimbaeo [MP3]

Buy at Napster

Shelby Lynne
Anyone Who Had a Heart [Video]

Kelley Stoltz
Your Reverie [MP3]

Unlikely Rock Shock [MP3]

Mobius Band
Friends Like These [MP3]

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
Glue Girls [MP3]

Tagged as: mp3
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Thursday, Feb 7, 2008

The wave of the future?

Hats off to Spin (yeah, I write for them sometimes) for their linking with MySpace to put their content online for free- the pay off was a 50% jump in subscriptions and renewals.  Hardly a coincidence I think… Vice on the other hand is looking for subscribers to pay after offering their publication for free, which is kind of the opposite tact- it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out.  Yet another publishing idea is selling stories through an online trader, which is what a service called Reporterist is doing now- they’re just starting out so stay tuned to see if this might be the way o’ the future for scribes and editors to connect.

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Thursday, Feb 7, 2008
by PopMatters Staff

Kill People [MP3] (from Debt Dept releasing 11 March)

Excepter - Burgers

Dead Meadow
What Needs Must Be [MP3]

Dog Day
Lydia [MP3]

Sleeping, Waiting [MP3]

Del the Funky Homosapien
Bubble Pop [MP3]

She & Him
Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? [MP3]

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