Thursday, August 23, 2012

Stand BACK! I have a loaded word and I am not afraid to use it

How much did you earn this year?  Whatever answer you gave is arbitrary.
How much did you make?  Unless you are working on an assembly line and giving production numbers, it's also arbitrary.

We use these words to talk about income.  We shouldn't.  They make it difficult to talk about anything that influences income, such as taxes and salary limits.  After all, if you earned your salary then you're justified in being resistant to any questions about it.  What if instead you just got your salary?  Maybe you earned it, maybe not.  This word choice is neutral and therefore allows us to talk about income without a heavy bias toward the status quo.

Similarly, companies are eager to use the words theft and piracy when talking about intellectual property.  These aren't merely biased words, they're blatantly inaccurate.  If I stole your car I'd have a car but you would no longer have a car.  It is a zero-sum game (assuming I didn't damage anything to get it).  If I copied your music collection I'd have a music collection, and so would you.  It is a positive-sum game.

Both of these ignore the long-term effects, and those are why I'm not a fan of excessive copywrite violation.  In the long term too much copying without payment means reduced incentive to develop new ideas, new designs, and new art.  However this is a different problem than theft, in which one person is directly and immediately deprived of wealth.  They are different problems and require different solutions.  To treat them as similar only makes it harder to fix the problem.

Add these to the pile of words that have been changed so much as to barely resemble their original meanings.  The result is that in the crossfire of political exchanges everyone is missing, and all the onlookers are being slaughtered.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The True Media Bias

Liberal media?  Maybe once upon a time, but not any more.  These days the true media bias is conservative.

Let's start off with 'balance'.  If one person tells the truth and one person lies, what should you do?  You should fact-check.  This is one of the purposes of the media.  Supposedly.  But in practice, the media strives for the illusion of balance, which means that the liar gets equal weight as the honest man.  Given that a truly fair system would call out the lies rather than reprint them without pause, this 'balanced' approach gives a bias to the liar.  In these times, by which I mean my entire lifetime (which admittedly is barely a quarter-century), that has been the Republican Party.  Not that Democrats are paragons of honesty and virtue, but that lies have not been the primary driven of their support and agenda.

But there is a more fundemental source of the bias.  It is in the companies.  They are not there to bring truth and spread information, nor to enlighten, observe, or check the powers that be.  Instead, they are there to pursue profit, with no regard for any of the previously-listed values.  That is the essence of modern conservatism, pursuit of profit regardless of the social harm.

So the next time you think you're seeing spin and bias, remember that there is no agenda behind it beyond appealing to viewers in an attempt to attract advertisers and therefore profit.  In fact, if you believe there is a liberal bias to the media, then it means that the media thinks that a liberal bias is what is most appealing to the widest base of viewers of advertisements.  Of course there are always niche audiences, which is why there is FOX News and various other right-wing sources, because there are sufficient viewers to attract advertisers.  Ultimately though, it is not ideology, but greed, which drives broadcasting.  If you want an objective media, then you're going to have to work against that greed, but good luck with that, liberal.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Feeding the Culture War

It makes me sad that people hate or are afraid of gay people.  I don't know quite why they are.  Maybe they're insecure and overreacting, as I once did.  Maybe they place too much value on old books, detached from context and filtered by generations of agendas and biases.  Maybe it's what they learned growing up and couldn't quite challenge it, whether due to a lack of intellectual ability* or fear of challenging their beliefs.

I'd love to live in a world where people shared my view: not caring.  Maybe that's not entirely accurate.  I do care.  I'd hate it if gay people took over the world and made all the porn gay and had naked man statues everywhere.  But beside that absurd extreme, I don't care.  Why should I?

The whole Chik-fil-A debacle is stupid.  Boycotting it won't change anyone's mind, or even cost the president of the company anything.  Similarly, those who are going out of their way to buy it are doing the exact same thing: using random third parties as symbols in their culture wars.  It's ridiculous.

Let's not pretend that this is all just some innocent comment that got taken out of context and blown up into a fake scandal.  He knew what he was saying.  He could have evaded, toned-down, or refused to talk.  Instead he decided to go ahead, guns blazing.  And why not?  It's a quick and easy way to start up the culture wars and get people rallying around random symbols.  A boycott just feeds the absurdly ironic persecution narrative of bigots.

Eat where you will get the best mix of taste, nutrition, and value.  If it matters to you, add to that things directly-related to the business, such as company policies on worker pay and rights, material sourcing (fair trade, organic, local, whatever else), or even where the company sends its money (such as which super-PAC they steal shareholder profits to fund).

But however you feel about gay marriage, refusing to, or clamoring to, buy chicken from a particular fast food chain is just silly.  It doesn't teach anyone anything and it doesn't advance any cause except a sense of self-righteous superiority for driving a block to a different fast food chain.  Let's hope Ronald McDonald doesn't come out of the closet.

[edit] After reading a bit more, I'm starting to see a point to a boycott, since company revenues go to fund hate groups.  It's not merely a problem of an individual citizen being a hateful bigot.