Friday, September 14, 2012

Politics and propaganda

The purpose of this blog is to aggregate the articles and thoughts I've been finding/having related to ... I'm not entirely sure yet.  The behavior of humans in large groups, I think.  Or small groups.  Sociology, politics, economics, propaganda, organizational management, anthropology.  Even biology, evolution, and systems thinking in general.

All these things fascinate me, but I haven't had a good place to blog about them, and today I had the epiphany that really, all of my academic interests have some ineffable core in common.  Programming, NLP, and machine learning (at my semantic programming blog), human language, and ... all this stuff here.  It's all the same thing: intelligent or adaptive systems, or something along those lines.

But then there's the macro end.  It's an election year.  Americans are at one another's throats in an election year in the best of times, but these are not the best of times.  We are fragmented, isolated - divided.  This benefits certain elements of society, and that benefit can be documented.  The ways in which we fool ourselves about their - and our - complicity can be understood.

I remain convinced that we can design a better world - by understanding the world we live in.  That, under some weird American calculus, makes me a liberal.  Unfortunately, the most vocal and influential Americans aren't.  The people I grew up with aren't.  Large parts of my family aren't.  And many of my friends aren't.

One friend in particular accused me of hit-and-running in political debates on Facebook. And you know, she's 100% right - I am so programmed to assume I should keep quiet about my political and religious views that I simply engage in drive-by propaganda, then leave a thread, never to return lest I get too angry at the responses.

That's stupid - so I started thinking about the meaning of political speech.  About the propaganda that permeates current American "discourse", as though what we have were some kind of real discourse instead of a degenerate shouting match of empty slogans and dog whistles.  It all has meaning, though, buried though it may be.  And I'm running into some interesting thinking about it.

I have been convinced for many years that understanding the propaganda (and by "propaganda" I don't actually mean the pejorative intentional kind that is the actual meaning of the word, but rather the deliberate or random mutation of the semantics of words) within our political discourse would result in the ability to change it, or at least to deflect it.  So that's one thing I hope to explore in this blog, starting with the dump of a few links, followed probably by a long dry spell.  We'll see.

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