Thursday, May 17, 2007

A defense of reason

Excerpts from Al Gore's new book, An Assault on Reason, are now available at Time Magazine's website

The potential for manipulating mass opinions and feelings initially discovered by commercial advertisers is now being even more aggressively exploited by a new generation of media Machiavellis. The combination of ever more sophisticated public opinion sampling techniques and the increasing use of powerful computers to parse and subdivide the American people according to "psychographic" categories that identify their susceptibility to individually tailored appeals has further magnified the power of propagandistic electronic messaging that has created a harsh new reality for the functioning of our democracy.

As a result, our democracy is in danger of being hollowed out. In order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum. We must create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. We must stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo-studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the rule of reason.

along with an article on what he is doing on climate change policy with the usual political speculation thrown in.

The hounds are baying

UPDATE: Well we all have see arguments from ignorance, but it takes a libertarian to make an argument for ignorance

Since the 1950s, economists and political scientists have known that it is actually rational for voters to be ignorant, because the chance that any one voter will have a significant impact on the outcome of an election is infinitesimally small. There is little incentive to spend time and effort acquiring knowledge about politics that won't make any difference to political outcomes anyway.

Bryan, however, goes beyond the standard rational ignorance analysis. He emphasizes that it is rational for voters to not only learn very little about politics, but to do a poor job of evaluating the information they do have. Good analysis of political information - like learning the information in the first place - requires considerable time and effort that rationally ignorant voters have little incentive to undertake. Instead, voters are likely to fall prey to systematic errors in considering political information. As Bryan shows in detail, this helps explain why the majority of voters routinely fall prey to gross fallacies in their analysis of public policy - such as the belief that protectionism helps the overall economy; that the rise of modern technology is a major cause of long term unemployment; and that foreigners are beggaring the American economy (all of these are actual examples from the book).

Since libertarians are at heart solipsists it is clear that their vision of community extends to their nose, and their understanding of policy not a nanometer farther than their pocketbooks, but this argument ignores the public context in which policy is functions.

Ethon needs a new roost

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The potential for manipulating mass opinions and feelings initially discovered by commercial advertisers is now being even more aggressively exploited by a new generation of media Machiavellis."

Framing, anyone?

Anonymous said...

Is it any wonder that some people are so rabidly anti-Gore?

He not only understands the game they are playing, but he is also capable of actually affecting the outcome of that game.

So they attack him like there is no tomorrow. If they were not attacking him on his global warming position, they would almost certainly be attacking him on something else.

They are not so much interested in defeating his positions on individual issues as they are in vanquishing him personally.

It must really have given these people a scare that Gore came so close to becoming President and I suspect that they have no intention of ever letting it happen again.

Anonymous said...

**A different anonymous then the one above**

Oh brother. When things don't go your way, it is always best to blame *something*, especially someone else.

In Gore's case, not getting his way means someone, somewhere has to be "manipulating mass opinions".

Give it a rest Al. You are becoming paranoid.

And for anonymous above, it gave no one a scare that Gore almost became president. But it sure as heck got tiresome seeing what a sore loser he was.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:28:

Gore made a pretty obvious observation about the media -- that they manipulate public opinion -- and you question that?

Where have you been living, in a cave? Welcome to the age of mass media. That's what they do: manipulate public opinion.

Perhaps you deny that "manipulative conversation" got us into the debacle in Iraq (and that it is indeed a debacle) and that the media played a significant role -- either as unwitting cheerleader or willing accomplice? (Judith Miller, William Kristol et al)


You may not be scared by Gore, though lots of people clearly are, and it is the people with the most to lose.

It's primarily the people like Rupert Murdoch and the head of Exxon Mobil who find Gore scary (or at least threatening) because his policies would greatly affect their bottom line.

We'll see who whines

Anonymous said...

**A different anonymous then the one above**

Snore. Now ExxonMobil enters the conversation. Big, bad media and big, bad oil. Does the storyline ever change?

Drastic measures to combat AGW would greatly affect the bottom line of hundreds of millions of ordinary, average citizens. That is why some people find Gore scary.

That some ordinary citizens find Gore frightening is because these same ordinary citizens are capable of independent and rational thought. No manipulation required.

Anonymous said...

The glibertarian line I presume?

Talk about tired robotic thinking.

Anonymous said...

To "A different anonymous then the one above"

You said in your fist post above "it gave no one a scare that Gore almost became president."

But in your second post you say:

"some people find Gore scary" and
"some ordinary citizens find Gore frightening..."

Which is it?

You seem to be confused.

Anonymous said...

Some-anonymouse-or-other
"That some ordinary citizens find Gore frightening is because these same ordinary citizens are capable of independent and rational thought"

How can one discern whether one's opinion is rationally derived, or the product of media manipulation?

Anonymouse named 'Sam-Hec'

Anonymous said...

If they are Libertarians (Ayn Randians, Objectivists, etc), their opinion is rationally derived -- and therefore not really opinion at all, but "Objective Truth".

If not, it is not.

That's by definition (according to the Ayn Rand Pre-teen Dictionary)

Whenever anyone includes the word "reason" in a post anywhere on the internet (as Eli has done above), it brings the Reasonites (a religious group not unlike the Mennonites) out of the woodwork.

They firmly believe that they own the word "Reason" and must therefore defend it at all costs, even if it means coming across as totally illogical as above ("Gore doesn't scare people ... but he really does.")

Anonymous said...

Speaking of "reason", how long do you suppose it will be before the high priests of "Reason" (at Reason Magazine) begin their round-the-clock vigil to ward off the evils of Gore's new book?

They will undoubtedly have to perform an exorcism on the book since it contains their precious word "Reason" in its title (and capitalized too!)

Anonymous said...

From a different anonymous then the one above.

=== anonymous said:===
You said in your fist post above "it gave no one a scare that Gore almost became president."

But in your second post you say:

"some people find Gore scary" and
"some ordinary citizens find Gore frightening..."

Which is it?
=====

Ha. "Almost" becoming president caused no one any fear. Becoming president might have, though I doubt that too.

As a private citizen, and a powerful advocate for action on AGW, Gore does scare some people, as imprudent actions on his beliefs would cause severe and abrupt upheaval to many peoples lives.

Anonymous said...

Ha. "Almost" becoming president caused no one any fear. Becoming president might have, though I doubt that too."

Pathetic.

kwag7693 said...

Why are libertarians solipsists? Statements like this are simply disheartening nonsense. Since I do enjoy the libertarian ideology maybe you all are just a sign of my self-doubt? That would be nice.

And I especially enjoy the black magic view of rhetoric. Look out! Here come the opinion pollsters to suck out your free will! I sure hope someone comes along to stop all these nasties from subverting my, dare I say for fear of being labelled a Randian?, reason.

Anonymous said...

Not the simple-minded anonymous; from the OTHER anonymous.

Yes, according to Al Gore, "media Machiavellis" are using "powerful computers" to compartmentalize voters by "psychographic" categories.

The horror! The horror!

Gore is a touch delusional, but in a funny kind of way.

EliRabett said...

Because for a libertarian self interest is the only good. Simple enough?

As to the rest, read the book or look at today's Washington Post

"Web Ads With An Audience Of One
Tech Giants Buy Firms To Track Users' Habits

The deal would give Microsoft the ability to place ads on sites other than its own, as well as evaluate whether the ads are effective. It also would enhance Microsoft's ability to target advertising based on users' Web-surfing habits."

Libertarian sheep never look up

ankh said...

> Libertarian sheep never look up

Tempting. Is Ethon to become a livertarian consumer?

Anonymous said...

'libertarian self interest is the only good.'

Which means, of course, that the libertarians are first in line for the handouts.

Steve Bloom said...

Thanks for the tip about the Ayn Rand Pre-teen Dictionary! For years it's seemed to me that "objectivists" came to their views via having confused (circa age nine or so) "posterity" with "posteriority," and now it's clear just how that happened. :)

Less snarkily, the problem with libertarianism is that it seeks to convert into a virtue the human near-inability to plan for future generations.

Marion Delgado said...

FM Global, a high risk insurer which is sometimes cited in 9/11 collapse discussions, has a magazine called "Reason" and it even has a cover I find reminscent of "Reason" magazine. Odd thing.

kwag7693 said...

Oh what tosh.

1) Nothing central to libertarianism implies that self-interest is the only good.

2) Nothing about self-interest implies that lack of foresight or anti-social behavior is good at all.

It's ridiculous to assert libertarians are necessarily unaware of living in a society or further that living in a society is not to anyone's immediate self-interest. I find this point of view very frustrating coming from apparently well educated people.

Anonymous said...

kwag:

If I could give you a couple quarters through the internet tubes, I would -- so you could call someone who cares.

I hear the "CO2 is Life" crowd care (and hate Al Gore too). Call them.

I know they like the whine, cuz they use it all the time.

notelephant said...

It is funny how people want to attach abstract lables to those who speek truths that are hard for some to admit to. Like you Republicans have had it your way and really f*#ked it up. Keep lying to yourselves that your views are correct as the ship sinks. Gores book should be seen as truth and we should do something about the criminal acts ruining our country.

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