Monday, November 24, 2014

REPOST Teledeception And The News
(Or: "This... is PNN")

"This is the Palantir News Network."
(Ran this first on September 17, 2012.)

Did you know that Lord of the Rings talked about television news?

Well, not directly. But J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about it quite prophetically. This is most astonishing in that TV news hadn't really been invented yet. (The first experimental TV broadcasts began in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics, but all TV broadcasts were terminated from the start of WW2 to 1945 – after LOTR was completed.)

But yes, Lord of the Rings talked about it a great deal.

In the LOTR universe, the Elves had once created seven great powerful items – the Seeing Stones, or Palantiri: "Far-Seers" (tele-vision). They were connected to one another, so that an individual who looked into one could see individuals looking into others.

By the time of the events of LOTR, only four of the original seven Seeing Stones were still in existence: one was held by Sauron, the great villain; one was held by the evil wizard Saruman; one was held by Denethor, the Ruling Steward of Gondor. A fourth one, off stage, was kept hidden by the Elves, unused.

"Now This."

What is fascinating about this was that every individual who used a Seeing Stone is deceived by it.

Saruman reveals early on that he sees a great, huge army in place by the hand of Sauron, so great and huge that it cannot possibly be overcome by force. He falls into despair and is tempted by Sauron to betray the West and to become his own, Sauron's, servant. He is deceived by what he sees as the overwhelming strength of the Enemy.

Denethor, the lord of Gondor, sees the same forces, a huge army that he knows cannot be defeated through military force. He, too, falls into despair; not into treason, but into suicidal depression and madness, ordering the death of his own son and heir by fire, and suddenly and eventually his own spectacular death in the flames.

He too is deceived by what he sees as the overwhelming strength of the Enemy.

The Hobbit Peregrin Took took hold of a captured Seeing Stone and stared into it, wanting to gain knowledge and power in his own small way. He mind was captured and examined by Sauron, and he was subjected to a great and horrible terror by staring into it. He was deceived by his wish to know too much.

And Sauron himself, the great and powerful wizard, all wise – he himself was deceived by it!

Sauron saw Peregrin's mind in the Stone and thought that Saruman was torturing Pippin by forcing him to stare into it. He knew that some Hobbit, somewhere, had his Great Ring; he thought that Peregrin had it: and revealed to Pippin, unwittingly, his plans to destroy Gondor through force majeure.  He was deceived by seeing in Pippin what he wanted to see, that is, Frodo, who truly had the Ring.

Finally, Aragorn declared himself King of Gondor by taking up the reforged sword Anduril and staring down Sauron through the Seeing Stone of Denethor. By this means he again deceived Sauron into making Sauron, think that he, Aragorn, was now bearing his Great Ring. Again, Sauron was deceived, and kept his eye on Aragorn, never watching his back door where the valiant Frodo and Sam crawled, ring in hand, to destroy it.

But Aragorn, too is deceived, or shown a lie by Sauron: he sees his great love, the elf Arwen, dead in her room (she lives).

Now why do the Palantiri deceive? Two reasons: for most viewers, the one who controls what is seen (i.e., Sauron) forces the viewer to see what he wants. Saruman and Denethor see overwhelming military force; Pippin sees torment and torture; Aragorn sees his love deceased. Their limited view, narrow focus and their preemption by the will of Sauron show the viewer what Sauron wants rather than the truth.

But it also deceives Sauron himself! -- by showing him what he wants to see: he wants to see the Ring Bearer, a hobbit; he sees a hobbit and sees the Ring Bearer. Even the Program Chief of this tiny TV network is deceived by his own vision device. (This is likely also one of the drawbacks of being an Evil Overlord; one tends not to trust one's trusted lieutenants and not hears contradictory advice. As Paul Simon put it, "The man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest... doo doo doo....")

So a Palantir is a dangerous tool indeed.

When the war is over, there are only two stones left; Sauron's is destroyed and the fourth one is removed from Middle Earth by ship. Both of those remaining stones are in the hands of the King of Gondor, and since they are colocated, they really do no good, and they are not noted as having any further effect on history.  It is likely they were never used again.

Why? Aragorn knew:

Every single instance of the use of the Seeing Stone deceived the viewer, in almost every instance, to their self-destruction.

Now, these are not exactly original insights; they are well known to fans of the LOTR world.... so well known that they are given in the Wikipedia blog entry for Palantir, which I did not consult prior to writing the above.... although I will confess that I may well have read it some time previously.  Nevertheless the points are valid. And the resemblance to the real world remain valid.

How does that relate to television news today?

Each of us now has a Seeing Stone in our living rooms: a TV set that can bring views of the world directly to our faces, our families, our children. Through it we can see scenes half a planet away, in close detail, repeated endlessly until it is drilled into our heads. Sometimes visions on that screen–the coffin of a martyred President, an aircraft demolishing a skyscraper–can haunt our dreams for a lifetime.

Can it be trusted as a source of the news, of what is most truly going on in the world?

My answer is a most decided no.

The problem with TV news is that it is supremely the product of the large organization that is necessary to bring it to your doorstep.

Every TV news company – NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, MSNBC, CNN – is an organization made up of thousands of individuals, from the bubble headed beach blonde who comes on at five down to the janitor lady pushing the broom when the lights are out. That organization is necessary because bringing the news from out there to here – a sight to a camera, a camera to a signal, a signal to a satellite, a satellite to the home office, where it is edited, transformed, shortened, edited again, put in context.... and turned into a two or three or four minute mini story with moving pictures, described to you by the aforementioned bleach blonde.... requires an organization.

And organizations are made up of people who need to eat.

TV news, therefore, is extremely dangerous. It must, must, be assumed by the wise viewer that almost every news story brought to you on TV is, to some extent or another, an organized lie.

Oh, not necessarily by intent. But the story requires hundreds of hands to make it happen. Those hundreds of hands have hundreds of mouths attached to them, not to mention those mouths' family member's mouths. It therefore requires vast amounts of money. To obtain that money, they must sell advertising. To sell advertising, they must get people to watch. To get them to watch, they must tell people what they want to hear! For if they don't people don't watch; if they don't watch, no money from advertisers. That simple.

Ergo and therefore, the news that is brought to your doorstep is brought to you in such a way that THEY (those who control the news) ... WHAT THEY THINK YOU WANT TO KNOW.

They don't bring stories that are 'too complicated for TV coverage' (like the budget deficit, the national debt, the massive sequestration of funds that will happen in January 2013, or any real details of the Obamacare package). They take complicated questions (should the USA fight in Iraq?) and turn them into simplistic 'grim milestones' like "Today the 8000th soldier died in Iraq."

They don't bring stories that will outrage their advertisers, or more importantly will outrage those who the advertisers are afraid of. For example, all stories about (say) "gay marriage" will support it (in order to avoid gay fascists from trying to force their advertisers to drop them).

They will not bring stories that go against what they themselves view as "obvious and true" such as (a) the Democrats being absolutely in favor of the little people or (b) the Republicans being the tools of nazis, white supremacists, or racists.

In order to find the truth of what you see on TV, you must supply an extremely careful and discerning eye. You must know the cant used by TV news broadcasters, must understand their ideological starting points, must look for the 'dog whistle' phraseology they use to transmit the real news, and look for the buried lede–the actual meaning of the story–which is forever given in the last 20% of the story.

In other words, you need to be in essence carefully trained to watch the TV news, otherwise you will be deceived.

If great and powerful wizards can be deceived by tiny screens, how much more vulnerable are the rest of us?

Robert A. Heinlein. Smart man.

I will admit to having a great hostility for the TV news.

I'm' an inveterate reader--and a trained intelligence analyst from my days in the Army.  Reading (and writing about what I read) is what I *do.*

There is something deeply dangerous out of watching the news on TV as opposed to reading it.

An analyst can read a news story and fairly easily identify the deception and slant found in that story. You can look at the source (NY Times, WashPost, The Guardian, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, etc.) and know immediately what kind of a slant you're going to get. If you read this stuff for a living, you can recognize who is trustworthy and who is not. You can read through a story and find the 'buried lede' fairly quickly, and you can extract poisonous deception (if you're trained to spot it) much as you can remove a bad mushroom or berry from a salad.

You can't do that with TV news. It goes directly through your forebrain into your emotional center with the pictoral impact; you watch the picture of the burning tank, the crashed plane, the yammering politico, or the bleach blonde, while the voice-over gives you the message approved by the corporate leadership of the news network. It is impossible to analyze, impossible (without great resources) to separate the wheat from the chaff--because it's neither wheat nor chaff, it's homogenized liquid with a significant, indeed deadly, poison thoroughly mixed within. You can't filter poison out of a poisoned drink!

I've been very fortunate: I live in a TV broadcast bowl; we can not receive broadcast TV in the precise spot where I live, and we do not have access to cable TV by choice. (I have three adolescent males in the house and if you think I'm going to have MTV vomit into my living room, think again!)  Thus, I'm pretty much restricted to print news via the internet.

I much prefer it that way. It's easier to extract poisonberries from a salad than poison from a poisonberry drink. And I am able to live my life in blissful ignorance of the meaning of certain cultural phenomena (oh, like "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," which I hadn't heard before Thursday).

There is a key scene in Orwell's 1984, where Winston Smith and his love Julia meet with O'Brien, the Inner Party member who they think will help them subvert the Party.

At the start of their meeting, Winston looks up and stares into the face of Big Brother on an oversized telescreen. O'Brien turns a switch, and the face disappears as the screen is disabled.

"You can turn it off!" says Winston in astonishment.

"Yes," O'Brien says. "We have that privilege."

Turn it off. You have that privilege.


A friend of mine sends the following:  

Excellent essay. I only have broadcast TV and Internet entertainment services, not cable. I don't watch TV news, and don't miss it. This post recalls Madeleine Albright's statement to Newsweek a few years ago about how she missed the 1960's-1970's situation of all the nation having the same three evening news broadcasts (ABC, CBS, NBC). She said that gave us a common narrative, that we all started discussion with the same facts, etc. I thought: anathema sit! Good riddance to that! Let me consult multiple sources and think carefully and form my own judgment. I don't need networks, all of whom are controlled by secular postmodernist-autonomists, setting the terms of discussion. In fact, that situation is actively harmful.

The same was true of metropolitan newspapers, which IMO abused their power as the major print gatherer of local news and have eminently deserved their decline. For decades in my hometown, the liberal daily paper set the terms of political discussion in the county. The paper is still influential, but it IMO doesn't have the absolute control it used to. I say: good riddance! Bring me the news, but don't try to make us all Democrats.
Palantir, indeed. I do just fine without TV news.


As I was saying:

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Keep it clean for gene.