These days I’m getting that feeling at the back of the skull that the news and what I see in everyday life just don’t fit. Part of it might be that we’re just not getting decent information about things that might affect us.
Look, presumably there was a time in the past of our breed where each person could get the information they needed through their senses. Maybe. I mean, you still had to sort of trust (or not) the kid who came running into the village and said there was a lion/tiger/beast of prey outside. Because when you saw the animal with your own eyes it would be too late.
However those were limited circumstances. I very much doubt grandma M’Ogg read the morning paper to see how the berry crop was doing. No, she’d go out to her favorite berry patch, and if the berries were blooming, she’d drag them home. (And depending on whether she knew how to dry them/preserve them everyone ate until they had the runs, of course.)
Those days are far behind us. Which is a very good thing if you think about it, because that method of gathering food – and data – could support maybe a million humans across the world. And it might have been worse than that, since we know from our genetics that at some point human population went down to maybe 100 individuals.
So, we’re not going to mourn them, but we can complain about these extensions of our sensory organs that we call the press.
Because the problem is when the kid came into the village screaming there was a tiger outside, presumably you knew the kid and how trustworthy he was. Or not.
But with the press all most people have is “is everyone saying more or less the same” and “is this a big, mainstream news?”
And then they follow that. Because if everyone is saying it, monkey sense says it’s likely to be true. Which might have been right, at some time. Not sure about that, since I keep hearing about corruption of the press as far back as the early twentieth century. Maybe the industrial model of concentrated newssources was a bad idea to begin with. It gave us too few sources and all of them likely to know each other and want the other to think well of them.
But we know that in the age of Jourlolistism they actually confer behind the scenes to make the news fit, regardless of their merit or lack thereof. They decide what news to promote and what news to bury, and how to slant the news they tell, all without any attention to how credible those news are, but mostly to what they want to be true.
This is a problem, because if people don’t know the truth they make bad decisions at the low-level of grandma M’Ogg picking berries. If grandma M’Ogg has to rely on the paper to tell her where the berries are, and the paper, who wants to hide the fact that Big Chief’s prayer didn’t make the berries multiply, says that while the bushes near the village are stripped of berries because the tigers have turned vegetarian, but the bushes three miles away are loaded down with berries, Grandma is going to hike three miles, and even if she doesn’t collapse because of her bad hip, she might get eaten by the non vegetarian tiger.
Arguably this is what happened in 12. Employment and other economic statistics were fudged or outright fabricated (another rogue employee. I bet you his disk drive is unreadable, too.) and so even smart people thought we were on the verge of an up turn, the administration’s policies were working, and we should give it another try. I’m not saying that was enough for them to win, but it was enough to allow them to cheat to victory.
I’ve talked about this in the past. It’s a serious problem, of course. It’s not just that nobody knows anything, but that the things they think they know just aren’t so.
For instance, after predicting that our economy was going to come roaring – roaring – out the gate this second quarter, they are reporting growth of 4%. Which is just enough to put us in positive territory after the minus 3.9 of last time. The zero edge guys aren’t impressed, though and – whatever you think – They’re usually on target for economics.
Also, I’m not seeing the effects of this er… roar on my sales.
No one is, I think. Talking to other indies, this is not QUITE the Summer of Death, but it’s pretty bad. Most of us have seen our income from indie cut in half. Lately, if I want to shake the coin tree, I have to do something in the way of a sale. I don’t mind that, but it shows something: most people are at the limit of what they can afford.
And I just made a killing-buy at the grocery store because a pile of ground beef was at discount to 2.70, which is less than half the normal price. Think what you will, but in the really good times, the discount shelf is lean, because people buy it out very fast. Instead it was piled there and I got enough for meatloaves and meatballs and all sorts of dishes for a month or so.
But it goes beyond that. I’m not seeing the signs of a roaring economy around us. Limping maybe.
The plural of anecdote isn’t data, granted, but most people I know are hoping to make it one more month on groceries and one more year on a car (me. D*mn it. Almost cost us 1k for repairs, but I was afraid the ball joint was going to give while on the highway) that should have been replaced five years ago. Most of us are hanging by the fingernails and those are starting to bleed.
The indie stuff came through for me this last trimester in the sense of taking my fat out of the fire (yes, yes, I need to have the sequels to Witchfinder – well the first one – out in August sometime. That has settled into “The Haunted Air” as a title and involves Michael and a young lady who is called Albinia but goes by Al. Think of it as Have Spacesuit with fantasy and their being closer in age, and you’re not far wrong.)
Perhaps the people I know are just exceptionally bad at finances. I don’t think so. Not all the people I know. But there we are.
My friend Charlie says that it’s not that, it’s that the “growth” was people buying the car that wouldn’t limp another year, the fridge that quit, whatever.
This is possibly a part of it. I’m not putting it past the rest being “just made up out of clear air.”
I’ve noticed an odd trend in the spam I get. It used to be “you won a million” or “you won a free dinner at Ruth’s Chris.” Now it’s stuff like “You have just been hired by google.” (Since when is a job the dream prize?) and “you won a free dinner at Applebys” – like these normal everyday things (well, six years ago, we used to have dinner at applebys about twice a month, when I was too busy or whatever. Now, only in emergencies or we’re caught out of the house at 8 or 9 pm. BUT if you order carefully, it’s still not a dream dinner, or crazy expensive.) Spammers make their living hooking the marks, and they seem to think the marks are all running tight and lean. Which would dispute the booming economy. Even the “qualified/limited booming.”
The problem with this beyond affecting our personal decisions, is that it affects the people who make decisions on how to deform the economy with laws and regulations.
The problem is that even if they influence the media that gives them data points, they don’t get the news from elsewhere. Not in a convenient format.
I’m not making much sense. Let me try to explain. Someone who works in foreign affairs for the administration might get the raw data on that – before it’s either buried or spun by the press – and know that it’s a real mess and that Al Qaeda is a danger again. A big one.
They might be able to make sensible decisions on that – maybe. But the chances are that they don’t get the up-to-the-minute news on Russia and for that they believe what they read in the papers and the smart people in the magazines. Yeah, sure, they know that the journalists spin the bullshit for them, but they don’t think about it while evaluating those other news. And hey, all the smart people agree…
Then there’s the various areas of the economy. Mostly they drink their own ink. They believe what the papers tell them, even though they influence the papers.
And there is enough ink flowing to drown all of the administration and all of the intellectuals catering to the administration with analysis and opinion.
You see, each person might know what he’s saying is the end product of a bull’s digestion — or at least that it’s inflated/spun/glossified (totally a word) — but he or she won’t know that his/her colleagues are doing the same to EVERY single, small, specialized bit of information.
Everyone knows it’s real hard to see through a fog of ink, even if you’re the one operating the ink-hose. It’s much harder to remember that the ink is just ink if you’re not directly operating the ink-hose and it’s your buddies in journalism doing you a favor.
At which point, nobody knows anything, but everyone thinks he does.
And we go Forward! Off the cliff.