We have been saturated by phrases that illustrate the importance of information, “information is power” being the one that stands out most in my mind.
Strange how we hear these so often but rarely understand the powerful lessons enclosed within them. The more common statement of “yes, I know how important information is!” exists, yet the way information is treated tells a different story, after all “we are the people” with the power to set the bar.
Water is as important to our body’s ability to sustain life functions as Information is in making our life’s choices… the choices that define the way we live our lives and the purpose they fulfill.
Information and misinformation is the root of human interaction. Whether that interaction is making love or starting a war. How bold is that? I will go further, you remember hearing “all men are inherently good” I conditionally agree; my condition is that I first clarify the information given: “all men” – this refers to all people, (it was the language of the time), “are inherently” – philosophers generally regard this to mean “at the level of the soul”, “good” is Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s philosophy that I put this spin on – it’s where we start, with a seed of good that can grow either way while being fed information or misinformation resulting in understanding, or misunderstanding which is closely related to fear. Fear being the nutrient needed for us to break away from our natural good, leading us to actions of fear; like hate, cruelty, distrust, and on and on. Prejudice; isn’t this the act of pre-judging, which is the result of making judgment without all the understood information?
Remember the darker side of information, it can teach many things like fear, hate, and prejudice. So, after acknowledging this obvious importance, wouldn’t it be logical to practice it, protect it, and revere its power like we do our gods? Or at least our god’s gift that enables human’s free will?
Most of us end up in arguments as a result of under practiced skills of communication, the communication of our information. Let me clarify that a bit: the emotions that get attached to the novice informational exchange make it difficult to clearly understand. Emotions become engaged because of some preset notion or defensive belief. That’s prejudice, and it’s all shrouded in fear, fear of judgment or acceptance. If we were originally trained to first absorb the information then after understanding it, react, how “emotionally intelligent” would we be? Doesn’t that seem to be logical? Information feeds understanding; and understanding is where resolution is found. Acceptance of something even something you don’t agree with is normally the result of understanding it. Funny, but this isn’t actually one of my wild tangents, it’s just another illustration of the importance of information.
Jumping to a contextual point of view –
There was a moment in time, (even if it was a brief moment) that we as a “free people” understood information’s power and the importance of its accurate depiction. That was a time when one man’s obsession with power became a public wakeup call. The subject was control, more to the point, Information management as a tool to control the public’s behavior. William Randolph Hearst was that man and this subtext is a little background information on how my opinion of him was formed.
I haven’t found a better example than the film “Citizen Kane” written by Herman Mankiewicz with help from its director and starring actor, Orson Welles. True to form, Hearst prohibited any of his newspapers to even mention the films existence, let alone advertise it. The films censorship became obvious, due to the films delayed but remarkable success, winning an Academy Award for an original screenplay, along with nominations in nine other categories. A strange little unproven conspiracy theory was created by its seemingly disastrous premiere, not even clearing a production profit at the box office, all but disappearing until French film critics brought it back to the people’s attention in 1956, 15 years after its 1941 release. Film critics and the general consensus of film experts consider it to be the best film of all time, with even Roger Ebert saying: “So it’s settled: Citizen Kane is the official greatest film of all time.”
This is just my opinion of course but, I consider four possibilities to explain why the “greatest film of all time” premiered as a flop: 1.The film was railroaded by Hearst 2. The general public was oblivious to the important industrial civilian “control” issues that permeated the films plot 3. It took a population with the revolutionary philosophies of the French, to find and pronounce the films importance, or 4. A combination of all of the above.
About W.R. Hearst’s influences and adolescent sculpting: “Hearst’s father, US Senator George Hearst, had acquired land in the Mexican state of Chihuahua after receiving advance notice that Geronimo – who had terrorized settlers in the region – had surrendered. Hearst was able to buy hundreds of thousands of acres at $0.20 each because only he knew that they had become much more secure”.[i] “The younger Hearst (W.R. Hearst) was in Mexico as early as 1886, when he wrote to his mother that “I really don’t see what is to prevent us from owning all of Mexico and running it to suit ourselves.”[ii]
Later, he engaged in a brutal circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer and his publications, the outcome was the creation of “yellow journalism.” As the dictionary defines it: Sensationalist news reporting; a style of journalism that makes unscrupulous use of scandalous, lurid, or sensationalized stories to attract readers.
I have studied Hearst extensively and if you’re interested in more information, the best “Cliff Notes” style summary I can find is at this link to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Randolph_Hearst
Orson Welles was one of our history’s “Masters of Attention” using the tools of radio and film to captivate us with the power of well-orchestrated (or the way I like to put it Welles-orchestrated) information. He gave us another great lesson about informational power, with the 1938 radio broadcast of the “War of the Worlds” were he all but coined the phrase “run for the hills” as he commentated the fictional invasion of aliens, the result was a massive and chaotic population uprising.
SOAPBOX Moment: I am guessing that the Bush administration would have had the Fox news and affiliates screaming that it was a terrorist attack, and moved to have Orson interrogated by “enhanced methods” at Guantanamo. Sorry, but being a kid that didn’t do that well in school either I have to give G.W. the credit that he probably meant well. (Only because this is a post devoted to the importance of information, I will break the Sarcastic Oath and tell you the truth… that was sarcasm).
Resolution of SOAPBOX Moment: To the person(s) that loved the Bush administration, I apologize, sincerely. We will need you just as much as anyone else. I practice feeling differently about those 8 years but I occasionally slip into sarcasm and even flirt with hatred. I need to tell you why, then you will have the information necessary to judge me if you must. I am going to wildly summarize and condense these thoughts into two points; otherwise I would need the space of this entire post. Point 1. The President’s choice to proudly present himself as a “secular president” was possibly the most devastating public pronouncement since the church and state were originally separated. Whether you want it that way or not, our global human community is made up of a lot of different religions, to accept that, is to accept fact. To think their beliefs are less important to them as yours are to you is insensitive and naive. Our leaders, (considering we are a nation of diversity, with immigrants from every culture on the planet) have the duty to represent a collective interest not use their position as a platform to preach their individual spiritual beliefs. Point 2. This is probably the hardest for me, for reasons I cannot go into, but I can tell you that I get physically ill when I think about it. For any person, let alone the Vice President of the United States, to use their influence to create personal monetary gain in the facilitation of a war that they are not fighting in is indescribable to me. This last sentence took me twenty minutes to write, I think it has to be one of the all-time low points in our country’s history. I know our history pretty well, and I recognize and don’t minimize the awful atrocities that scar our beautiful idea of a nation, but this one is incomprehensible to me. I see it as the sum of all our evils.
Now back to the point: please excuse the soapy tangent
When did the publication media lose sight of the responsibility of informational purity, that that alone was enough to print it, even “honorable”, instead of whatever sells the paper? This was a rhetorical question because I have a pretty good idea of when this happened. The point is, why was this allowed to happen?
The greatest of informers can’t inform in an empty room. The control of information works in many ways and has been debated since languages were formed. Although I have been focusing on published information, the “rights” of what is published is not the point I’m addressing. I am addressing something I think of as a cultural glitch, and it’s as vague as the importance of information itself. Sadly, this falls into the category of “assumption” which makes it difficult to explain, but I will try.
It is assumed that the checkout counter tabloids are mostly fictional, and they are the type of news source that is considered unreasonable to take as fact. But who taught us this? I am not defending the tabloids, just highlighting the assumption. What about the rest of the publications? Where do we find the list of factual informational sources? This is the truly scary side effect of assumptive behavior, and the resulting misrepresentations that come with it. People have the right, and we have the duty to seek accurate information, otherwise how do we make choices that positively affect our world, and the beings in it?
What happens when we lose all the sources of real information? Do we end up living in one giant advertisement with the only real goal being consumption? Along with a civilian business model that promotes perpetual growth? Who came up with that impossible idea? The planet might be enormous too you, but I promise it’s not big enough for that plan.
What happened to the plan of making what we “need” with the ultimate goal being personal and family happiness? The habit of collecting everything you decide to “want”, is the drug addiction that gives a less then euphoric momentary pleasure, leading nowhere but a lifetime hangover of a money driven career, and the regret driven withdrawals of lost time.
Retirement; is the “carrot” created by a system of slavery that distracts the focus of time and the reality of value in a finite life.
This “Gap” goes way beyond the corner newspaper stand and into our lives in an entirely different way. If we could see information for what it really is, instead of some kind of abstract cluster of ideas, dreams, and intentions, we would insist on its purity, or at least its accuracy. If all of this became a common realization, there would be a mandatory class called “Informational Sciences” in every school in the U.S.
Clearly I feel strongly about this, but let’s see if I can articulate an important factual issue. Let’s take water as a topic. If you go to the sink and open the faucet and fill a glass, do you have any way to know how many more glasses you could fill? You get a water bill and it probably shows how many units of water you used, but does it say how many more units they can supply for you? Go on to some other utility; gas for instance. You can see that the price is rising but do you really know why? How many of you gave the answer “it’s because of inflation”? Please don’t get pissed, but that is a perfect example of brain washing. We have been systematically tortured with the idea that everything has to get more expensive, without actually saying or understanding why. If it was sustainable or renewable, why would the price go up? It wouldn’t need too because it’s perpetual, if managed sustainably. That was a little rhetorical hint, about how unsustainable our grand plan is. I get how irritating rhetorical-isms can be, but they are meant to stir your thought, a sort of kindling for your own contemplation – that is where change happens.
Broaden your mind for a moment with these thoughts: What kind of system gives no overall source of responsibility to the individuals working within it? That limits the sources of information to the point that each individual’s personal work or effort inhibits their ability to understand the consequences of their own actions? It’s the same answers for both questions: Our system & a system of slavery.
This is not the way our system started; it was once a beautiful & brilliantly designed paradigm, that was based on exactly the opposite answer now given: Our system gave us the overall source of responsibility. It has since been mutated by greed in the indefinable name of progress. Want to see just how different the system was when it began? The taxation of income was unconstitutional… you can go from there.
I know that the subject of slavery is a sensitive one, but information is power and limiting information is also a significant tool of power. Uncensored information is the truest nutrition the mind could digest. Without it, are we not actually brain dead?
Starting to sound like slavery yet?
Here’s a sociological experiment for you:
Imagine a world that instead of getting angry at the guy washing his car in the middle of a state wide drought, we recognized this as a sign of misinformation. I am not trying to suggest that there aren’t people that act contradictory to real issues; I just want you to understand the complexity that leads back to information. I am willing to bet that if that guy knew that the water he was using was coming from a source that would run out and his family would die from thirst, he probably would not do it.
Let’s look at political affiliation… you may say, “what the hell does that have to do with anything your writing about?” take a breath, now remember that everything is connected. First let’s say there are two parties, Party A and Party B. This guy washing his car is a devote Party A constituent. The Party B politician won, and it was mostly because of their campaign on water conservation. Are you starting to get where I’m going with this? This guy also happens to loath his job, it so happens that he has a few coworkers that like to fanatically discuss their efforts to conserve water and how much they love that Party B won, how a loss would have started the end of the world, and so on. He is getting information, but because it sounds like something against his chosen party (which can be much like a religious belief for some people) he labels it as something to dislike or even work against. Now that you understand this guy a little better, how has the original emotional reaction changed? Let me help a little further, can you acknowledge that this guy clearly has the ability to be passionate about something? Too far? Ok, let’s throw another tidbit of information in; he doesn’t care what his car looks like. Although possibly misguided passion, it’s still emotionally driven, not information driven. The point about seeing his passion, is not just forgiveness, it’s about his capacity to engage something with purpose. That’s a start. __________________________________
The last paragraph scratches the surface of an issue that I will write about in another post, that illustrates the dangerous moment when politicians became celebrity spokespersons instead of humble responsible civil servants. This will also cover the need to understand historical information and the lessons it provides – and being said, why are our leaders not history experts?
[i] “Mexico: End of An Empire”. Time. September 7, 1953.
[ii] Gonzales, Michael J. 2002. The Mexican Revolution, 1910–1940. 1st ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, page 8, and Wiki.