April 24, 2007


Caption: This turkey hen blames global warming on Thanksgiving.

The guiding thread through this week's Goat Rope is a series of musings on how people explain events. If this is your first visit, please scroll down to yesterday's post.

Have you ever noticed that after something really bad happens, the media goes into overdrive, reporting the facts and then bringing in an endless stream of talking heads to explain Why It Happened?

(I dare you to diagram that sentence.)

Sometimes people say the darndest things, whether there is any real evidence for them or not. Sometimes the talking heads use these opportunities to score political or propaganda points.

The classic example was the chat between Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson on the 700 Club after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when Falwell said

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"

I remember a conversation I had in the 90s about youth violence with someone who blamed the teaching of evolution in schools. At the time, I gently tried to suggest that most perpetrators were probably not too well versed in the neo-Darwinian synthesis.

Right wingers don't have a monopoly here either. Last week I received a statement blaming the VT massacre on the capitalist system.

Two thoughts come to mind. First, anybody can attribute the causation of anything to anything...and usually does. Second, anything can be predicted after the fact. When we move beyond shooting for explanations from the hip, it's a little more complicated. And often a little less certain.

About which more next time.

TRADE TALKS STALLED. The New York Times had an interesting article this weekend about how the issue of labor rights is stalling further action on new "free" trade deals in the US House. Short version: the majority wants them in and the administration wants them out.

I trust we need not pause to allow readers to recover from the shock....

Sample from the middle of the piece:

At issue is the Democratic demand that pending trade deals with Colombia, Panama, Peru and South Korea include a provision guaranteeing certain rights for labor in the trading partner countries, including a ban on child and slave labor and the right to organize.

In addition, the Democrats want the accords to endorse general labor protections adopted by the International Labor Organization, like the right to organize.

The Bush administration, backed by business groups, contends that this Democratic demand could lead to trading partners suing to overturn basic American labor practices, like teenage summer jobs or work on farms, or the practice in some American states of prisoners making consumer goods.

Probably the real issues the administration doesn't want uppity foreigners, many of whom are un-American, to remind it that many workers in this country are effectively denied the right to organize due to weak protections for workers.

The most amusing part of the article was a comment by National Association of Manufacturers president John Engler, who said “For state constitutions or laws to be subject to a foreign nation’s challenge would be unacceptable."

Mr. Engler chose to ignore the fact that under NAFTA and related trade deals, democratic decisions by state and local governments can already be overturned if they are considered unfair to foreign investors, but not if they are unfair to workers.

This should be interesting.



Antipode said...

RE: V Tech

I think there might be something plausible regarding the breakdown of the community eg. Bowling Alone. The beauty of our system, especially over the last 30 yrs, as been isolation and hyper-individualism with economic restraints and insecurity. I don't think there's any real answer to the WHY question as of yet, but I can't help feeling that the breakdown of the community isn't in the reflection.

El Cabrero said...

I think so too.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Yes, I have noted the media frenzy and been appalled by it!

The most recent example seems to be the "talking heads" who suggest that the the VT killings took place "because he was depressed." Bull dung! I want to say to them "I will accept no bull from your house" (Psalms 50:9a)

Aquanori said...

OMG, the media RUNS THEIR COMMENTARIES INTO THE GROUND. If V.T. hadn't happened, we'd STILL be hearing endless chatter about Anna Nicole Smith.

El Cabrero said...

First, to Nick, how did I miss that verse from Psalms all these years?

Second, to aquanori, I love it when they comment on their commentary...