“Gorgeous spiral galaxy NGC 3521 is a mere 35 million light-years away, toward the constellation Leo. Relatively bright in planet Earth's sky, NGC 3521 is easily visible in small telescopes but often overlooked by amateur imagers in favor of other Leo spiral galaxies, like M66 and M65. It's hard to overlook in this colorful cosmic portrait, though.
Click image for larger size.
Spanning some 50,000 light-years the galaxy sports characteristic patchy, irregular spiral arms laced with dust, pink star forming regions, and clusters of young, blue stars. Remarkably, this deep image also finds NGC 3521 embedded in gigantic bubble-like shells. The shells are likely tidal debris, streams of stars torn from satellite galaxies that have undergone mergers with NGC 3521 in the distant past.”
"You are my brother, but why are you quarreling with me? Why do you invade my country and try to subjugate me for the sake of pleasing those who are seeking glory and authority?
Why do you leave your wife and children and follow Death to the distant land for the sake of those who buy glory with your blood, and high honor with your mother's tears?
Is it an honor for a man to kill his brother man? If you deem it an honor, let it be an act of worship, and erect a temple to Cain who slew his brother Abel.
Is self-preservation the first law of Nature? Why, then, does Greed urge you to self-sacrifice in order only to achieve his aim in hurting your brothers? Beware, my brother, of the leader who says, "Love of existence obliges us to deprive the people of their rights!" I say unto you but this: protecting others' rights is the noblest and most beautiful human act; if my existence requires that I kill others, then death is more honorable to me, and if I cannot find someone to kill me for the protection of my honor, I will not hesitate to take my life by my own hands for the sake of Eternity before Eternity comes.
Selfishness, my brother, is the cause of blind superiority, and superiority creates clanship, and clanship creates authority which leads to discord and subjugation.
The soul believes in the power of knowledge and justice over dark ignorance; it denies the authority that supplies the swords to defend and strengthen ignorance and oppression - that authority which destroyed Babylon and shook the foundation of Jerusalem and left Rome in ruins. It is that which made people call criminals great mean; made writers respect their names; made historians relate the stories of their inhumanity in manner of praise.
The only authority I obey is the knowledge of guarding and acquiescing in the Natural Law of Justice.
What justice does authority display when it kills the killer? When it imprisons the robber? When it descends on a neighborhood country and slays its people? What does justice think of the authority under which a killer punishes the one who kills, and a thief sentences the one who steals?
You are my brother, and I love you; and Love is justice with its full intensity and dignity. If justice did not support my love for you, regardless of your tribe and community, I would be a deceiver concealing the ugliness of selfishness behind the outer garment of pure love."
“At a press conference in 2002, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously explained foreign policy: “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know." The same can be said of science.
The textbooks are full of known knowns. We are quite confident affirming the circulation of the blood, the distance to the Sun, the common descent of animals and plants. I sit here in the college library within a few steps of shelf after shelf of known knowns, the accumulated body of reliable knowledge- the Qs, in our Library of Congress classification system- upon which is based modern "civilization"- the Rs, Ss, Ts, Us and Vs, medicine, agriculture, technology, and military and naval science.
To be sure, it is a characteristic of science that the known knowns are not etched in stone. Even the most confidently affirmed paradigms are written in pencil, ready to be erased or edited if necessity requires. That doesn't happen often. By and large, the known knowns accumulate at an ever-increasing rate. It is impossible for even the most accomplished scientist to keep up, except, perhaps, within a narrow specialty.
Then there are known unknowns. The nature of dark energy, for example. The mechanisms of memory and consciousness. The origin of life on Earth. Questions like these attract the curiosity of the most talented researchers. Faced with such questions, we say "I don't know yet, but I'd like to find out."
I have often used here the metaphor of knowledge as an island in a sea of mystery. The island is the known knowns. The shoreline is where we encounter the known unknowns. And then there is whatever is over the far horizon- the unknown unknowns.
The known knowns are- or should be- a source of pride for our species. The known unknowns spark our curiosity. The unknown unknowns keep us undogmatic. Or should keep us undogmatic. On the floor below me here in the college library are shelf after shelf of books- the Bs, theology and religion- that drag the unknown unknowns kicking and screaming into what is purported to be the known knowns. Much of sectarian violence was and is caused by dressing up unknowns unknowns as known knowns.
Are there unknown unknowns that are unknowable? Who knows? My guess is yes. We are finite creatures living (even as a species) for a finite time in a universe that may be infinite and eternal. Which should be reason enough to live lives of quiet, tolerant, agnostic reverence.”
"Risk Exponential and Unmeasurable- All Hell Will Break Loose With Record Risk" By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com
"Financial and precious metals expert Egon von Greyerz (EvG) vaults gold for clients at two secret locations on two continents. He says his wealthy clients have at least 20% of their net worth in physical gold and silver. Some have much more. Why so much physical metal? EvG says it is because of record risk in the world today. EvG explains, “There is only ½% of all world financial assets held in physical gold. So, this is a very small group, but it is still a lot of money. Of course, the majority doesn’t believe this because if they did, all the other markets would collapse. The particular people that are concerned about risk that we deal with, and they are not concerned in a minor way. Look at all the asset classes, whether you take the stock markets, bond markets or property markets, they are all in the most massive bubbles fueled by exponential growth in credit. Global credit has tripled since 1999 to today. Global debt went from $80 trillion to $240 trillion. When debt triples, it doesn’t mean that risk triples. Risk goes up exponentially. Then you add to that all the off-balance sheet items and unfunded liabilities. The derivatives are at least $1.5 quadrillion. Officially, it is reported $600 billion, but it is probably $1.5 quadrillion. So, you are talking about risk that no one understands, and no one can measure. Most of it is in paper or air, if you will. It’s like a balloon, and when you pop that balloon, you will find it is mostly air. This means asset values will implode, and so will debt.”
How bad is this going to get? EvG says, “I think stock markets and bond markets will go down by at least 75%, and I would say it could be up to 95% or more. A lot of companies will disappear. I am not saying the world is going to end. You must remember, in 1929 risk and debt was nowhere near where what it is today and certainly not globally either. This is a global problem, and not just in the U.S. In 1929, the stock market went down by 90% between 1929 and 1932. It took 25 years to get back to the 1929 level. So, it could go down by 95% today and that would not surprise me at all because we are talking about a much bigger problem. And don’t believe that central banks and governments are going to rescue this. They have used all their tools. They have inflated the money supply with printed money, and they are telling us all that they have it under control. They have nothing under control, and there is no margin to lower interest rates anymore either. Therefore, in my view, interest rates are going to surge. They could try to lower them when the markets get into trouble. It will not succeed, and it will be like in the 1970’s, and you will see 20% interest rates.”
EvG also says, “With this risk, people have to take insurance. This business is not a business, it is a passion, and I have a passion to help the few people that see the risks. I think your best wealth preservation will be gold.”
In closing, EvG says, “At some point, all hell will break loose. There is no question about it. It could be something very serious coming this autumn. The whole political system is fighting against Trump, and that is going to be tough, very tough. markets are giving me the signal that things are going to turn in the autumn, and you can easily find a number of catalysts for this to happen.”
"Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on-One with Egon von Greyerz of G
"When we're headed toward an outcome that's too horrible to face, that's when we go looking for a second opinion. And sometimes, the answer we get just confirms our worst fears. But sometimes, it can shed new light on the problem, make you see it in a whole new way. After all the opinions have been heard and every point of view has been considered, you finally find what you're after - the truth. But the truth isn't where it ends, that's just where you begin again with a whole new set of questions."
"James Howard Kunstler is an author, social critic and public speaker whose work has been published in estimable journalistic stables such as Rolling Stone, the New York Times, and The Atlantic Monthly. He has also hosted his own lecture as part of Ted Talks discussing public spaces in urban life. James spoke to Newsvoice editor Erik Sandberg on a host of issues including the ongoing hysteria around Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, his feeling on Trump’s appointment, and how his career in journalism progressed to writing novels.
Russia hysteria is a dangerous and an idiotic exercise in pysops: The media over the last few years has indulged in wild speculation around U.S. - Russian relations. And as seen, the run up to this weeks meeting at Helsinki between the leaders of the two nations has been no different. James believes the ongoing Russia investigation, the election of Donald Trump and the defeat of Hillary Clinton has made a certain class of people in the U.S. irrational.
“I think that the thinking class in the United States has literally lost its mind. Donald Trump’s persona is so odious that it’s just driven them mad and he’s like a giant splinter in the eye of the thinking class.”
A registered Democrat, Kunstler doesn’t believe that the Russians interfered in the U.S. election in any meaningful way. And any efforts to punish or antagonize them are crazy and dangerous. The ongoing expansion of NATO, playing war games at Russia’s borders and the destabilizing of Ukraine has consolidated bad relations with Russia stretching back to the Cold War.
History repeats itself tragically when the thinking classes of powerful nations start to behave extremely irrationally. Interfering with trade can be a possible precursor to war. “Doing anything to interfere with trade and erect barriers and put up tariffs might be a dangerous thing to do,” says Kunstler.
Just about everything ends up on the web and very little of it is curated: Finally, Kunstler ponders on the current state of the media and publishing industry. A prolific author, he is best known for his books "The Geography of Nowhere" (1994), "The Long Emergency" (2005), and most recently, the dystopian novel "World Made by Hand" followed by three sequels in the series. He points out to the flurry of matter put out with publishers experimenting what works in an environment that lacks “the gatekeepers in culture.”
Listen to the full interview in our weekly Newsvoice Think podcast here:
"We Prefer Our Sociopaths Well Dressed and Spoken"
By Cognitive Dissonance
"What would you do if I told you not to think about elephants? Yeah, I thought so. Me too! Effective denial of a subject or thought is actually quite difficult to achieve on a consistent basis, particularly if it carries with it great emotional weight and impact. While the elephant mentioned above might have instantly popped into your mind the moment you read the words, by now it’s beginning to fade from memory…except for the fact I just mentioned it again.
Sorry! But witnessing an elephant stampede, possibly being endangered by one, or someone being cruel to the animal, beating it mercilessly to compel a certain behavior, might actually leave a lasting impression that is extremely difficult to extinguish. Memory is an interesting phenomenon, one which encompasses sight, sound, smell, taste and touch into a billion different combinations carefully customized to each individual psychology.
How many times have we heard a song or distinct sound, smelled a flower or food, touched a fabric or surface or felt a summer breeze or cold wind only to be flooded with a memory or memories of days long past? Which came first, the triggering sense or the memory? Would the memory be as sharp and real if not for the triggering sensory input?
However, the above is discussing one time happenings, memories of single events or a series of events compressed into a relatively short period of time. Absent the passage of memory dulling time, how does one forget or actively deny a persistent reality that insists on making its presence known? How do we ignore an ugly truth, a clear and present existence that doesn’t fade away into the ether? Simple! We call it something else, thereby putting lipstick on a pig. Not that I have anything against pigs or lipstick.
From a socioeconomic point of view no one wishes to address, let along even admit, the country is run by embedded (like tics) powerful moneyed special interests that do not have our best interests at heart. Or more accurately, whose only interest in us is their desire for us to remain productive and under control in exactly the same way plantation owners of the past viewed their slaves.
Edmund Burke is purported to have said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The art of subjugation (let’s call it seduction to make it easier to swallow) is to convince the object of our attention not to resist our advances. This is most effectively done by convincing the resident population they are homogeneous, yet alone and powerless. As in you can’t fight city hall.
Or better yet, to convince us there’s something in it for us (the mafia call it getting a taste) if we’d just go along to get along. The field slaves would rather be promoted to kitchen duty while the kitchen slaves would prefer an upgrade to domestic help or even the butler or handmaid.
Sun Tzu wrote “Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment - that which they cannot anticipate.” The art of propaganda, in America concocted, distorted and repeated as mainstream media nonsense, is to confirm prior beliefs while constructing new or follow on narratives.
Ultimately it all comes down to a simple and unassailable fact, at least if viewed logically and dispassionately. In an environment ruled by sociopaths, eventually one either becomes one or is controlled by one. Stress a society to the point where resources are spread too thin and conditions become increasingly harsh and the subdued and suppressed begin to turn on one another. This is the ultimate utility, at least for the sociopaths and their enabling minions, of a two party political system.
Pick a side, any side, just as long as you pick. Freedom of choice and all that! It’s all right there in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. At least that’s what we have been taught to believe. In reality, long ago the sociopath controllers realized we must consent to our cognitive control if we are to be our most productive.
Regardless of our (deftly stage managed) point of view, either you’re with us or you’re against us. Everything is presented as black and white in a decidedly grayish world. And it really doesn’t matter if you choose black or white, just as long as you are given, and accept, the illusion of choice. Of course, a little bit of wiggle room is offered to allow us to think it’s our decision to swallow. Just as long as we stay safely within the confines of the cattle chute, big brother will not come knocking on our front door. That pleasure is reserved for malcontents, radicals and non conformists. You’re not one of those, are you?
If this view appears excessively harsh, unfair or simply wrong, may I gently suggest we have acclimated well to our conditioning. This is not to say we are treated as poorly or as harshly as slaves were two hundred years ago. At least not yet. Our improved standard of living in many ways goes a long way towards enabling our denial of the socioeconomic reality unfolding before us. Our capacity for denial is only exceeded by our capacity to endure hardship. Come to think of it, in practice both capacities are one and the same.
Just because we can, and do, engage in mindless consumption of material, media and mind numbing propaganda doesn’t mean we are free in any significant sense of the word. Then again, after many generations of cumulative socioeconomic conditioning, the vast majority of “We the People” prefer not to be free in any literal or figurative sense.
The prevailing sense of entitlement has been deliberately conditioned into the unwashed masses. Thankfully the elite were born into it. Once we become dependent upon the system for our entitlements, we will support any system that feeds us our keep.
Emphasis on ANY.
In a nut shell, we want our cake and eat too. And admittedly, for several decades it appeared we actually could. The illusion of endless upward mobility and material goods, as well as the money to purchase them, was indelibly etched into the American psyche as proof of our manifest destiny and imperial right.
But the party is now over, at least for the middle class, and the piper is demanding his due. So when the bottomless wine bottle begins to empty, what does the ruling class do? Easy, they ramp up the propaganda meme stream while pursuing an escalating divide and conquer domestic suppression campaign, all while keeping the façade minimally maintained. One must keep up appearances after all.
Dress up the manikin to appear real while repeatedly telling us it is real, as well as our only choice, and soon enough we will accept what we are told as truth. Particularly if the rest of the herd is in agreement, though it is important to understand the herd is a positive feedback loop. Meaning the stirrings of consensus agreement produce more consensus agreement which can easily be in direct conflict with reality and truth. And consensus doesn’t just mean enjoyable outcomes. The herd can, and does, turn ugly in an instant.
Absent critical thinking, a truly lost art being rapidly replaced with regurgitated mind memes and mental conditioning, all we know is what we think we know. Control what we know via a co-opted education system and mainstream media and we are effectively controlled by what we have been told we should/must “know”. This isn’t just a play on words, but a worldwide reality these days. Of course, our ego would never allow ourselves to admit most (if not all) of what we think (regurgitate is closer to the truth) is little more than comfort thought, similar in taste, texture and the emotionally calming effect of comfort food.
Regardless of what we believe it might have been several hundred years ago, for the last fifty years our education system is little more than a finely tuned propaganda and conditioning machine stamping out proper thinking corporate widgets. Ever wonder why our children must be force fed at least six years of history, math and social studies, yet they are never introduced to real world tasks such as balancing a checkbook, preparing a budget, navigating legal documents, negotiating a deal or even offered a passing introduction to critical thinking?
Our job is to do and die, not to question why.
There is no greater high than the physical and emotional thrill of having our bias (also known as belief) confirmed by the herd, also known as our favorite mainstream media cognitive connection. Ultimately the drug delivery device is completely within our control. Like a rat trained to push a lever for food rewards, the button controlling the endorphin rush is firmly within our hands. And boy oh boy do we push it, time after time after time.
But this all sets up a bit of a conundrum for those of us who wish to play mental gymnastics in order to enable, or at least deny, our denial. It’s a bit difficult to believe our oppressors are in fact our saviors if they actually look like evil warlords and barbarians.
It helps enormously if the object of our denial plays along with the charade and either agrees to change its façade or initiates the metamorphosis without prompting, therefore enabling our denial by decreasing our conscious effort to deny. It tends to ruin the party if we have to think about something we’re trying not to think about. Therefore it is extremely helpful if the horse grows a horn on its own, even if only a fake one, to become the fantastical unicorn we prefer. Ultimately we prefer our sociopaths well dressed and spoken. After all, a spoon full of sugar helps the sociopath to go down and the denial to keep reality at bay.
Case in point! Bluster and rhetoric aside, the vast majority of Donald Trump’s (and Congress) socioeconomic policies benefit the wealthy and elite. The exact same could be said of Obama, Bush, Clinton and so on. Just look at their major campaign contributors if you don’t believe me. The list of bankers, think tanks, corporations, unions and various other special interests are always pretty evenly spread between the winner and loser. The system is rigged and the King’s court controls the King, other than superficial items of social policy that do not materially affect the business of America, that of corruption, crony capitalism and criminality.
That said, even many Trump supporters, not to mention his detractors, dislike Trump the man. Why is that? In my opinion it is because he’s a vulgar, obscene, ego driven, poorly spoken, lying, misogynistic, disheveled excuse for a man. But you already know that, don’t you.
Read any critical (and non critical for that matter) article by the mainstream media, alternative media or blog about Trump and you will find, peppered throughout the piece, constant references to his looks/hair/skin color, his speech, his hands, his dress, his lies and so on. It is relentless and all consuming, but these attacks are used quite effectively to distract the reader/viewer from anything of real substance.
Trump is the polar opposite of the smooth and polished Obama and people don’t like their leaders raw and vulgar. It tends to ruin the illusion of a beneficent leader devoted to his or her sworn duty to the people.
In a con game, Trump (or any leader for that matter) is called the front man, the person upon whom the misdirection pivots off of. Rather than be mesmerized and distracted by the face of the con, maybe we should dwell upon the one constant of any successful con. A confidence game depends upon artificially induced confidence to elicit consent from the conned. And the consent is almost always gained by convincing the conned they will receive an unearned gain in exchange for their consent. In other words, the con plays off the conned person’s greed and vice.
Other more complicated cons (such as those played by the sociopath powers that be) may introduce fear and anger into the equation. Regardless of the leverage applied, the conned plays an integral part in the con. While we helpfully label the conned as an ego soothing victim of a crime, the word ‘victim’ begs the question of what exactly is a victim if the victim played into, and along with, the overall con. Maybe we should say we were seduced. You know, change the name to make it more palatable. It sounds so much better thinking we were compelled beyond our control by an irresistible force to give our consent.
There is an implicit and (usually) unspoken agreement between those running the con and those taken by the con which promises the conned will be rewarded for his, her or their participation. And the word rewarded doesn’t necessarily mean receiving a gain. The reward could actually mitigate or remove an already expected or threatened loss, real or imaginary.
If we were to give those last few sentences some deeper thought, the reader might begin to understand how governments, multinational corporations and even so-called nonprofit organizations, controlled by a few key sociopaths, manipulate our artificially inflated fears along with our dreams (aka the carrot and the stick) to induce consent, or at least no resistance, to their destructive (and profitable) socioeconomic policies.
Well, more accurately, destructive to the many and rewarding to the few. I don’t see Boeing, Raytheon or McDonnell Douglas getting too worked up when Trump fires off another round of cruise missiles at some second, soon to be third, world country. And neither do the majority who work for those companies. It’s not nice to bite the hand that feeds you. Dependency has a way of enabling our denial.
Above all else, America is in the business of destruction and construction, though not necessarily in that order. Do I really need to make a list of all the different ways the wealthy and powerful benefit while the many pay the bills and do the dying? No, I didn’t think so. And I’m not speaking just of war here. The primary purpose of government, contrary to popular belief, is the redistribution of wealth from the hands of the many into the hands of the few. Everything else is secondary to that purpose.
The next time we declare ourselves victims of government policy or corporate actions, maybe we should look past the well dressed and articulate sociopath cooing his or her apologies into our ear and take a closer look at our own willing participation. Or maybe not! The river of denial runs swift and deep here in the land of the cognitively corralled and the home of the co-opted and controlled.
We now return you to your already scheduled programming already in progress."
"If we consider the state of the nation from 40,000 feet, several key indicators of profound political disunity within the elites pop out:
1. The overt politicization of the central state's law enforcement and intelligence agencies: it is now commonplace to find former top officials of the CIA et al. accusing a sitting president of treason in the mainstream media. What was supposed to be above politics is now nothing but politics.
2. The overt politicization of the centralized (corporate) media: evidence that would stand up in a court of law is essentially non-existent but the interpretations and exaggerations that fit the chosen narrative are ceaselessly promoted--the classic definition of desperate propaganda by those who have lost the consent of the governed. The nation's elites are not just divided--they're exhibiting signs of schizophrenic breakdown: disassociation and a loss of the ability to discern the difference between reality and their internal fantasies.
It's impossible to understand the divided Deep State unless we situate it in the larger context of profound political disunity, a concept I learned from historian Michael Grant, whose slim but insightful volume The Fall of the Roman Empire" I have been recommending since 2009.
As I noted in my 2009 book "Survival+" this was a key feature of the Roman Empire in its final slide to collapse. The shared values and consensus which had held the Empire's core together dissolved, leaving petty fiefdoms to war among themselves for what power and swag remained.
A funny thing happens when a nation allows itself to be ruled by Imperial kleptocrats: such rule is intrinsically destabilizing, as there is no longer any moral or political center to bind the nation together. The public sees the value system at the top is maximize my personal profit by whatever means are available, i.e. complicity, corruption, monopoly and rentier rackets, and they follow suit by pursuing whatever petty frauds and rackets are within reach: tax avoidance, cheating on entrance exams, gaming the disability system, lying on mortgage and job applications, and so on.
But the scope of the rentier rackets is so large, the bottom 95% cannot possibly keep up with the expanding wealth and income of the top .1% and their army of technocrats and enablers, so a rising sense of injustice widens the already yawning fissures in the body politic.
Meanwhile, diverting the national income into a few power centers is also destabilizing, as Central Planning and Market Manipulation (a.k.a. the Federal Reserve) are intrinsically unstable as price can no longer be discovered by unfettered markets. As a result, imbalances grow until some seemingly tiny incident or disruption triggers a cascading collapse, a.k.a. a phase shift or system re-set.
As the Power Elites squabble over the dwindling crumbs left by the various rentier rackets, there's no one left to fight for the national interest because the entire Status Quo of self-interested fiefdoms and cartels has been co-opted and is now wedded to the Imperial Oligarchy as their guarantor of financial security.
The divided Deep State is a symptom of this larger systemic political disunity. I have characterized the divide as between the Wall Street-Neocon-Globalist Neoliberal camp - currently the dominant public face of the Deep State, the one desperately attempting to exploit the "Russia hacked our elections and is trying to destroy us" narrative - and a much less public, less organized "rogue Progressive" camp, largely based in the military services and fringes of the Deep State, that sees the dangers of a runaway expansionist Empire and the resulting decay of the nation's moral/political center.
What few observers seem to understand is that concentrating power in centralized nodes is intrinsically unstable. Contrast a system in which power, control and wealth is extremely concentrated in a few nodes (the current U.S. Imperial Project) and a decentralized network of numerous dynamic nodes.
The disruption of any of the few centralized nodes quickly destabilizes the entire system because each centralized node is highly dependent on the others. This is in effect what happened in the 2008-09 Financial Meltdown: the Wall Street node failed and that quickly imperiled the entire economy and thus the entire political order, up to and including the Global Imperial Project.
Historian Peter Turchin has proposed that the dynamics of profound political disunity (i.e. social, financial and political disintegration) can be quantified in a Political Stress Index, a concept he describes in his new book "Ages of Discord".
If we understand the profound political disunity fracturing the nation and its Imperial Project, we understand the Deep State must also fracture along the same fault lines. There is no other possible output of a system of highly concentrated nodes of power, wealth and control and the competing rentier rackets of these dependent, increasingly fragile centralized nodes."
“Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours... When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”
- Professor Neil Postman
"Americans have a voracious appetite for TV entertainment, and the Trump reality show - guest starring outraged Democrats, power-hungry Republicans, and a hodgepodge of other special interest groups with dubious motives - feeds that appetite for titillating, soap opera drama.
Yet as John Lennon reminds us, “nothing is real,” especially not in the world of politics. In other words, it’s all fake, i.e. manufactured, i.e. manipulated to distort reality. Much like the fabricated universe in Peter Weir’s 1998 film "The Truman Show" in which a man’s life is the basis for an elaborately staged television show aimed at selling products and procuring ratings, the political scene in the United States has devolved over the years into a carefully calibrated exercise in how to manipulate, polarize, propagandize and control a population. Likewise, “The Trump Show” keeps the citizenry distracted, diverted and divided.
This is the magic of the reality TV programming that passes for politics today. As long as we are distracted, entertained, occasionally outraged, always polarized but largely uninvolved and content to remain in the viewer’s seat, we’ll never manage to present a unified front against tyranny (or government corruption and ineptitude) in any form.
The more that is beamed at us, the more inclined we are to settle back in our comfy recliners and become passive viewers rather than active participants as unsettling, frightening events unfold.
Reality and fiction merge as everything around us becomes entertainment fodder. We don’t even have to change the channel when the subject matter becomes too monotonous. That’s taken care of for us by the programmers (the corporate media).
“We the people” are watching a lot of TV. On average, Americans spend five hours a day watching television. By the time we reach age 65, we’re watching more than 50 hours of television a week, and that number increases as we get older. And reality TV programming consistently captures the largest percentage of TV watchers every season by an almost 2-1 ratio. This doesn’t bode well for a citizenry able to sift through masterfully-produced propaganda in order to think critically about the issues of the day, whether it’s fake news peddled by government agencies or foreign entities.
Those who watch reality shows tend to view what they see as the “norm.” Thus, those who watch shows characterized by lying, aggression and meanness not only come to see such behavior as acceptable and entertaining but also mimic the medium.This holds true whether the reality programming is about the antics of celebrities in the White House, in the board room, or in the bedroom.
It’s a phenomenon called “humilitainment.”A term coined by media scholars Brad Waite and Sara Booker, “humilitainment” refers to the tendency for viewers to take pleasure in someone else’s humiliation, suffering and pain.
The ramifications for the future of civic engagement, political discourse and self-government are incredibly depressing and demoralizing. This not only explains how a candidate like Donald Trump with a reputation for being rude, egotistical and narcissistic could get elected, but it also says a lot about how a politician like Barack Obama—whose tenure in the White House was characterized by drone killings, a weakening of the Constitution at the expense of Americans’ civil liberties, and an expansion of the police state—could be hailed as “one of the greatest presidents of all times.”
This is what happens when an entire nation—bombarded by reality TV programming, government propaganda and entertainment news—becomes systematically desensitized and acclimated to the trappings of a government that operates by fiat and speaks in a language of force. Ultimately, the reality shows, the entertainment news, the surveillance society, the militarized police, and the political spectacles have one common objective: to keep us divided, distracted, imprisoned, and incapable of taking an active role in the business of self-government.
Look behind the political spectacles, the reality TV theatrics, the sleight-of-hand distractions and diversions, and the stomach-churning, nail-biting drama, and you will find there is a method to the madness. We have become guinea pigs in a ruthlessly calculated, carefully orchestrated, chillingly cold-blooded experiment in how to control a population and advance a political agenda without much opposition from the citizenry.
This is mind-control in its most sinister form. How do you change the way people think? You start by changing the words they use. In totalitarian regimes—a.k.a. police states—where conformity and compliance are enforced at the end of a loaded gun, the government dictates what words can and cannot be used.
In countries where the police state hides behind a benevolent mask and disguises itself as tolerance, the citizens censor themselves, policing their words and thoughts to conform to the dictates of the mass mind. Even when the motives behind this rigidly calibrated reorientation of societal language appear well-intentioned—discouraging racism, condemning violence, denouncing discrimination and hatred—inevitably, the end result is the same: intolerance, indoctrination, infantilism, the chilling of free speech and the demonizing of viewpoints that run counter to the cultural elite.
Donald Trump is no exception to this Orwellian manipulation of language for dubious ends: labelling something as “fake news” is a masterful way of dismissing truth that may run counter to the ruling power’s own narrative. As George Orwell recognized, “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
Orwell understood only too well the power of language to manipulate the masses. In Orwell’s "1984", Big Brother does away with all undesirable and unnecessary words and meanings, even going so far as to routinely rewrite history and punish “thoughtcrimes.” In this dystopian vision of the future, the Thought Police serve as the eyes and ears of Big Brother, while the Ministry of Peace deals with war and defense, the Ministry of Plenty deals with economic affairs (rationing and starvation), the Ministry of Love deals with law and order (torture and brainwashing), and the Ministry of Truth deals with news, entertainment, education and art (propaganda). The mottos of Oceania: WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
Orwell’s Big Brother relied on Newspeak to eliminate undesirable words, strip such words as remained of unorthodox meanings and make independent, non-government-approved thought altogether unnecessary. Where we stand now is at the juncture of Oldspeak (where words have meanings, and ideas can be dangerous) and Newspeak (where only that which is “safe” and “accepted” by the majority is permitted).
Truth is often lost when we fail to distinguish between opinion and fact, and that is the danger we now face as a society. Anyone who relies exclusively on television/cable news hosts and political commentators for actual knowledge of the world is making a serious mistake. Unfortunately, since Americans have by and large become non-readers, television has become their prime source of so-called “news.” This reliance on TV news has given rise to such popular news personalities who draw in vast audiences that virtually hang on their every word. In our media age, these are the new powers-that-be. Yet while these personalities often dispense the news like preachers used to dispense religion, with power and certainty, they are little more than conduits for propaganda and advertisements delivered in the guise of entertainment and news.
Given the preponderance of news-as-entertainment programming, it’s no wonder that viewers have largely lost the ability to think critically and analytically and differentiate between truth and propaganda, especially when delivered by way of fake news criers and politicians.
While television news cannot—and should not—be completely avoided, the following suggestions will help you better understand the nature of TV news.
1. TV news is not what happened. Rather, it is what someone thinks is worth reporting. Although there are still some good TV journalists, the old art of investigative reporting has largely been lost. While viewers are often inclined to take what is reported by television “news” hosts at face value, it is your responsibility to judge and analyze what is reported.
2. TV news is entertainment. There is a reason why the programs you watch are called news “shows.” It’s a signal that the so-called news is being delivered as a form of entertainment. “In the case of most news shows,” write Neil Postman and Steve Powers in their insightful book, How to Watch TV News (1992), “the package includes attractive anchors, an exciting musical theme, comic relief, stories placed to hold the audience, the creation of the illusion of intimacy, and so on.”
Of course, the point of all this glitz and glamour is to keep you glued to the set so that a product can be sold to you. (Even the TV news hosts get in on the action by peddling their own products, everything from their latest books to mugs and bathrobes.) Although the news items spoon-fed to you may have some value, they are primarily a commodity to gather an audience, which will in turn be sold to advertisers.
3. Never underestimate the power of commercials, especially to news audiences. In an average household, the television set is on over seven hours a day. Most people, believing themselves to be in control of their media consumption, are not really bothered by this. But TV is a two-way attack: it not only delivers programming to your home, it also delivers you (the consumer) to a sponsor.
People who watch the news tend to be more attentive, educated and have more money to spend. They are, thus, a prime market for advertisers. And sponsors spend millions on well-produced commercials. Such commercials are often longer in length than most news stories and cost more to produce than the news stories themselves. Moreover, the content of many commercials, which often contradicts the messages of the news stories, cannot be ignored. Most commercials are aimed at prurient interests in advocating sex, overindulgence, drugs, etc., which has a demoralizing effect on viewers, especially children.
4. It is vitally important to learn about the economic and political interests of those who own the “corporate” media. There are few independent news sources anymore. The major news outlets are owned by corporate empires. Moreover, even those “fake” news outlets denounced by Trump are enjoying significant sales and ratings boosts as a result of Trump’s so-called war on the media. Indeed, as one trade journal reports, “Trump, of course, has become the greatest source of lead generation the American press has ever seen.” In other words, to a dying news industry, the Trump presidency has been great for business.
5. Pay special attention to the language of newscasts. Because film footage and other visual imagery are so engaging on TV news shows, viewers are apt to allow language—what the reporter is saying about the images—to go unexamined. A TV news host’s language frames the pictures, and, therefore, the meaning we derive from the picture is often determined by the host’s commentary. TV by its very nature manipulates viewers. One must never forget that every television minute has been edited. The viewer does not see the actual event but the edited form of the event. For example, presenting a one- to two-minute segment from a two-hour political speech and having a TV talk show host critique may be disingenuous, but such edited footage is a regular staple on news shows. Add to that the fact that the reporters editing the film have a subjective view—sometimes determined by their corporate bosses—that enters in. 6. Reduce by at least one-half the amount of TV news you watch. TV news generally consists of “bad” news—wars, torture, murders, scandals and so forth. It cannot possibly do you any harm to excuse yourself each week from much of the mayhem projected at you on the news. Do not form your concept of reality based on television. TV news, it must be remembered, does not reflect normal everyday life. Studies indicate that a heavy viewing of TV news makes people think the world is much more dangerous than it actually is. 7. One of the reasons many people are addicted to watching TV news is that they feel they must have an opinion on almost everything, which gives the illusion of participation in American life. But an “opinion” is all that we can gain from TV news because it only presents the most rudimentary and fragmented information on anything. Thus, on most issues we don’t really know much about what is actually going on. And, of course, we are expected to take what the TV news host says on an issue as gospel truth. But isn’t it better to think for yourself? Add to this that we need to realize that we often don’t have enough information from the “news” source to form a true opinion. How can that be done? Study a broad variety of sources, carefully analyze issues in order to be better informed, and question everything.
The bottom line is simply this: Americans should beware of letting others—whether they be television news hosts, political commentators or media corporations—do their thinking for them. As I make clear in my book "A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State," a populace that cannot think for themselves is a populace with its backs to the walls: mute in the face of elected officials who refuse to represent us, helpless in the face of police brutality, powerless in the face of militarized tactics and technology that treat us like enemy combatants on a battlefield, and naked in the face of government surveillance that sees and hears all.
It’s time to change the channel, tune out the reality TV show, and push back against the real menace of the police state. If not, if we continue to sit back and lose ourselves in political programming, we will remain a captive audience to a farce that grows more absurd by the minute."
“Massive stars, abrasive winds, mountains of dust, and energetic light sculpt one of the largest and most picturesque regions of star formation in the Local Group of Galaxies. Known as N11, the region is visible on the upper right of many images of its home galaxy, the Milky Way neighbor known as the Large Magellanic Clouds (LMC).
Click image for larger size.
The above image was taken for scientific purposes by the Hubble Space Telescope and reprocessed for artistry by an amateur to win the Hubble's Hidden Treasures competition. Although the section imaged above is known as NGC 1763, the entire N11 emission nebula is second in LMC size only to 30 Doradus. Studying the stars in N11 has shown that it actually houses three successive generations of star formation. Compact globules of dark dust housing emerging young stars are also visible around the image.”