A Year of Print Media

After being flummoxed at the results of recent political and cultural events, I am deciding to make a change. It is no small change, but it is a change I can commit to and fulfill relatively easily, which is a personal rule for goal-setting.

Goal: Spend the remainder of 2016 and all of 2017 reading and reviewing 1 or more magazines of substance per month. Simple.

What do I mean by a magazine of substance? I am looking for honest, thought-provoking articles, essays or other literary art which will effect me in a positive way. I’m not looking for bubble-gum lefty articles, I would consider a painful change that was worth the struggle as having a positive effect. Both becoming a Vegetarian and an ex-smoker took a lot of thoughtful and honest, sometimes painful, intrapersonal debate. This is what I need to do in the political arena.

I am tempted to stick to only left-leaning magazines, but this is tempting only as a way to bolster my ignorance of alternative points of view. True dichotomies rarely exist, but they are a powerful tool to narrow down choices.

The side effect for consumers with the evolutionary function of cognitive dissonance is the same as the desired effect of propagandists; to be divisive and dismissive of alternative points of view.

An Unnecessary and Weird Digression re: Sarcasm

I enjoy humor, but sarcasm has been proven to me to be an ineffectual tool used primarily to shirk a truly cogent opinion. Worse, it sometimes reinforces an opinion you actually disagree with. Satire perhaps doubly so.

From an evolutionary standpoint, I think sarcasm may actually function as a way to justify uncomfortable personal beliefs. Another effect is that of a social lubricant, a way to remain in conversation with a person whom you strongly disagree with while still remaining civil (though it is dishonestly civil, as both parties may just be reinforcing their view that the other side is idiotic for interpreting the sarcastic/satirical remark in a different way than they did.)

For example, I believe that the reason this ridiculous statement on climate change denial was the most popular during the debate is that all parties who took part in this moment were retweeting it to insinuate that anyone who opposes [or believes, [or doesn’t see that it is satire, [or doesn’t think that anyone takes it seriously, […, ]]]] is idiotic for disagreeing with their own personal assessment. That was a poorly worded thought, and I digress.

Back to American Democracy

In America, at least, the revolution has happened. The great news for the common folk is, we won! (I know I’m whitewashing past the more vile particulars, please bare with me;) The bad news is that for the common folks, it feels like a loss!

I don’t think (capital d) Democracy has failed us. I think the electorate has failed Democracy. In an extremely reductionist view, we (the American electorate) have been largely misled (often by our own cognitive biases) by corporate influence in the more pervasive and easily digestible forms of media. Ruling elites have powerful interest in focusing a narrative in a specific way to build momentum toward concentrating more wealth and power into their own hands. This is natural human behavior I believe, a bastardization of the evolutionary tool of competition. Psychological tricks are used to ensure loyalty and devotion to the ruling elites from the people that will bare the brunt of the resultant suffering. Wow, that was negative, wasn’t it?!

So what can I do; what can we do? I believe Democracy was never supposed to be a solution. It isn’t, in fact I don’t think that sentiment even makes sense. Democracy is a process, a framework that we can use to attempt to make our voices heard, our suffering diminished and our hopefulness restored. A framework, or methodology, or process is not a product. This high-level reduction of Democracy, something inherently dirty and hands-on, is exactly my point.

The IPO model of Democracy

I believe Democracy can be thought of as a method of processing Inputs into Outputs.

  • Inputs: the actions (shaped by thoughts, views & morals) of the electorate
  • Democracy: the process in which the electorate can create change
  • Outputs: Public Policy, Law

I think the only personal problem I can “easily” fix is that of my own ignorance. I am a unit of input (kind of a bummer to think of ourselves that way,) but the basis of my input is emotionally raw and largely uninformed. I admit it. I am an ignorant human led largely by my emotional reactions and perceptions of whom I want to lead the country; bad people or less bad people. This doesn’t seem be an effective method for Democracy to flourish. I am a grain of sand eroding a gas-tank. Many of you are here with me.

In an effort to fix this ignorance problem of mine, I will read print magazines of substance and review my thoughts and feelings on 1. the magazine as a whole, 2. the apparent political leaning (and severity,) and 3. on occasion I may dig into some specific articles of note.

Feel free to follow along, I will update review articles links on this page.

Reviews Coming Soon

The Point Issue 12, Summer 2016 — Published in Chicago, twice annually.

Dissent Feminist Strategies, Fall 2016 — Published by the University of Pennsylvania Press for the Foundation for the Study of Independent Social Ideas, Quarterly.