People Who Complain About the Media Don’t Know How It Works Part II

CONTINUED FROM  PEOPLE WHO COMPLAIN…PART I

You. While you thought you were the consumer, in reality you are the product. The consumer is every company that you see flash before your eyes with 15 to 30 seconds of a slogan or a talking animal between all those current events. The key to realizing who is the consumer and who is the product is to (cliché alert) follow the money. Did you stick a quarter in the side of your TV to sit down and watch a chunk of the A block? No? Then you are not the customer. If you are getting something for free, you are almost always some variation of a product or a middle man on somebody else’s way toward a product.The news outfit makes its money by selling your eyeballs to other companies who want you to check out their flashy spiel. It’s a great system and has been working for probably as long as humanity has been around. Everybody hates commercials (except during the Super Bowl). If I told you I was gonna sit you down and give you a sales pitch on something you havn’t even heard of or don’t know that you want you would probably opt out. But if I show you something you really want to see or hear, like a story or anything really, and then throw in little bits of the sale pitch in between the story, I’ve got a person who will sit through my spiel, thinking your not really paying attention, only waiting for the rest of the story to unravel.

 

Everyone knows how commercials work but we don’t really follow it to its logical conclusion. You think because something is endearingly called a ‘news network’ that that means it’s got to be truthful and give you the news. All it’s really got to do is give you enough of anything in order to get you to watch long enough for the commercials to come on, and then sit through those commercials until the news comes back on. There’s a million strategies. Some think telling stories from a Leftist point of view will get you to do it. Others from a Conservative point of view. Still others bank on anchor women with their tops falling off. No matter what it is, money goes from company X to the pockets of newcast Y in hopes of getting you to look at their products. Meanwhile newscast Y gives you news stories for free in hopes that you’ll watch the commercials for company X and buy their products, thus convincing company X to purchase more commercial space. So at the end of the day all you are is a product, being served up to the advertisers that buy spots in between the news segments. News outfits turn out not to be dispencers of truth and enlightenment but end up more like eyeball dealers.

In their world it’s all about volume and it’s literally a war to keep eyeballs in stock. It’s not like Walmart where once they put the work into getting stuff on their shelves it sits there until people buy it. No it’s more like Walmart stocking it’s shelves with shampoo and then in the middle of the night a bunch of Target managers sneak in and steal half of their inventory so when customers come in the next day they are annoyed at Walmart and want them to come down on their price since they can no longer service my standing bulk order of Head and Shoulders. As more and more networks were created they all needed a piece of that pie, and since the viewing public generally has only two eyeballs per person, that pie doesn’t really get all that much bigger. And since in the real world events really only just happen the way they happen, telling just the facts creates somewhat of a stalemate. So they toy with different personalities that give you the news hoping you’ll connect with some over others, giving them an edge. This works but not well enough. Turns out infotainment and fear are  great tools. And so starts the sensational arms race that is the modern 24 hour news cycle.

 

Some like to fault the media themselves for not being noble enough to stick to the facts or not spin things but that’s the thing. All that would be is noble, and just as nobody will argue that bread isn’t a bad thing for a man to eat, no business is built on nobility alone. The Noble News Network would go out of business in today’s cultural climate very fast. And in fact, the only reason a factual and truthful news organization, with no gossip, or scandal or punch-line to get us all riled up, would gain popularity at all would be more because of its novelty than anything else. But once the novelty wore off it would quickly lose ratings because it would not be able to compete with sensation, gossip, speculation, arousal and the rest of the provocateur’s arsenal.

N0 ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately it’s not the evil liberal media, or even the evil greedy corporations who are to blame for the lack of taste and the surplus of spin on the news these days. It’s the man in the mirror…

TO BE CONTINUED

People Who Complain About the Media Don’t Know How It Works Part I

 

People on both the Right and the Left get all bent out of shape about the media because they make the mistake of thinking that their objective is to give you the truth about what’s going on in the world. Unfortunately the true nature of any business is to make profits. The difference between things like a news outfit and say a company that rents heaters is that the company that rents heaters will simply not make money if their heaters don’t produce heat. And that’s because it’s very very easy to tell if you’re getting heat or not. Yet the news outfit’s prosperity is only very loosely tied to its ability to provide actual news and truth. What’s, perhaps even more, surprising is this is only really half the news industry’s fault. The second half, more like the other three quarters is our fault.

The mix up is that we tend to not see the real product that a news company is pushing. A heater renting company is very straightforward. Their product is definitely renting heaters to customers. Where it gets confusing is that a news outfit works a bit counter intuitively, or even backward. We think its product is current events provided in the form of video and audio commentary with a dash of overdramatized analysis and talking heads. But this is dead wrong. This is part of the shock and awe or really just the smoke screen. Actually to use a very crude analogy, the type of “current events” that show up on your TV screen every evening are as much the true product of the news organization as the color of the trucks that bring a heater from a heat company onto your hard. They may be flashy and orange, and that may even subconsciously play into your decision to go with that company over the ones with the beat up trucks, but at the end of the day that’s not the product at all. But that’s obvious. Again what’s not so obvious is the product the news outfits are pushing. Well if it’s not the news, what is it?

TO BE CONTINUED

Degrees are A Lot Like Credit Scores

Forget what they taught you in school (or what they taught you in homeschool). Degrees are like credit scores, just another way for those who are too lazy and scared to really invest in you as a person, to assess risk.

As I’ve grown I’ve found that there are really two competing schools of thought when it comes to, well, schooling. You see, growing up I always took for granted that it was very desirable to go to college and get a degree in a profession of your choice. Having a mother with a degree who made good money, and a father without even a high school diploma, who made even more money, I realized that college doesn’t make or break you. But even still I grew up assuming that if you could, you would and should. A university is where you went to learn more in depth about a certain subject and where you would rub elbows against other sharp minds and talents in that field. I often have a stubborn, or prideful side, that tends toward wanting to reinvent the wheel because being told how to do something was somehow some sort of weakness. But I had to admit that wheels had been invented before and that going to school was, in theory, joining the global conversation of what works and what hasn’t worked in the past. By being taught what the world has already discovered in this field or that, you skip having to come up wit it yourself and instead you get to be brought up to speed and put in a position to add to that collective knowledge. Not only does this enable you to skip having to make all those discoveries others have already done, but it allows you to be brought up to speed with the rest of the world in that field, who you would assume, have also been schooled in the triumphs and defeats of the past.

Later on in life I found myself around a group of people who thought almost completely the opposite. Schooling, especially higher education was a place where future drones go to deaden their creativity and ingenuity. Not much value was placed on the collective understanding of a field because the odds are, that field has been so politicized and watered down by the changing whims of society as it devolves over the years that most of the information gained in a classroom setting is less than useless, more detrimental. Instead of being seen as someone who was willing to forgo the instant gratification of a job right out of high school for the investment in their future, someone with a college degree was seen as someone who wanted to delay the inevitability of adulthood for four more years of drunken parties and a sense of entitlement once it was all over and done with. Personal experience is the only true teacher and any other is a liar and a fraud.

Both sides can get pretty obnoxious. Let’s face it. We’ve all met that girl who thinks her master’s degree in Dead Elvish Languages with a minor in Ancient Arctic Feminist Psychology makes her better and smarter than everyone around her, and if a guy doesn’t have a Ph.D. then he’s a waste of her time. Meanwhile she’s 29 and still struggles to understand why her credit cards are eating her alive between her bi-weekly trips to the salon and her addiction to collecting Gilmore Girls paraphernalia.

In turn we’ve also all met that guy who dropped out of school in the 11th grade and is a self-made man who’s constantly bringing up the fact that he never went to college and doesn’t have some fancy pants degree on the wall in his office and he’s doing just fine, and then you pause and say, “Ya that’s great John, I’m just wondering why you managed to slip that in in the middle of our conversation about how my tennis elbow is really hindering my backhand.” It often seems more out of insecurity than out of confidence.

The thing about degrees is in this world of ours where we are all either too lazy or too busy to get to know one another, a degree behaves much like a credit score does. I mean seriously, what if I showed up at a bank and acted like a snotty nosed brat because I had a 750. They would say, “Great, want a cookie?” So in the same respect, why would we go around with our noses in the air if we have a degree. While only 25% of adults in the US have degrees, there’s also a sense in which, great you have a degree, who doesn’t? But at the same time, not having a degree is hardly a bragging point. “Look at me! I managed to buy this huge house and I didn’t even have a good credit score or anything!” Well that deserves a mild, “good for you.” And then after that not much more than a shrug and a, “who cares?”

What I mean is this. With all the political chatter, and emotional hype around education and what it means and what it should mean, let’s just admit it. Once you get out into the world of bills and jobs and money lenders and 401ks degrees act a lot like a credit score, not much more, and not much less. And while having a good credit score is a good thing and can often open a few doors that otherwise would have been closed, aside from their utilitarian value, they deserve neither glorification nor demonization

  • Sure in theory a degree means you have undergone years of study and are probably a lot more informed, current, and possibly even intelligent for it. – By the same token, having a good credit score, in theory means you’ve been lent money or services, and have diligently and timely paid back those who lent you them on a consistent basis. (Key phrase: in theory)
  • Because you have this degree in business, in theory, you are probably pretty good at business and therefore I feel comfortable giving you a job in my business firm, seeing as you are probably more likely to succeed than someone who does not have a business degree. – Likewise if you have a 764, in theory, you have probably paid your bills on time for a long time, and I feel very comfortable lending you money because someone with the history of bill-paying that you have, means you are very likely to pay me back this money in the future. At least a lot more likely to pay me back than someone with a 500. (Key phrase: in theory)
  • You can be the most experienced person in the world, and actually sit down and demonstrate how much understanding and knowledge you have in a field, but a large company is tied by its own policies to not hire you, while they are able to hire someone who demonstrates less ability, simply because they have a degree. This is because our society is so large and so statistically and formulaically driven, we do not have the time nor the desire to get our hands dirty to really know the person. This time and annoyance saved is actually worth the potential money lost apparently. To replace getting to know the person and their abilities, regardless of where those abilities were derived, we lazily put our trust in certifications and diplomas, reluctantly giving in to the assumption that because the degree exists, that person simply must have the desired qualities for the position. – Once again you can be the most reliable and trust worthy ‘yes means yes and no means no’ kind of person around, and you could even know the individual loans officer personally, but a bank will give more money at a better interest rate (code for they trust them more) to an obviously more sleazy person with a great credit score. That’s because while they may ask you different questions about your life and your past they really don’t care to get to know you all that well, and just rely on that score to tell them what they can assume about the odds of you paying them back.

Basically it comes down to this. A credit score is used by lending institutions, rental housing, and sometimes even jobs to assess the probability of lending you something, or giving you a responsibility, and getting that money back, or having you live up to that responsibility. There are tons of factors that go into what really makes a person reliable or trustworthy at any given point in their life, and while lending institutions do take some of these factors into account, they rely heavily on this abstract number that is a very sterile and impersonal way of determining how dependable you really are. A degree behaves in the same manner. An employer with multiple applicants certainly takes time to sit and talk with them and look at a variety of other factors, but many employers rely heavily on a simple piece of paper that has no intrinsic value or definitive meaning in itself. It allows them to reasonably assume that you’ve have some sort of background in the field they want you to be knowledgeable in and they are willing to take a chance on you because of it.

So just take them for face value. These things are good to have because they make people assume that their risk is diminished by their presence. They are certainly nothing to brag about though. And also nothing to jeer at. I’m always a fan of having more options than less myself.

Long Haired Freaky People Need Not Apply

Unfortunately looks matter. Pretty girls get free drinks. Old men in suits get deferred to to make decisions. And young guys with a clean cut hair-do always get the job.

 

Living in what we convince ourselves is an enlightened society, we try to pretend like we don’t think and react based on how others look. Although everyones’ reality behind closed doors is of course they interact with the world based on how others look and what they perceive that look to ‘mean’ about that person.

Now of course the reason why we would like to think ourselves better than this is obvious. We can point to countless times in history when different kinds of people were marginalized and disenfranchised and misjudged based solely on how they looked; blacks in the US, men with long hair, attractive blonde women, middle aged white men right now. Pick any person with any type of appearance and you can find an environment or time period in which that look would have given them a disadvantage that really had no connection with who they were and how they really behaved. We as humans do this constantly, but we also recognize in our hearts that it’s not always the best thing to do. We have stories and clichés ranging from Beauty and the Beast to “don’t judge a book by its cover” that try to teach us to not use looks to make a judgement on someone.

Even the story of Jesus is, in one sense, about the dangers of judging someone based on their look. Most kings and princes and rulers decked themselves out with the highest priced clothes and material goods they could find. They would usually have countless servants and treasures and the like. They also would often flash their military prowess to intimidate or subdue would-be rivals. The more glorious the presentation, the more power the ruler had. But Jesus didn’t have any of that. He started out being born in the equivilant of a cattle trough in a barn, hardly becoming of a normal middle-class person let alone anyone above that. His life and demeanor and looks didn’t scream gold and silver, and yet at the end of the day, he ends up being more powerful than all the rulers of the world put together. Most of his would-be follwers weren’t, because they didn’t recognize him. They were too stuck on their idea of what the king of all kings would look like.

 

The problem is just that. Both parties often suffer because of our relentless desire to connect a certain look with what we think that means about the character or inner make-up of a person. The party being judged is disadvantaged because this may make people think ill if him or her, or assume that they are capable of, or incapable of certain things associated with their look. A guy applying for a job may have a couple masters in business under his belt and has enough experience to run circles around the CEO. But if he’s dressed sloppy or has an ungroomed appearance, a far less qualified person with a better appearance is likely to get the job over him. This is a bummer for him because he missed out on a job he would have otherwise been good at. This is also a bummer for the employer because he missed out on filling his spot with a well qualified employee, and instead filled it with someone who just looked like a well qualified employee. We can see how our insistence on making these judgement calls based on looks gives us a slightly altered sense of what really lies within reality.

 

The reason for this is actually pretty simple. It’s not because we are evil, or racist, or sexist or classist or any of those other ‘ists that people are supposed to avoid like the plague (although appearance based judgements can often be a tell for someone suffering from one of those conditions). It’s really because first of all, we need to be able to make judgement calls on situations from as great a distance as we can. If we waited until we were inside a storm to decide to seek shelter, we would probably be in trouble. That’s why it’s important to be able to make decisions at arms length, but with still as much data as we can gather about the impending situation. Que the eyes. We may be able to hear longer distances, or possibly even smell depending, but for humans nothing beats the amount of information we can gather about something than what we can see with our eyes. And we can often do this from quite a distance. That’s why we rely on them so heavily to assess our surroundings. To be able to see the clouds and the sky changing color in the distance gives un an incredible head start in seeking shelter over the person who had to wait to hear the wind pick up, or even who had to wait until they felt the raindrops falling overhead. By then it might be too late.

The reason we need to make judgements about the world is so we can react to the world. But seeing something isn’t enough. We need our eyes to combine with our memory to make these judgements. Our memory allows us to compare images and sounds we are experiencing now, to those that we’ve seen in the past. The more similar they are to those we’ve seen in the past, the more we feel we can anticipate the behavior of whatever we are seeing, based on the behavior of the previous image. Even if things seem very dissimilar, our minds grope to find even the smallest ways to compare these things with other things so as to form, even the foggiest idea of how to deal with it. If we didn’t do this, every object or person we ever saw would be a complete and utterly new mystery to us. We would probably lose our minds, having to discover over and over again that this tree I’m looking at simply stands there and sways in the breeze, and then the next tree I see does the same thing. But I’m not sure if perhaps it might just uproot and run after me. After all, if my mind doesn’t connect the two based on their similarities, I have no reason to believe this new tree, which might have 5 big branches, will be anything like the first tree that only had 3 branches. By making these associations and judgements based on things I’ve seen in the past, I can be as positive that this tree won’t run after me, as I was about the thousand other trees I’ve seen in my life. And each time I see a tree that remains inanimate, it reinforces the idea in my head, and would make it harder for me to believe that any tree is capable of doing anything but that.

Dealing with people is where we can get in trouble. While human beings themselves have so many things in common with eachother, we can comfortably predict things about humans we’ve never seen before, if we try to get too specific about our judgements, based on looks, we can really falsely assess someones personality. While all humans can be expected to bleed when pricked, if we get so specific as to assume that since my previous black friend liked loud rap music, this new black friend must like the same type, it really reflects a misunderstanding of how humans and reality works.

Understanding and accepting the fact that people will judge you based on how you look can be a very good thing. Obviously we would all like to be judged at the end of the day by our character, and many things like our skin color, or our sex or very obvious things that are part of our being, cannot be hidden. However there are many things we can do, especially to our dress to push people in the direction we want them to go when making an appearance based judgement on us.  The key is to understand what ‘looks’ tend to make people make certain different associations. When you begin to understand that, you can push people’s thoughts about you in the direction you’d like. The principle is the same reason you’re told to wear a tie to an interview, even though you normal just wear a t-shirt, or why a woman will either wear a low cut shirt or a turtle neck to a meeting with a guy, depending on where she wants him to think their relationship is going.

The trick is to know your audience. The tie for a job thing is great, especially if you are applying at a financial firm, or an attorney’s office. If you are applying to be a field hand at a rig, you might want to wear something that you would feel more comfortable working in. That’s because your audience isn’t looking for someone who is afraid to get dirty, and a tie might make them think that you are more of the office type.

Basically it can be a bummer that people judge each other based on their appearance, but the fact is that, whether we ought to or not, we can’t help but do it, and probably wont escape it this side of eternity. Afterall, we don’t really have the time to get to know every single person, and often it can be dangerous to do that without at first putting up a guard against certain things. The guy hiring doesn’t really care that your hair is long or not. All he really cares about is that you can fill the hole he has in his organization and help him make more money. Hair doesn’t really matter in that whole scheme. The reason hair becomes an issue is because somewhere before he learned that long hair means something about someone, and odds are the meaning he gets from yours is that you won’t have the skills or motivation or whatever, to help him meet his goals. It could be a complete crock, but that’s how it goes. The good news is we can learn these visual ques and learn to give the ones that make people see us in the way we want them to see us. Just like credit scores, and diplomas, using the assumptions you know people will make based on your appearance help you find common ground, even if only on a subconscious level. Only once you have developed a relationship with that person, you can start to try and change the way they associate different appearances with different behaviors. In todays society, we don’t have the patience to do that, and so we try and force the person to change without giving them a real reason to. We think we have a moral obligation to do so, but with a little foresight, we can be much more successful at it over the long run.  People judge us based on how we look, so deal with it…or do something about it.

Thoughts on Roles

Ever notice how our society seems to hate the idea of roles? I didn’t know that I had a struggle with roles until just recently, but suddenly, while trying to explain the concept to an older friend of mine, whom I would have assumed understood the idea better than I would, I realized that everything in life has to do more with roles and position than something intrinsic.

So I have a job right? It’s a middle management job, which sometimes means I have the burden of assuming a lot of responsibility for things, sometimes means I have the luxury of shoving the burden onto others, and most of the time means I’m squished in the middle trying to figure out a solution that works for everyone. That’s just the game. Some people tell me what to do, and I tell other people what to do. Some people advise me, while others command me. Some people gotta do what I say, and others can tell me to mind my own business. But if I take a second to think about it, every part of my day hinges on the fact that there are roles cut out for everyone in the office and in the field, that we have to fulfill. Many times these roles reflect certain abilities within different individuals that don’t exists in the others, but many times any given person could do any of the other persons’ jobs if they had to. I like that fact because it means if someone is sick or dies or whatever, others can fill in, but for the most part we have to maintain our roles.

The roles are where the authority lies, not in the person. Certainly different personality types evoke different amounts of respect from others. And different skill sets make some more reliable in some roles than others. That’s why we tend to fall into the roles we do, but that’s not the roles themselves. I might be a great mechanic and so people will respect me and my opinion when it comes to the mechanical, but if the head mechanic gives an order, in the realm of the environment we are all in at the time (the company) we follow the head mechanic’s lead and not mine, even if he’s not necessarily as skilled as I am. Now if he’s not as skilled as I am, it’s within my role to help and suggest some things, and it’s within his role to take into consideration my help, but in the end it’s his word that goes, not mine. And it’s important to note that this is because of the role and title he bares and not necessarily something about his person. A year from now I might be promoted to head mechanic and he might be in a completely different department. Then it’s my role to  lead in that area, and not his anymore.

We see this everywhere. There are roles on paper and there are roles that go unspoken, but everyone knows what they are, even if we don’t like them. A popular topic of my generation is whether or not there are gender roles. Is it a man’s job to do these set of things and not this other set of things because of some unwritten rule book somewhere, or because God says, or simply because biology and circumstance has conditioned us to do them.

We see it in public life. One person feels that it is his duty as a celebrity, and therefore as someone who has a considerable amount of influence, to fulfill that role by being politically outspoken or a philanthropist. Another might argue that for the precise reason that he is a celebrity, that it is not within his role in society to speak on political matters, and that it is only for professional politicians and the common man to do so. That somehow ones celebrity status disqualifies him from voicing his opinion. This view is often supported by those proporting that a celebrity couldn’t possibly ever know anything about politics. But could this be true. Is it any more likely that the common man on the street would know anything more or less about world affairs than a celebrity simply by the nature of being a celebrity. Certainly not. The reason we can still hold a view about the propriety of a celebrity speaking out or not is because we have a view about the role of a celebrity in society. Even the president himself plays a role that may or may not have much to do with his intrinsic abilities at all. When George Bush was President of the United States, his word went. Now years after he’s left the White House, his word is heeded certainly, but it’s not the law of the land anymore. He couldn’t sign an exective order into existence anymore than I could. What changed? Did he suddenly lose power in his voice? Well many would argue his voice wasn’t ever strong. The obvious difference is that his role has changed. There was never any inherent authority residing inside George Bush, much like there isn’t any inherent authority inside President Obama. The difference is that at different times in their lives they held the office of the President. The office or role is where the authority lies, and not with the person.

I had a conversation about this with a coworker of mine and they seemed to have trouble with the concept. I think because the “roles” is such a dirty word these days, that it’s hard for us to accept roles, even in concept form. Another coworker of our changed positions. His previous position had a certain set of authorities that came with it, and there were certain people he reported to, and others from whom he could require reports. Now with his new position, many of those authorities either increased or diminished, and those who he reported to changed. In the conversation my coworker told me it seemed disrespectful to the person to not treat them according to their previous role. I told her that it was perfectly fine to now do things consistent with the new role. I’m not sure if it made sense to her because she kept thinking that the different authorities are inherent in the person instead of the position.

Work is an easy example to use because roles are written down, and in theory, are more clear. Someone is the CEO. Someone is the secretary. Someone is a manager. Someone is a field hand. Someone is a janitor. We are all familiar with these names of positions, and we are also familiar with the concept that these are simply roles being filled, but that these people aren’t identified in their person as these positions. Sure someone may have characteristics that make one better at filling the role of CEO than another person, and we may even say they are a “born CEO” but we still understand there is nothing intrinsic in the person that makes them a CEO. Also we understand the idea that you may start in a company in one position, carrying out certain duties, and then be promoted to do other duties. Compensation reflects this too. We do say that a man is worth x amount of dollars. But that is talking about his net worth, that is how much, if he sold everything he owns, including property and shares and the like, would he make. That’s a different concept. But there is nothing about a person that simply makes him worth $50k a year and another worth $150k a year. All that is based on a job that needs to get done by a certain role. If you’re the guy filling that role right now, you make $50k. Tomorrow you could be promoted to fill that other role and now make $150k. And still the next day you could be fired, and therefore not filling any role for that company, so you make $0. Your inherent value didn’t change at all from day one to day three. The money, just like authority, and even things like the dirty word…..submission, all come from the role, not the person.

There’s more on that. Especially since I brought up the S word. That’s the funny thing about roles. Roles do seem to be inherent in everything we do in life. Mainly because they are inherent in relationships, and there isn’t much in life that doesn’t have to do with some sort of relationship. But that’s for another time.