Rad Geek People's Daily

official state media for a secessionist republic of one

Posts from August 2021

The Lessons of Agnew

This is forthright and insightful analysis that I would have enjoyed and reposted in any case. But The Lessons of Agnew is where this makes the ascent from prose to poetry.

Shared Article from Reason.com

Governments Love a Media Cartel—As Long as They're in Control

Friday A/V Club: Some people are against concentrated media power. Some just want to bend it to their will.

Jesse Walker @ reason.com

More than half a century has passed since then, and the media landscape looks very different now than it did in 1969. But it’s not hard to hear echoes of the old days when critics accuse social media sites of acting as arms of the state. . . . State and corporate power have been entwined for generations, and that didn’t stop when they started assembling transistors in Silicon Valley.

Now, there’s room to debate how much these things are true. A defender of the industry might point to various non-governmental reasons that prompt platforms to moderate their users’ speech, or might argue that these companies would dominate the tech sector even without those interventions. But I don’t want to get bogged down in those debates here. There clearly is at least some truth to the critique, and it’s worth asking how to deal with the issue—especially when some have been suggesting federal intervention as a remedy.

To them, I point to the lessons of Agnew. Beware politicians who borrow just enough from your radical critique of the corporate state to bend a power structure to their own ends.

— Jesse Walker, Governments Love a Media Cartel—As Long as They’re in Control
Reason (20 Sextilis 2021).

Industrial cartels and regulation make for clients of state power. Like any patron-client relationship, this one can lead to unstable rivalries and contests, to political jealousies and unstable demands. The only intelligent long-term way to deal with this isn’t to tighten or reform the regulation, for god’s sake. It’s to disband the cartel.

To-day’s Easy Listening

From Slate’s pop culture mystery podcast, Decoder Ring:

Shared Article from Slate Magazine

When Muzak Met Grunge

Muzak was once a great musical institution, but it was already a punchline by the time the Seattle grunge scene landed in its offices.


Three high points for this episode:

  1. The shout-out to Sara DeBell’s epochal work Grunge Lite;

  2. A really pretty useful and surprising retelling of the story of the music trade and industry in Seattle, which really kind of underlines the weird dialectic of rock music, Muzak, Sub Pop Records and the birth of grunge. Muzak was a commercial service and artistic culture basically designed around lushly orchestrated versions of jazz standards, and it faced deep, fundamental problems with the developing dominance of rock music and rockist ideas and culture.[1] Muzak’s footprint within professional music in Seattle ended up actually making their offices the incubator for what became Sub Pop Records, while at the same time everything about their business and product represented one of the most ridiculed and despised paradigms for everything that Seattle grunge rockers saw themselves as reacting against.

  3. A somewhat overly cynical, but genuinely insightful, discussion of how algorithmic mood playlists have dissolved the human programming of the Muzak Corporation and rewoven it into the fabric of everyday life for streaming music listeners. (It turns out that even as we [sic] were mocking Muzak out of business, we [sic] were coming around on its central premise, without even realizing it…. When you open Spotify, the first thing you see isn’t albums or artists, it’s playlists — prominently, mood playlists….) — and the closing, generous exhortation to come back to listen to Muzak as music, and to try really to hear what it does, and appreciate it for what it is.

  1. [1]Including basic practical problems — the central role of vocals and lyrics in rock music, changes to tempo and tone and instruments, etc. — as well as more ideological problems — the elevation of idealized original authorship and virtuouso instrumental performances, basically primitivist and stridently anti-commercialist standards of authenticity, etc. Muzak originated in a world where songs everybody played were standards; it found itself in a world where those songs became covers parasitic on an older and usually more esteemed original.

“Now all this nightmare picture had vanished. In its place was the vision — fair and bright indeed it seemed — of the end of the whole war in one or two violent shocks.”

Here is a close-up photo of a survivor's eye blanked out by retinal burning, a common effect of the flash of light and radiation during the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

8:15am. 76 years, 140,000 souls.

Here is a pocket watch, stopped at 8:15am.

Donated by Kazuo Nikawa
1,600m from the hypocenter
Kan-on Bridge

Kengo Nikawa (then, 59) was exposed to the bomb crossing the Kan-on Bridge by bike going from his home to his assigned building demolition site in the center of the city. He suffered major burns on his right shoulder, back, and head and took refuge in Kochi-mura Saiki-gun. He died on August 22. Kengo was never without this precious watch given him by his son, Kazuo.

— Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Here are some photos in which...
Paper lanterns float down the Motoyasu River in Hiroshima,
in the annual August 6 memorial event, in memory of the lives lost.

The quotation in the title: “Now all this nightmare picture had vanished. In its place was the vision — fair and bright indeed it seemed — of the end of the whole war in one or two violent shocks…. is from Winston Churchill’s self-serving memoiristic history of the end of the war, The Second World War, Vol. VI: Triumph and Tragedy. Churchill is describing his reactions to the first news of the detonation of a working atomic bomb at the Trinity test site, which Harry Truman and his war officials confided to him at the Potsdam Conference with Truman and Josef Stalin. The same conference reiterated the demand for unconditional surrender. Truman later cited the Potsdam Conference demands as justification for destroying the city of Hiroshima with an atomic bomb, in order to force that outcome. The nightmare picture for Churchill was the hypothetical death of huge numbers of American and British soldiers during an invasion of the Japanese home islands. He said this was based on the spectacle of Okinawa island and the terrible death and destruction caused by brutal fighting and the Japanese soldiers’ repeated use of suicide attacks in the last resort.

Tactical Communication

. . . When experts or agencies deliver information to the public that they consider possibly or definitively false to further a larger, often well-meaning agenda, they are telling what is called a noble lie. Although the teller’s intentions may be pure—for example, a feeling of urgency that behavioral change is needed among the lay public—the consequences can undermine not only those intentions but also public trust in experts and science. . . .

. . . Even though his [Anthony Fauci’s] comments were made to influence public actions to get more people vaccinated (a noble effort), the central dilemma remains: Do we want public health officials to report facts and uncertainties transparently? Or do we want them to shape information, via nudges, to influence the public to take specific actions? The former fosters an open and honest dialogue with the public to facilitate democratic policymaking. The second subverts the very idea of a democracy and implies that those who set the rules or shape the media narrative are justified in depriving the public of information that they may consider or value differently.

Aside from whether it’s right to tell noble lies in the service of eliciting socially beneficial behavior, there is also the question of efficacy. Experts on infectious diseases are not necessarily experts on social behavior. Even if we accept Fauci’s claim that he downplayed the importance of wearing masks because he didn’t want to unleash a run on masks, we might wonder how he knew that his noble lie would be more effective than simply being honest and explaining to people why it was important to assure an adequate supply of masks for medical workers. . . .

— Kerrington Powell and Vinay Prasad, The Noble Lies of COVID-19
Slate, 28 Quintilis 2021

Shared Article from Slate Magazine

The U.S. Government’s Noble Lies About COVID-19

When Fauci said in March 2020 that Americans didn’t need to wear masks, it was a noble lie—and a destructive one.


Anticopyright. All pages written 1996–2024 by Rad Geek. Feel free to reprint if you like it. This machine kills intellectual monopolists.