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Category — dumbthicators

Save the Planet Protest

I can’t quite decide what to make of the Save the Planet Protest: if it weren’t for the fact that there have been full-page ads, featuring the same text as from the webpage, in Express (the free tabloid version of the Washington Post that’s given away at Metro stops), it’d be easy to say that it’s just a joke, and it would probably be so inconsequential that I wouldn’t blog about it. But there on page 17 of the Express is the ad, and I can’t quite tell whether it is high snark, an over-the-top practical joke, or misguided sincerity.

The idea is (but you miss so much without reading the original wording): A guy named Lee is organizing a protest in front of the Discovery Channel headquarters in Silver Spring, MD, 12 hours a day (9am–9pm), for 9 days (15–23 February), because their environmental-themed programming isn’t working. That is, environmental problems are still getting worse, and the text is ambiguous as to whether he means that the failure of the environment to improve even after Discovery Channel programming is evidence that Discovery Channel programming is defective, or that Discovery Channel environmental programming is misguided and focused on ineffective and insufficient initiatives.

There are legitimate points that could be made here: that the Discovery Channel tries to market itself as green, with a LEED-Silver certified headquarters and a new PlanetGreen channel, but is in fact offering only feel-good greenwash programming and continues to produce anti-environmental programming, like Future Weapons. I don’t watch the Discovery Channel, but I’m in general sympathetic to the viewpoint that mass media portrayals of environmental issues overemphasize the inconsequential. Heck, even non-profit environmental groups are guilty of this.

Of course, if he is sincere, Lee’s tactics are way off the mark.

It’s easy to poke fun at Lee’s writing style, although if this is a joke, then it’s a very well-crafted parody of vacuous sincerity. But I also have a bit of admiration for the writing, because writing something like that would be very difficult for me. I am a slow writer, and am often astonished when I go back and look at my blog posts and realize how short they really are, compared with the time it took me to write them. If you ever watch me try to write (although I hope you don’t–I don’t consider writing to be a spectator sport), you’ll notice that typing only comes in short bursts. I remember using the computer labs at college, watching the people around me type furiously and continuously as they wrote up their papers, and wondering how they could get the words to flow so quickly. There have been times when I wished I could have just sat down and dashed off a repetitive, rambling, semi-coherent piece that filled up some space. Sometimes quantity has a quality of its own.

February 7, 2008   6 Comments

Magic words

There are magic words in our society, words whose utterance casts a spell over all those who hear them. No, this isn’t about any supernatural hogwash.Two magic words–there may be more–are liability and security. “Liability” has been with us for decades now, but the magical effects of “security” were only discovered post 9/11.When these words are uttered, and the spells cast, those under the spell temporarily lose the ability to think. The usual context is something like this: several people are gathered in a meeting. One of them suggests doing something that would be enlightening, entertaining, or otherwise innovative. Someone else, feeling threatened by this idea, will respond by chanting the spell, along the lines of “What about our liability?” or “that brings up security issues.” At this point, instead of a discussion about the actual potential legal liabilites, or of what, specifically, the security concerns are–it does not matter if there are no genuine experts at either liability or security in the meeting–the idea dies. (I do not wish to imply here that I necessarily believe in the existence of genuine security experts.) The other people at the meeting are under the spell, so great is their fear of being personally responsible for the next multi-million dollar lawsuit, or the next 9/11.I do not know of effective ways to counter these spells: perhaps to call out “Abracadabra” and demand specifics?

November 25, 2007   1 Comment