Social Bonding by Terror LO6787

jack hirschfeld (
Thu, 18 Apr 1996 22:46:55 -0400

Because this message touches on several issues under discussion on this
list, I thought it might be interesting to some of the readers and

Vigdor Schreibman raises some vital issues here, and although I'm not sure
his tone is helpful or persuasive, the point of view and the opinion it
projects are very profound in my opinion. I'd be interested in what
people here have to say about it...

>----------------Original Message Posted in Multiple Lists-----------------
>-------Republication is Authorized Only When Message is Kept Intact-------
>FINS: Communicating the Emerging Philosophy of The Information Age
>Vol IV, Issue No. 8 April 15, 1996
>Social Bonding by Terror
>By Vigdor Schreibman
> In 1857, when more than four hundred people died in a sea wreck in
>the Caribbean, Walt Whitman philosophized in the Daily Times,
> Such great calamities ... startle us from our paltry, apathetic
> selfishness, they elicit feelings better and higher than ordinarily
> moves us, they link us together, for a time at least, by the bonds
> of a mutual sentiment, they teach us that poor frail human nature
> can deport itself bravely and well under circumstances the most
> appalling."
> Sea wrecks still occur these days, and sensational news stories that
>"link us together, for a time at least, by the bonds of a mutual sentiment,"
>are positively plentiful. The technological civilization, increasingly
>shaped by the dictates of corporate centers of power to narrowly serve the
>values of materialism has severely alienated the common citizens from
>community and family, inculcated a culture of aggression and constrained the
>people to a boiling point. The emergence of new forms of social breakdown
>and urban terror, which are also wretched sources of social bonding, are all
>around: the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, the assassination of
>John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcom X,
>pervasive drug abuse and drug related violent crimes beyond the control of
>civil authorities; images of the god-father, hit men, and serial killers,
>urban terrorists, over-the-counter terror, wilding gangs, sky jackers, and
>airline bombers, the Oklahoma bombing, the Unabomber, and a veritable
>counter-culture of madness in the form of youth violence: children--vicious
>and bereft of social conscious--who are murderers, rapists, robbers, and
>assailants accounting for the fastest growing segment of arrests for violent
>crime in America, which increased by an astounding 85% between 1987 and 1991
>according to the US Department of Justice [Fins-PaN-041].
> The emerging philosophy of the Information Age is now well on its way to
>writing a new chapter in the sensational terror of civilization. The story
>telling function is crucial, guiding our relationship to each other and to
>the world, according to communications scholars. This function no longer
>rests upon the purposeful and caring relationship between children and their
>parents, schools and churches. It has been taken over by the mass media and
>its opportunistic and exploitive perspective narrowly focused on selling
>goods and inculcating social control, with disastrous results.
> "The stories that commercial TV tells are snuffing out the American
>mind, and suffocating the culture of American brilliance," writes Jerry Landy
>in The Liberty Tree: <>. Similarly, a
>study by Prof. Robert Putnam of Harvard University, documents the likely
>critical role of commerical television in the "disappearance of civic
>America" [Fins-PaN-28]. Programming based on gratuitous violence and sexual
>exploitation utilized to build television audiences, are promoting
>violent and aggressive behavior, and eroding the ability of parents to
>develop responsible altitudes and behavior in their children, according to
>Congressional findings backed by unchallengeable research finds.
> The model of a violent television "wasteland" is designed to "inculcate
>and defend the economic, social and political agenda of privileged groups
>that dominate the domestic society," as Herman and Chomski (1988) have found.
>The same television model to be governed by the values of television industry
>executives, has long been promoted by Vice President Al Gore to shape the
>future of cyberspace [Fins-TI-03].
> How bizarre that Americans, perhaps, more than any other people, have
>learned to secure bonds with each other not through the deserved pride in the
>culture of American brilliance but in large part through the sensational
>stories of terror--both real and fabricated--disseminated by our information
>and telecommunications systems. That is the outcome of unjustified
>dependency upon the marketplace not only to promote economic prosperity but
>also to mediate the choices of essential public policies, organize and
>develop society, and assure survival of the biosphere of Planet Earth.
> This is an utterly reckless strategy for human existence. As Benjamin
>Barber, Whitman Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University writes
>in Jihad vs. McWorld 242 (1995), "Markets simply are not designed to do the
>things democratic polities do." Continuing, Barber observes:
> [Markets] enjoin private rather than public modes of discourse,
> allowing us as consumers to speak via our currencies of consumption
> to producers of material goods, but ignoring us as citizens
> speaking to one another about such things as the social
> consequences of our private markets [too much materialism? too
> little social justice? too many monopolies? too few jobs? what do
> *we* want?). They advance individualistic rather than social
> goals, permitting us to say, one by one, "I want a pair of running
> shoes" or "I need a new VCR" or "buy yen and sell D-Marks!" but
> deterring us from saying, in a voice made common by interaction and
> deliberation, "our inner city community needs new athletic
> facilities" or "there is too much violence on TV and in the movies"
> or "we should rein in the World Band and democratize the IMF!"
> Markets preclude "we" thinking and "we" action of any kind at all,
> trusting in the power of aggregate individual choices (the
> invisible hand) to somehow secure the common good.
> Beyond the narrow marketplace an independent information infrastructure,
>free from profit pressures and managed under an authorized use policy (AUP)
>to assuring a life sustaining Earth [Fins-CS-01], is absolutely essential.
>Prudent reallocation of the billions of dollars now "thrown away" annually
>for useless information technology could pay for that vital infrastructure.
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Jack Hirschfeld        Did you ever see a dream walking?           

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