I will occasionally go over the website stats, particularly near the end of a month, just to see the volume of traffic that the site's been drawing lately. I also like to look at the "top referrals"--the places where most of our readers are coming from. Usually, search engines and Alterman's blog (when I have a note posted there) rank the highest. But this month was different: several hundred Daily Rev readers had arrived via a site maintained by a young lady from the East who goes by the cyber-name Klassy.
Well, aside from the fact that her avatar is attractive (which just as easily means she could be a 90 year old man, for all I know), and that she had elided the name of Tolstoy's revolutionary heroine (Anna Karenina), nothing exceptional came out of a look at the first page. So I had a look around her site, going through at least 20 pages of links, graphics, poems, movies, and music files. I was very impressed by the intelligence, variety, organization, and overall content of these pages, so I was very glad that this site had somewhere (I couldn't find that) posted a link here. I further discovered that Klassy's site is based on a Mozilla Firefox extension, one of those add-ons from the open-source browser's Tools section, that is a Web 2.0 entity unto itself: a piece of software that allows you to create a profile based on interests and preferences that you pre-set, and surf the web in a "Stumble-Upon" fashion (that's the name of the extension) to randomly reveal highly-rated sites consistent with your interest categories. In the process, you are joining a MySpace-type social network, complete with friends and various levels of interactive potential.
I was curious enough to create an account for myself; I found that the most impressive thing about StumbleUpon is the quality of the sites that it selects and delivers for you, based on your profile. I would therefore encourage you to try it as well (this can be done in Windows, Linux or on the Mac, but only from the Firefox browser).
I also discovered one slightly disturbing feature. Klassy's site was protected by an "R / X" rating, and I had to click my acknowledgment of that, along with the fact that I am an adult. But I didn't find any pornographic or objectionable content in my tour of Klassy's site. A couple of bare-breasted women, but no violence, gore, or other content that I might find offensive. In fact, I'd feel perfectly comfortable, based on what I saw, in letting my 12 year old daughter explore Klassy.
But that's a mark of the degree of repressiveness in this culture of ours. A person creates a website that reveals the female body in no more graphic a fashion than would a painting of Titian or Caravaggio, and adds that her favorite author is Anais Nin, and she has suddenly crossed a line into the forbidden. Someday, perhaps, we will build a culture where a President paints nudes and CEO's write poetry. Until then, it is clear that the people who control our lives (or at least try to) are themselves trapped in such a hell of restriction and self-abasement that they are scarcely recognizable as human at all.
In any event, thank you, Klassy. And now, with that discussion as the segue, on to part two of Terry McKenna's discussion of the Orwellian tenor of our corporate government.
If you want to see corporate speech at its most Orwellian, just go to the websites of our largest corporations (especially ones that aren’t needed to sell merchandise - so don’t go to Walmart’s or General Motor’s sites). I picked Exxon. To begin with, they are an energy company, so are part of the problem when it comes to matters like global warming and Middle East policy. They also yield tremendous behind-the-scenes power – they and their peers constitute a significant part of Bush’s shadow government. And they feature a goodly dose of corporate Newspeak.
Truth be told, Exxon is the chief culprit in the effort to debunk global warming. They also have a hard time accepting their responsibility for the pollution they cause. For example, after 17 years, they continue with a courtroom war to fight punitive damages from the Exxon Valdez disaster. But to look at their website is to behold a world of corporate warm fuzzies.
I bet a middle school student looking at their site would believe that Exxon is a good steward of the environment and a friend of science. But they are nothing of the sort (to get an idea of the truth of the matter, check out this video from the Keith Olbermann Countdown program). Again, they have spent abundant dollars on debunking the hard science of global warming. It’s been fairly easy to do. Just find a scientist who knows nothing about the issue, or one who has no ethics, and fund a bunch of papers that highlight the most ambiguous data. Voila, junk science.*
Of course, Exxon is just looking for influence, for real power, let’s go to the politicians.
The means of modern communication are just as useful for politicians as they are in commerce. The Republicans have been on the forefront in bringing modern wordsmithery to political communications. They have stronger ties to corporations and thus more experience with the way corporations misuse speech to sell their wares. With the Republicans still in control of the White House, let’s go to that website to see how much it looks like a corporate site.
In this case, I selected a snapshot of the home page, then clicked policy links on the left and copied five headers. White papers have been replaced by hallmark cards. And is any of it true?
No Child Left Behind is a sham and a failure. As the Times reported yesterday, the poor and minority students that the act was designed to help are pretty much as bad off as ever. Peace in the Middle East? Not while George Bush lets Israel do whatever it wants (they may want peace but who knows). Health care – strengthening? How? For whom? Energy Security? Fiscal Discipline? Nothing of the sort.
Ok – so the means are exposed. In future blogs, we’ll discuss the policies that have been twisted in favor of corporate and moneyed interests and against the people. Stay tuned.
*A footnote on global warming. For all of you who don’t read science magazines, here is the central point. The earth’s temperature has risen and fallen over the long period of the earth’s existence. It was once believed that these rises and falls were more or less random – if so, then the current cycle of warming, though potentially harmful to some, would be a benign process. But we now know different. The bulk of the rises and falls appear to be the result of the earth’s response to changes in atmospheric chemistry (and the feedback loops that exist to exchange gases between the earth's crust, the seas, and the air). For example, free oxygen did not exist in the atmosphere until the earth was 2 billion years old. And nearly 2 billion years later, the earth became unstable, and cold. If conditions had not changed, our planet would have become a stable and dead frozen zone, much like mars or the moon.
Similar changes have continued over the long march of geologic time – but each is different. The current increase in atmospheric CO2 is not random or benign. And it is man made.
To get the details, try Reading The Rocks by Marcia Bjornerud for the full story. She is a geologist and university professor.