Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The polarity predicament, Part 1

I have been quieter than usual lately on this blog in part because I've been making some behind-the-scenes inquiries into what responsive measures might be possible with respect to the continued open animosity between the City Council of League City and some members of the local Muslim community.  I've addressed a few facets of this issue previously in this post and this post, but as a blogger, I have yet to deal with the core issue head-on.
That is, indeed, what we have on our hands in LC on the immigration resolution issue.  
Here is one hobbling limitation that has been repeatedly emphasized by the folks with whom I have spoken thus far:  The lack of available public information on this conflict, specifically as it relates to newspaper coverage.  The residents of League City would genuinely like to know more about what's been happening, but they have few options for obtaining this information.  I have complained bitterly about this limitation on many previous occasions, to the point of establishing a blog category titled "Newspapers".  Those with whom I have spoken in the past few weeks have confirmed and even elevated my own concerns, with comments such as "I subscribe to Houston Chronicle but they are not covering League City's issues" and "Galveston County Daily News may be reporting on it, but their overall product is of such poor quality that there's no way I'm ever going to grant them the satisfaction of my subscription fee, so I really can't get any information about what's been happening."
GCDN is covering it at least in a limited sense, but that content is almost entirely paywalled.

I apologize if you find the memes distracting, but I think this discussion could benefit from some much-needed comic relief and the general not-taking-of-oneself-too-seriously, among other things.  Memes are certainly good for those purposes.  
Just as an aside, GCDN is commonly accused of indulging the usual and customary liberal media bias, but some of the most negative comments I've received recently about GCDN have been from people who self-identify as having very liberal viewpoints.  Their complaints seem to center on the quality of the investigative reporting - specifically on what they perceive as a complete lack of any intellectual perspective whatsoever - rather than on the ideological slant.
I "bereave" the liberal media - yes, I most certainly do!!

The world-renowned actor Jackie Chan undoubtedly did not approve of this internet meme, although he has been known to be outspoken on political issues.   
I am currently at a loss as to how people might compensate for this informational vacuum.  I do agree (as people have noted) that it's unworkably pricey to subscribe to both Houston Chronicle and GCDN - that's going to be out of the budget of many of the Clear Lakers who are caught in the middle, geographically and otherwise (I'm considering Clear Lake to encompass League City).  It's unworkably pricey especially because neither of those publications is located in our area and neither of them do justice to our area.  Regardless of which one is chosen, you don't receive that much relevant content for your considerable amount of subscription money, frankly.

So where does that leave us?  As I've said many times before, the newspapers royally suck and our local blogosphere is nonexistent, and I never set my blog up for the kind of generalized communicative purpose that is called for here.  Effective dissemination of this kind of information requires extensive market penetration of the kind that I originally intended to deflect rather than achieve.  Those 155,000 hits you see on the counter below are all from people who had to work to get here - to make a long story short, I was shooting for readership quality rather than quantity, which is valid for its own purposes, but it is far from effective when the objective is disseminating general public information that isn't otherwise available.

Anyway, FWIW, the latest offering from GCDN is a very formulaic editorial titled "It's bad policy to disdain the public's complaints" (paywalled).   It references the fact that a few members of City Council walked out of the public comment period during a recent Council meeting.  The public participation, as always, referenced the original "radical Islamist terror groups" clause in the resolution that has already been DEBATED TO DEATH, BUT ONLY WITHIN THE PROFOUNDLY RESTRICTED FRAMEWORK OF PREVAILING ACCEPTABLE SOCIAL POLARITY.
...but not for as long as each and every one of you insist on maintaining your current polarized positions.  
The reason why I have started talking to some people in the community is that, like everyone else, I'm sick to death of the obvious ideological stalemate.  I have specific ideas about how this issue could be (brace yourself) actually moved forward in a mutually productive way.  Unfortunately, thus far, I'm not finding many other people who feel similarly and who would be willing to contribute a bit of their time and energy in order to do something about the stalemate which is continuing to manifest like a really bad broken record in Council meetings and in the press.  Mostly what I'm finding is that people have a passionate desire to continue stamping their feet and proffering their particular polarized oversimplifications.  Most people seem to want to continue taking bi-weekly baths in their righteous indignation as they pout and hold their positions with their minds clamped as firmly shut as they can possibly muster.

Anyway, as a first measure in this regard, I started calling louder bullsh*t on the polarity in response to that newest editorial linked above.  Because it's paywalled, I will reproduce my comments below FYI.  You don't really need to read the original editorial - all it basically says is that certain City Council members are bad for walking out during a public comment period.  There's no historical or contextual weighting, no suggestion as to what else might be done to really address the underlying issues (that's what op-eds are supposed to do, isn't it? Suggest things?).  It's just that little dissociated bit - Council is bad.  And that's the polarity predicament in a nutshell.


What continues to amaze me about this situation is that everyone is behaving exactly as our current ultra-polarized society expects them to behave, every step of the way. 

There's not been a shred of creativity or original thinking anywhere in this equation - I feel like I've been watching a collective Dance of the Automatons, from LC City Council to the Muslim community to this local press itself.  Every single party playing their prescribed role, right on cue.  There's no room for thinking outside the box.  There's no room for asking legitimate questions (they have been in there, but were drowned out by all the BS, especially the name-calling of which both sides are guilty).  There's no room for orthogonal viewpoints.  There's no room for thought experiments in devil's advocacy.  There is no room for anything that even remotely resembles a fresh perspective.  It is simply not allowed. 

There is absolutely no room for anything other than extremely polarized cookie-cutter views that conform to established stereotypes (especially liberal vs. conservative).  And the situation is SO BAD that when I make the observation for folks that what they are doing amounts to nothing more than cherry-picking an off-the-shelf extremist view, they literally think I'm nuts.  Twice in one week in behind-the-scenes conversations, I had the unnerving experience of pointing out to different people that they have reduced a nuanced situation to an unworkable level of black and whiteness, and they responded to me, scandalized, with (paraphrased), "What do you mean?  I'm not taking an extremist view - I'm simply taking a HUMAN view."  In other words, they've totally lost touch with their own extremism, if they even had any awareness of that in the first place.

Of course, it's the height of fashion right now to join in the American polarity movement.  It's so effortless and attractive, instant gratification in the style of illegal drugs - you can get instant street cred, an instant "in", not by having any actual ideas, but just by dropping a few key words and phrases that confirm your subscription to The Group.  But at a certain point, you have to ask yourself what you're really getting out of that kind of mindset.  OK, bully for you - you're "in", and those unfathomable guys on the other side of the issue are also "in", but what are any of you actually gaining from all this polarity?  And much more importantly, what is everyone losing because of it? 

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