Thursday, January 31, 2008

An Ever-Expanding Moebius Strip of Metabullshit

We recently came across a transcript of a talk that is credited to the late Neil Postman. It's called "Bullshit and the Art of Crap Detection," and was supposedly delivered nearly 40 years ago at a conference for English teachers.
Just on the face of it, it seems like the sort of thing that you'd expect to find on blogs by people who enjoy thinking of themselves as learned... A respected scholar slips into the vernacular, and we can all have a smug laugh about it amongst our scholarly selves. Tee-hee.
And indeed, such is the case. This essay pops up all over the Interwebs on any number of blogs -- posing as "scholarly" -- that gleefully repost "Neil Postman's classic essay." We first came across it on a blog called "CriticaliThinkingiSnippets."
This, by the way, strikes us as more than a bit ironic. Because if there were some actual critical thinking going on, someone might have determined that "Bullshit and the Art of Crap Detection," is probably... well... bullshit.
Now, when you have bullshit that's about bullshit, that's what we at Radio Zero call "Metabullshit." And when you have bullshit about bullshit proliferating on the web the way this piece seems to have, that is what we call: "An Ever-Expanding Moebius Strip of Metabullshit."
We're not hardcore Postman scholars by any stretch. But we have read enough of his work to know that, even though he has a great sense of humor, it's NBL (not bloody likely) that Postman authored a paper about bullshit.
The closest thing we've found so far is Postman's The Educationist As Painkiller, where the word "bullshit" makes a cameo in a fleeting moment of levity before the author announces he'll settle on the less offensive "balderdash" to illustrate his points.
Otherwise, a quick search through a number of online sources that review Postman's literature more thoroughly (sources which do not include Wikipedia, by the way) don't list the "Bullshit" paper at all.
On the other hand, there seems to be no definite statement that "Bullshit and the Art of Crap Detection" is a hoax, either. Until such time, we'll just go out on a limb and claim that "Bullshit and the Art of Crap Detection" was probably written by a pinhead grad student researching yet another study on how cultural memes proliferate via internet, or the nature of truth in the information age, or blah blah frickin' blah.
We'd love to be proven wrong.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The "Boogeyman of Polite Society"
"Was Mr. Wilders asserting a right to free speech?
Or was he dressing up a gratuitous religious insult in constitutional language?
He was doing both, of course."
It Was Good Enough For God... It's Good Enough For You

A self-styled Christian preacher and his wife have been convicted of cruelty towards their two sons. The man sliced his boys' mouths with a scalpel and left safety pins in their mouths for days – telling them he inflicted the injuries because God had his tongue cut off in the Bible.

The boys' mother did nothing to stop the torture with safety pins or to remove the children from their torment.

Detective Chief Inspector Stan Bates, head of West Yorkshire Police's child and public protection unit, said: "It is believed the motive for this abuse was an extreme religious belief."

Fiona Evans of the Yorkshire Post reports
A story based on the Three Little Pigs fairy tale has been deemed potentially offensive to Muslims by a British government agency.

The BBC's Sean Coughlan reports

Free Speech For Me, But Not For Thee

A court in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif today passed the death sentence on a young journalist, Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, for alleged blasphemy. The trial was held behind closed doors and without any lawyer defending him.
The court also threatened to arrest any reporters who protested against Kambakhsh's sentence.
Large Increase of Rapes in Kenya

"At any time of unrest, of violence, or rioting, women and children are targeted... People are fighting and the weakest ones get abused."
"Here is the biggest, richest and most powerful religious institution on earth, explicitly telling deeply mentally ill people the Devil is within them because they asked him in, and they have to suffer to get him out."

"This December, Father Gabriele Amorth – official exorcist of the Rome Diocese, and friend of the ‘Holy Father’ – announced the Pope will soon undertake a new campaign to unleash a fresh batch of four hundred exorcists on the world, in addition to the thousands already in operation. Johann Hari discusses in The Independent

More about Gabriele Amorth here at Ignatious Insight
The Face of FGM.
A 9-month-old is comforted following her circumcision.
A new study published by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that women who have had Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are significantly more likely to experience difficulties during childbirth and that their babies are more likely to die as a result of the practice.
Indonesian supporters, however, claim that girls like the one pictured can look forward to "a stabilized libido, a husband who thinks she is pretty, and a balanced psychology." It's all here in the New York Times Magazine.