“Sort the signal from the noise, and ignore the noise.” In 2007, we discovered that this simple-sounding task is a lot more work that it ought to be these days.
Ushering in the New Year, it is customary to hand out awards, disseminate Top Ten lists, and look back on lessons learned.
Who is the (fictional) NMM(-TV)SNB(B)CNN(P)BS to disdain this hackneyed tradition?
Given that we spent the year between Brooklyn and Brazil, but mainly trying to figure out how to move to Brazil, and what to do with ourselves when we got there, the list has a natural Tupicentricity to it.
But anyway, without further ado, we offer our (draft-quality) lists of memes of the year. The candidates:
- Mind-bending failures or refusals to perform the simplest of fact-checks before clicking on “publish” (The Guardian-Globo-Veja ‘Requiem For the Reality Principle” Prize)
- The dissemination of rumors, advertent and inadvertent (The Montesinos-Rendón-Mainardi Prize in 21st-Century Donald Segrettism)
- “Dueling exit polls and technical ties” (The Morris-Allyn-Carville Prize in Lies, Damned Lies, and Banana-Republican Opinion Polling)
- “We are all prostitutes” (The Rohter-Jabor Prize in Pornopolitics)
- “Life imitates trash TV” (The Rohter-Howard Beale Prize in Self-Fulfilling Prophecy)
- “The domino theory of moral nonresponsibility” (The Wolfowitz-Bennett Prize For Finger-Wagging Hysterical Virginity)
- Dossiers on phantom bank accounts (The Clearstream Prize)
- “Moral crusades against phantom menaces” (The Aznar Memorial “(Hearing) O Globo Voices Online” Prize for Moral Panic Journalism)
- “Vote Quimby or you will lose your job and home” (The Susan Schwab Prize)
- “Vote Quimby or my friend here will shoot you” (The Maia-Mono Mancuso Prize)
- The argumentum ad Nazium (The Cardoso-Lithkomgul Prize)
- The rhetoric of the technological sublime” (The Gates-Jobs Prize for Contributions to Magical Thinking)
- “Journalism 1.0 is the New Journalism 2.0” (The BBC Prize in Impartiality 2.0)
- Banana-republican empty shows of efficiency and Potemkin Village gambits (The Claude “Captain Renault” Rains Memorial Prize in Rounding Up the Usual Suspects)
- “The planned strategic communications of the dominant commercial culture is the product of a spontaneously emergent counter-culture” (The Edelman Worldwide Memorial “Toxic Sludge is Good For You” Astroturf Campaign and Newspeak Prize for Gabbling Failures to Manufacture Consensus)
(1) and (2) may amount to the same thing, but I suppose we could differentiate them by awaring (1) as a prize for institutional dysfunction and (2) as a prize for individual achievement in the art of the gabbling ratfink.
And the winner is: The domino theory of moral nonresponsibility, which provides a simple, intuitive model for understanding where a lot of the other extravagant nonsense observed during the year comes from.
Source: Bandera, 1990 (see below)
… there are different psychological mechanisms by which moral control can be selectively activated or disengaged from inhumane conduct. Self-sanctions can be disengaged by reconstruing detrimental conduct through moral justification, euphemistic labeling, and advantageous contrast with other inhumanities; by obscuring personal agency in detrimental activities through diffusion and displacement of responsibility; by disregarding or misrepresenting the harmful consequences of inhumane conduct; and by blaming and dehumanizing the victims. These mechanisms of moral disengagement operate not only in the perpetration of inhumanities under extraordinary circumstances, but in everyday situations where people routinely perform activities that bring personal benefits at injurious costs to others. –Albert Bandura, Selective Activation and Disengagement of Moral Control (1990)
Runner-up meme of the year: “fact is the same thing as fiction.”
“Maria Paula calls Marconi Ferraço a liar”; “Israel rejects Hamas truce offer”: Google News Brasil presents fictional events — a Globo soap opera plot summary — as though they were factual ones.
Cynical bar joke of the year:
200 people are killed in an air disaster in São Paulo and who do they arrest? They guy who owns the whorehouse.
- São Paulo: “Sex-Death Hotelier Makes the Cover of the Rolling Stone!”
- Provocateurs and Provocateuses: The Wit and Wisdom of Oscar Maroni
- São Paulo: More Wit and Wisdom of the Sex-Death Hotelier
- São Paulo: “Sex-Death Hotelier Seeks Political Asylum”
- The Apologia Pro Vita Sua of Oscar Maroni, Sex-Death Hotelier
- São Paulo: The Cri De Coeur of the Sex-Death Hotelier!
The journalist who writes Vi o Mundo had a very good suggestion: Start reading regional newspapers (and, I would add, small, nerdy sector-focused business publications) rather than the mextrosexual dailies and weeklies if you really want to get a sense of the Zeitgeist.
Sign of the apocalypse of the year: The Wall Street Journal gets a new section called “The Buzz.”
buzz noun a confusion of activity and gossip
Main Entry: 2buzz
1 : a persistent vibratory sound
2 a : a confused murmur b : RUMOR, GOSSIP c : a flurry of activity d : FAD, CRAZE e : speculative or excited talk or attention relating especially to a new or forthcoming product or event <one of the few new shows that’s getting good buzz — TV Guide>; also : an instance of such talk or attention <their first CD created a huge buzz>
3 : a signal conveyed by buzzer; specifically : a telephone call
4 : HIGH 4
Risk managment resolutions for 2008: Eliminate rumor, gossip, fads, crazes, speculation and the like from my infotainment diet. Avoid taking taxis and aircraft whose drivers have a heavy buzz on.
As to the lessons learned of the year, a list of candidates: