October 6, 2008

The Media Is The Message, And The Message Is You're An Idiot

(From The New Yorker)
new yorker cartoon.jpg

You mean I get to pick?

I.  What Is Real?

This is the story of the real John McCain, the one who has been hiding in plain sight.

This is the kind of sentence that you expect from a Woodward and Bernstein after months in dark parking garages, or maybe a book based on the results of secret CIA documents, but unfortunately it appears in Rolling Stone.  The piece is called, Make Believe Maverick, i.e. pretending to be cutting edge and independent, a voice of the people, and not really the arm of Big Business which he will here be revealed to be.  I hope someone else appreciates the irony there.

There's also a piece called The Truth About Palin: A guide to separating myth from fact.   (Where does one place the sic?)   And even a video "Five Myths About John McCain" which are sure to surprise you, like "John is a straight talking reformer" and "John is a Washington outsider."  One shot shows a photo of him seated at a desk, reaching out to take someone's off screen hand.  The camera slowly pans left across the photo to reveal--- Ronald Reagan! 

Truly these are the end of days.

Oh-- all three pieces are buy the same guy.

II.  Go To The Source

What is naked shorting?  Don't know?  You could look it up on Wikipedia, where it says a great number of things,  except that it is bad.  That it could be bad-- by artificially depressing a stock's price--  is hotly debated everywhere-- except on Wikipedia.  Know why?  Because, Gary Weiss-- who may (or may not) have worked for/used a computer at the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation which oversees stock settlement, became a Wikipedia editor and effectively controlled the entry.  He also  derided the CEO of Overstock.com, Patrick Byrne, who was vocally against the practice, by blocking his edits and even controlling his (Byrne's) Wikipedia page.

The story would be more interesting if Gary Weiss turned out to be a former journalist at BusinessWeek, where he should have learned not to manipulate the truth,  as well as understand the effects of naked short selling.  Well, he was. 

The debate here is not wheither Byrne or Weiss is right-- whether naked short selling does drive stock prices down, creating more volatility (it does.)  The question here is this: if Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, why wasn't the entry "fixed?"  Leading to the second question, since it is obvious that it can't really be edited (effectively) by just anyone, how do you get chosen to be the main guy?  If the CEO of an $800M company isn't allowed to write a few lines, what chance does anyone else have?

III.  Psychiatry Finds The Truth
Do you know what antidepressant induced mania is?   For ten years I've been yelling at anyone who would listen that it doesn't exist.  Let me caveat that: "exist" isn't the word I took issue with, the word was "antidepressant": how can you blame an entire group of chemicals that many times have no similarities at all (Prozac vs. Wellbutrin) as having the same rare side effects?  That's classism, right?

I wrote a number of "scientific" articles on the subject, and only one was ever published-- the one in which I described a scenario where it actually did happen.  For reference, I've published many other articles, so the problem here wasn't my writing or research, it was my stance.

So when someone writes an article agreeing that antidepressant induced mania is overstated, I read it closely-- not for new information, but because I want to see how he got it past the censors.

In a section entitled What is the Best Available Evidence? the author writes,

More conclusive evidence can be derived from two recent, large controlled studies, one being a monotherapy study,4 the other a study investigating the combination of a mood stabilizer and the choice of two antidepressants.6 

I knew immediately what the second study was; but I hadn't ever heard of the first-- a monotherapy study with an antidepressant in bipolar, controlled and large?  Am I slacking? Oh, it's a Seroquel study.

IV.  Your Thoughts Have Been Peer-Reviewed, and Badly

And it beceoms clear that all media are peer -reviewed, and by peer-review I mean not you or your peers.  Rolling Stone is so tight it has the same idiot generate three different pieces for the same issue.  Same with anything else. 

It is the same guys, over and over again, each in their own space, and by default we assume they are the most knowledgeable, or the most rigorous; have the most information or are best able to remain objective.  Or maybe we simply hope they'll be good enough.

But having the same guys means that we'll be getting the same philosophies, the same filters, the same phrases.  We are guaranteeing not just groupthink, but we're allowing others  to decide what we're going to talk about, how we'll talk about it.   That's why "gay marriage" will disappear not when gays can marry but when a new set of media people get jobs and "gay marriage" isn't as interesting to them.  The actual importance of "gay marriage" in the world is not at all the important question-- it may be extremely relevant, or not at all, but that's irrelevant.  Why we're stuck with "bipolar disorder" until, I don't know, the neo-analysts return with their talk of "repressed thyroid energy" or something, but emphatically not because we discover anything qualitatively new about bipolar.

And so it goes.  If you wonder why you seem ADHD or anxious, it may be that you are being told certain things are horribly important, yet you can't seem to feel it; meanwhile you are also being told the things you thought were important are trivial. 

And the only place (you are told) you can go to regain balance is psychiatry.  Good luck with all that.