The Null Device
The convergence of politics and entertainment continues apace; not long after a celebrity with no political experience became governor of California, a British TV production company is planning a reality-TV show to create an "independent" political candidate:
'Government by focus group is something we all disdain as short-sighted and superficial - but what if the focus group were millions of people, actively deliberating together as we exercise our power?' he says.
'We know that the public loves the idea of voting for "independents", but the system makes it hard for independents to get themselves noticed. So it is almost a public duty for someone to create a platform to help independents get an equal chance.'
"Independents" chosen for their looks and/or style, with superficially agreeable or fashionably "right-on" opinions; if this takes off, conventional politicians could find it hard to compete, and parliaments may end up full of ultra-appealing Natasha Stott-Despojas, manufactured by televisual focus-group. Multiple terms will be a rarity, as yesterday's political idols will, by their very nature, become unfashionable and be displaced by a new crop, distinguishable mostly by how their hairdos are spiked up. But that'll be OK, as parliaments by then will have signed over most of their sovereignty to international free-trade treaties and will be reduced to an advisory body of select "beautiful people" and/or another entertainment option.
An interesting essay on the subject of taboos and intellectual fashions, by Paul Graham:
The word "defeatist", for example, has no particular political connotations now. But in Germany in 1917 it was a weapon, used by Ludendorff in a purge of those who favored a negotiated peace. At the start of World War II it was used extensively by Churchill and his supporters to silence their opponents. In 1940, any argument against Churchill's aggressive policy was "defeatist". Was it right or wrong? Ideally, no one got far enough to ask that.
Moral fashions don't seem to be created the way ordinary fashions are. Ordinary fashions seem to arise by accident when everyone imitates the whim of some influential person. The fashion for broad-toed shoes in late fifteenth century Europe began because Charles VIII of France had six toes on one foot. The fashion for the name Gary began when the actor Frank Cooper adopted the name of a tough mill town in Indiana. Moral fashions more often seem to be created deliberately. When there's something we can't say, it's often because some group doesn't want us to.
Suppose in the future there is a movement to ban the color yellow. Proposals to paint anything yellow are denounced as "yellowist", as is anyone suspected of liking the color. People who like orange are tolerated but viewed with suspicion. Suppose you realize there is nothing wrong with yellow. If you go around saying this, you'll be denounced as a yellowist too, and you'll find yourself having a lot of arguments with anti-yellowists. If your aim in life is to rehabilitate the color yellow, that may be what you want. But if you're mostly interested in other questions, being labelled as a yellowist will just be a distraction. Argue with idiots, and you become an idiot.
(Via Slashdot, where it has devolved into the usual melange of Hitler references, Libertarian/Objectivist railings against the collectivist tyranny of taxation, flames directed respectively at Bush/neoconservatives and effete Europeans/elitist liberals, assertions that global warming is a lie perpetuated by a powerful environmentalist conspiracy, unsubstantiated claims about Israeli involvement in 9/11 and rants about why feminism and the homosexual agenda have ruined America; and not a word about Bill Gates being a Sith lord either. Looks like Slashdot has turned into talkback radio.)
Make your own jokes: The Book of Erotic Fantasy, a Dungeons and Dragons rulebook covering the role-playing of sex (as in by rolling dice and matching against character statistics), has hit the market. Judging from these reviews, they seem to have done their market research well, putting in something (from the SuicideGirls-style vampyrotica photos to extensive sections on fetishes to character species designed to appeal to the furry crowd) for every type of nervert, with the possible exception of hentai fiends (though maybe the reviewer just missed the bit about rolling to remove a sailor suit using tentacles or something). (via jwz)