Seeing is believing

There has been a trend against language for some time. The masses, easily misled by words, prefer pictures.

Several alleged “news” sources simply post video. No analysis or comment, occasionally going as far as stating “At 2:15 he makes his point” suggesting I should watch two minutes and fifteen seconds of a video to discover what the point might be. Just tell me, I can read, and I can read much faster than the video can tell its story. I have seen “articles” that consist of a collection of “memes”, with no original content. A string of pictures with captions rather than an actual opinion. “You know what I mean” moves to the next level.

“Meme” is derived from “mimeme”, meaning to imitate. The person who coined the word (Richard Dawkins) was looking for a monosyllabic expression. Rarely does a word fit its own definition so well, in some ways an intellectual onomatopoeia.

Recently footage of a chunk of ice falling off a glacier into the sea was headlined “Watch as a piece of the planet disappears forever!”. I watched, and saw ice fall into water. Nothing disappeared. Nonetheless the site was filled by global warming enthusiasts wringing their hands over the shame of it all. Pictures are like that. This is why anti-abortion activists carry pictures of aborted fetuses. The portion of the brain that reacts to visual stimuli skips the part that weighs facts and balances arguments. It’s a function of the survival instinct.

I’ve also noticed a grotesque misuse of graphs. A line on a page is not a graph. Unequal indices and unequally spaced indices are misleading. A graph with missing indices is just a set of meaningless lines. Yes, we can all see the line goes up as it moves from left to right, which influences my opinion as much as a picture of the guy from the Dos Equis commercials. But look! The line goes to the upper left hand corner! Turn the page ninety degrees, has the data changed? Why does the line go down now?

You may have noticed certain words in my articles are underlined. This was once the common way of letting readers know they could click on those words to link to an article verifying the information. Even that simple non-verbal form of communication has been corrupted. In a recent article about climate change, more than half the links were “broken”, that is, they lead nowhere, most often to a “404 Error” page. The casual reader would think there was documentation. Whether this was an intentional ruse to mislead readers or this was a case in which the documentation had been withdrawn is purely speculation.

The written word is not a natural form of communication. It is the product of intellectual evolution. De-evolution is a choice, it is a failure of intellect, and a great band from the ’80s. It is not the path a “progressive” should be attracted towards.


3 comments on “Seeing is believing

  1. mike r says:

    Thank you for putting so eloquently my own thoughts. I go nuts with managers who put a graph on the overhead showing profits, for example, over the past twelve months, in which there is a clear trend line up or down over eight or nine months, and the most recent month turning clearing in the opposite direction as the trend. Invariably it is announced that “things appear to be turning around and profits are up (or down)!” To make such a conclusion with one data point, indeed with four or five or more may indicate nothing more than natural variance. Middle management is particularly skilled in such idiocy. Perhaps they are schooled at the same institution as the media mouths who find causation in correlation all the time.


  2. mike r says:

    Blake, have you ever given thought to writing a book on the fallacies created by poor communication or thinking in America? When I read your writings I often am reminded of the themes in Freakonomics and such books. Your writing is nicely tilted towards the human experience rather than only statistics and facts. We Americans seem particularly adept at combining arrogance and ignorance, making it child’s play for the media and the government to manipulate us. When you break down the process, such as what is said to occur compared with what actually occurs in a picture or video, you do a great job highlighting a critical fallacy in our thinking. And you do it in a kind way. Your examples are those of real life and often centered on historical or recent events. The emphasis, or so I think, is to present the reader with a way to see things clearly, rather than as society presents them, i.e., how to avoid logical fallacies, and worse, a bit like helping someone identify the smoke and mirrors that they might see truth. I’m not referring to “The Idiot’s Guide to Thinking,” as much as I am “How to Stop Being a Lemming and Think for Yourself.” You certainly seem to understand the thought-communication process in a wonderful way. Your ability to draw from your own life experiences and common ones around all of us truly reaches the reader.


    • kblakecash says:

      Thank you Mike.

      I am considering more books, possibly collections of blog themes with connections. I would need to self publish, I can’t see a mainstream house printing this work.

      I just never know when a collection is complete.


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