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Archive for February 2010

Political Correctness as Inadvertent Racism

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calling all newsroom hacks! the new boss of the califonia national guard is black AND a woman.
Two Minorities Are Better Than One

On February 1st, Arnold Schwarzanegger announced the appointment of Brigadier General Mary Kight as the new Adjutant-General of the  California National Guard and Air National Guard. It was vintage Shwarzawanker. Let the cheap, no-risk compliments flow, so he looks just totally fabulous.

Brigadier General Kight is a 25 year veteran of the guard, and had been its assistant head honcho since 2006. Kight is also the first African-American and the first woman to hold the post, once confirmed by the California State Senate.

An African-American AND a Woman. Stop the presses!

This story has been pushed by one of my local NPR stations for three days since February 1.

Sure, it’s worth a a quick slug for one day, but not the rolling repeats of the long, gushing interviews with the Brigadier General to which we have been subjected. I doubt that many other Adjutant-General appointees are asked “follow your dream” questions to see if they have any advice for young people just starting out.

To her great credit, Brigadier General Kight responded to the patronizing questions she was asked with brisk equanimity. But the fact that they were asked, and the fact that the story has been papering the radio station with alarming regularity just smacks of an almost tawdry level of political correctness. And one that begs the question;

At what point does diversity drivel turn into the very racism it’s compensating for?

One would have hoped that the election of Barack Obama, one half of whom is African-American, to the Presidency, would have enabled our newsrooms to ease off on the gooey, politically correct diversity fetishism that they offer us, ad nauseam.

If I was African-American I’d be frankly embarrassed by the media’s constant need to spoon-feed me with touchy-feely stories to make me feel better just because I was a minority. It’s really time to lay off the cheese here, guys. We live in America, and all your diverso-crap points up is the fact that you, the white man media, has a great big guilty conscience that just won’t go away. It’s not racist to treat every American the same. But the media just cant help categorizing, labelling, dare one say it, ghettoizing its audiences.

Minorities in this country don’t want to be treated as minorities. They wanted to be treated as, oh, I don’t know, Americans. That is the way to consign racism in the US to the dustbin of history.

Perhaps if Brigadier General Kight was a black man OR a white woman, it would have prompted the media to be less irksome. After all, a recent former chairman of the Joint chiefs was a black man, and there are many senior female generals in the regular services.

One can only suppose the fact that Brigadier General Kight is black AND a woman was the reason for the media gush.

But in the view of Thereisnoplan, that just makes the whole moment insulting to two minorities (one of which is a majority) rather than one.

Written by coolrebel

February 5, 2010 at 10:22 am

Social Networks and the Friendship Hierarchy

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In the real world friendship is a big deal. It has meaning. It has to be earned. Losing it can be devastating.

But in the detached, bloodless world of the Social Network much of that meaning is lost. It’s almost as if the same word is used to describe two states that differ profoundly.

There’s a very good reason that social networks use the term ‘friend’. Simply put, it’s good for business. It adds value to what they do. If Facebook were to suggest we “find new acquaintances” or “make new connections” they’d still be operating out of Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room. Connections work for LinkedIn, which has at its core a non-social, almost clinical networking purpose, but “Friend” is a big word, a simple, profound and potentially profitable word. It’s a critical source of Facebook’s success. But the use of the term isn’t at all convincing, and far worse, is damaging and socially corrosive. The Social Network commoditizes and verbifies friendship, appropriating its value along the way, and demeaning the very concept of friendship – which is after all part of the glue that holds humanity together.

It’s the sanitized uniformity at the core of Social Networking that is also its profound weakness. For real life friends, the social network is essentially superfluous. Real friendships don’t need the artificial landscape of Facebook. They did very nicely before it came along, for thousands of years in fact. For obscure acquaintances, and former friends one has lost touch with etc, the term “friend” invites expectations that almost certainly will not be met. The constant swirl of meaningful friendships subtly devalued by the flat-lining semantics of the social network and those meaningless ‘friendships’ overvalued by the same social network make for a rather dysfunctional, intimacy free landscape, driven by habit, marketing, and an unnatural distortion of human relationships.

In short, they are a geek’s paradise.

Facebook and any other network that trades in ‘friends’ are essentially a game, where the counters are people, or at least their avatars, i.e commodities. (Those networks that don’t trade in ‘friends’ such as Twitter (which counts “Followers”) wisely avoid false judgments of ‘friendship’ and instead offer a more honest and objective functionality.)

The ‘friend’ driven social networks have various approaches, formats and characteristics, and one of the most amusing is the differing value of ‘friends’ among each of the main networks. All score low in terms of real value, but some are almost monumentally worthless as markers of true friendship.

In short, social networks create a very real hierarchy in friendship.

Let’s say the total value of human relationships is 100. So we can break down the value of these relationships as follows;

Real-world Friendships (including marriages, family, or long-standing business relationships)  98 pts

Facebook, Myspace, Friendster, Bebo, Hi5, and similar networks (classmates from a previous generation, conference card-swappees, ex-lovers, someone you chatted incoherently with at a very loud party) 1.9pts

Foursquare / Gowalla / Plancast (all of the above sourced mainly from your Social Networks). On Geo-locating networks or other info share approaches people you don’t know will friend you just because you are ‘cool’ enough to use the service.  0.1 pt

Friends, in the real world, on Facebook, and yes even on Foursquare, it’s really time we stopped taking Social Networks so seriously.

PS Don’t forget to tweet this post 😉

Written by coolrebel

February 3, 2010 at 4:15 pm