Nice posts, Schrodinger's Dog. Could be a good thread, if there's any takeup.
But will there be?
Once upon a time, you built a better mousetrap and people would beat a path to your door. You led, by proving your worth, and people would follow.
But this was hard. It took ingenuity, hard work, natural leadership ability and all that difficult stuff. Because you had to convince
that your way was right. You had to prove yourself by means of results.
Then two men named George Gallup and David Ogilivy (the curious may wish to google these names) found an easier way.
What they discovered was that you didn't have to prove yourself. You simply had to find out what people thought they wanted, and repackage yourself
or your product in line with that. To hell with what they actually needed
, to hell with your own beliefs and convictions (if any). No need, any
more, for all that taxing stuff. No need, any more, to deliver results. All you had to do was pander to the people's needs, fantasies, prejudices...
Which you learnt about from media-usage statistics, polls and focus groups.
Everybody wound up happy.
The people were happy because they were getting what they wanted, even though it wasn't what they needed - indeed, it was often to their
The people who gave them what they wanted were happy, because despite the fact that they were leading the public blithely towards the abyss, they were
still getting elected (if they were politicians) or getting rich (if they were marketers) because people were buying their useless but enticing
confections in truckloads.
And the media, who forged the link between the two parties, were happy because more people were watching and listening, and their advertising revenues
wre going through the roof.
And thus a feedback loop was created.
Example 1: advertiser does market research, finds out people like feature Y on product X, and delivers it. Public very happy, gobbles up product X
even though it is a piece of crap in functional terms, because thanks to the inclusion of feature Y it panders to their vulgar taste. Real-life
example (I'm going back a bit here): fins on American cars in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Or spoilers on family saloon cars today. What do
they do? Raise fuel consumption. Aerodynamic or handling advantages? Zilch, indeed negative. But they look great, so...
Example 2: Flip, and also flop. Politicians who change their views and their platform on an issue simply because what they truly believe won't fly
with the voters. George Bush's about-face immigration policy is a great example. But you're seeing it happen all over the place in America now,
because it's an election year and the pollsters make the running. There are plenty of examples from every candidate, every party.
The feedback loop goes like this:
Public desire influences product/ service/ policy formulation. Product/ service/ policy formulation reinforces public desire. Public desire
influences... and so it goes.
It's awfully like - in fact, is probably directly analagous to - runaway sexual selection
Except the loop isn't strung between males and females in a species but between leaders and followers in a status hierarchy.
How to fix it?
My own favourite solution is good old elitism. In a word, leadership. Leadership by conviction rather than poll-pandering. Because polls only follow
trends, they never point out new ways forward. And ordinary people can't be trusted to make good decisions about important matters. Only a few people
have the ability to do that. The rest have to be led to acquiesce, to accept and do things that are uncomfortable or even dangerous in the short term,
in order to reap greater benefits in the long term. And if it takes a sacrifice, they should be aware of it, not gulled into some nonsenical state of
false security, and be encouraged to put up or shut up. Remember Churchill telling the British he had nothing to offer but blood, sweat and tears?
Would anyone today get elected today on a platform like that? Today we have 'leaders' who simply follow the polls and offer people what they think
they want. They aren't leaders at all, these clowns: they're followers. Followers of the great unwashed, unthinking masses. Where John Doe leads,
they follow. Leaders ma cul
I'm not arguing for a dictatorship, though. I'm arguing for a class system
- with class mobility. Democracy is surely the best of all
possible forms of government. But it only works as intended if the demos
knows its place - understands its capabilities and limits and respects
those who rise above it - and if the democracy itself contains a mechanism that will permit quality to rise to the top. America used to have it; it
doesn't any more. In America, the fat tail of the peasantry is wagging the dog of policy, and media-friendly buffoons with five-second consciences
get elected. The rest of the world, is, for the most part, no better and often worse.
Let's face it: the great unwashed isn't fit to decide what it wants. It needs to be told. The many good people who come to this site and fulminate
about a massive elite conspiracy have got it all backwards. There is no elite conspiracy. There is mob rule. The elite have abnegated themselves, and
allowed the demos
to dictate terms to them. Rich-world politics these days is like Indonesian wayang kulit
: a play of shadows.
It isn't less government or more government that is needed, but government by conviction. Democracies only need polls once every four or five years;
they're called elections. For the rest: tar the pollsters and market researchers and feather them.
How's that for a revanchist approach from an ATS member?
Edit to add
that this argument is at least as old as Alcibiades...
[edit on 31-7-2008 by Astyanax]