Inflicting pleasure: Perhaps Huxley was right?

From the foreward of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, where he suggests that Aldous Huxley may have had a better idea of what the future held than George Orwell did in his classic 1984:

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’sBrave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

Drawings by Stuart McMillen, Recombinant Records


“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust [1] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. — Matthew 6:19-20


HT: Justin Taylor

That’s not the way it is: How the media misleads on stem cell research

Josh Brahm, who works with Right to Life of Central California, has written a devastating analysis of 9 Things The Media Messed Up About the Obama Stem Cell Story. While this is an issue we’ve visited here, it is educational to see names named and sources cited to clearly demonstrate what we’re talking about. As I’ve said before, there is either a laziness or a willful intention to deceive by media members that is going on with the issue of stem cell research. While some of the media offenders in Josh’s analysis are in his immediate area in California, there are still plenty of national news media organizations who are guilty of misreporting the issue.

I would highly recommend not only reading Josh’s excellent work yourself but helping those around you understand it better as well. The media, for the most part, is not helping in this matter and, in fact, is making it worse by doing shoddy work.

We’re the media and we don’t care

Wesley J. Smith at Secondhand Smoke points to another case of arrogance in the media:

The Orlando Sentinel continually describes Terri Schiavo’s medical condition as “brain dead.” This is clearly wrong. Brain dead is a popular term for death by neurological criteria and it means that the whole brain and every constituent part has ceased to function as a brain. Thus, there are no reflexes, the body can’t breathe without support, etc.

Terri Schiavo was clearly not brain dead. She breathed on her own. She swallowed her own saliva. She had sleep and wake cycles, she moved her body–none of which can be done by a brain dead body.

But the Orlando Sentinel doesn’t care. When Bobby Schindler complained that their description of his sister was factually inaccurate, they told him to go eat a fig.

This was the letter the Orlando Sentinel sent to Bobby Schindler in response:

Dear Mr. Schindler:

I reviewed your complaint with our state editor, Bob Shaw. We’ve considered the arguments you made in our phone conversation, but we’ve consistently used the term “brain-dead” in connection with the Terry Schiavo case, and we see it as a valid brief description. I appreciate your calling us about it and letting us know your point of view.

Best regards,

Dana Eagles
Orlando Sentinel

But this wasn’t a “point of view” issue, it was about what is fact and what the paper was reporting. That kind of response — “point of view” — is media speak for “you can write to us all you want but we don’t care what you think and it won’t change anything we do.” It was only after a letter from Florida Attorney General David Gibbs requesting a correction that the paper admitted its mistake and printed a correction:

Correction: Because of an editing error, an article about the resignation of Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth B. Bell misstated the medical condition of Terri Schiavo, a Pinellas County woman who died in 2005 after the removal of her feeding tube. Schiavo, whose case was considered by the court, was severely brain-damaged but was not brain-dead.

That correction covers the particular story it was attached to, but it doesn’t go anywhere near addressing what was expressed in the letter from the Sentinel to Schindler that “we’ve consistently used “brain-dead” in connection with the Terry Schiavo case.” That’s a weak correction.

The media likes to throw out opinion polls to show how much our country hates the current president. Those are low numbers. But do you know the media is even lower in the public’s opinion than the much-criticized president and even Congress?

The point is not that we should trust all public opinion polls. After all, public opinion is fickle and there are a lot of opinions floating around out there. Rather, the point is is that we need to be discerning and critical-thinking about what is being reported. Major news organizations can do good work, but not just because they are “major news organizations.” That is just lazy thinking, and not worth putting our trust in.