RNZ Sunday Morning —The Decline of Reason #mediapoliticsculture

Updated post Sunday, 25 Jan 2015 at 3:16 p.m.

Radio New Zealand National – Sunday Morning with Wallace Chapman
11:40 Helen Razer – The Decline of Reason

Cover, A short history of StupidHelen Razer and Bernard Keane were going mad over the deteriorating quality of public debate and the dwindling of common sense in media, politics and culture.
So they wrote a book about it: A Short History of Stupid – The decline of reason and why public debate makes us want to scream.
Helen joins Wallace to talk about why so much has gotten so dumb.

Audio | Download: OggMP3 (13′ 47″) Link


A Short History of Stupid – The decline of reason and why public debate makes us want to scream
By Bernard Keane & Helen Razer
Published by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760110543

Reviewer: Gordon Findlay
Posted on December 15, 2014

It would be great to make this compulsory reading for every journalist, blogger and aspiring politician, but I can’t imagine them persevering with it. It would ruin their life’s work.

I think that the deterioration of public debate, and the absence of common sense and moderation in both media and politics, are pretty much givens now. But why? And where did this come from? These are the questions that this apparently light-hearted, yet fundamentally serious, book seeks to answer.
For these authors, stupid comes in many forms, and damages us in many ways. And yes, ‘stupid’ is a noun for these 329 pages. Many different types of stupid are identified, and an attempt is made to find their origins. Far too many ‘species’ of stupidly are identified to list them all here. But the rise of individualism over social responsibility, vaccination denialism, excessive partisanship in politics, the conflict between sentimentalism and reason, postmodernism, fallacious opinion polling and reality TV might be a representative sample. For me the most important forms of stupidity identified were three: the inability to understand numbers, the preference for emotion over facts, and the ignorance of historical contexts.
A real attempt is made to pin down the development of stupidity in its many forms. This takes us into an elementary, and often light-hearted, discussion of the development of some core ideas in western thought. The authors also make a determined effort to be seen to be in touch with popular culture, invoking as many memes from popular culture as can be squeezed in, from Dallas to the Bond movies. The authors are Australian commentators, and quite a lot of the stupidity is taken from Australian sources.
[…] A broad-gauge rant, which is based on gently concealed erudition. But a rant nonetheless. And that becomes the book’s weakness. The writing is always turned up to eleven. In places the F-bomb becomes a carpet bomb. This continuous bombast makes reading more than a little tiring. But it’s a great source of one-liners.
Cont./ Booksellers NZ blog

Reviewer: Frank O’Shea
Posted on December 12, 2014

The problem with a book like this is that it encourages the reader to become more alert to Stupid.

This book sets out to show how much of public discourse is guided, not by reason, but by Stupidity. It is the work of two writers for the online magazine Crikey, and even those not sympathetic towards that journal’s independent take on the news, will find much in the book to stimulate and delight.
[…] There are phrases that pull you up with glee: “… the cheap meth of personal development seminars”, “the Oprahfication of wisdom”, “the well of homeopathic opinion”, “a prostatariat of old white male journalists”, “holistic healing … rip-off bollocks with a whale-call soundtrack”. And you feel like cheering aloud when you read psychiatry described as an “iffy branch of medicine … a pseudo-science … an impotent practice”.
The level of Stupidity in public debate in Australia is probably no higher than in other Western countries. It is unlikely that politicians, for whom the luminous vest photo op is more important than any discussion of complex issues, will be changed by what they read here. But then again, their success is based on the well-founded belief that the rest of us are Stupid.
Cont./ Sydney Morning Herald

Reviewer: Martin Hirst
Posted [2014], undated

The writers have very different tones and registers in their prose; but the bigger issue is that the book doesn’t seem to really know whom its enemy is.

I am a big fan of both Crikey political editor Bernard Keane and freelance writer Helen Razer. They are intellectually sharp, write with good humour and come across as eminently rational in their thinking. […] Keane and Razer are friends and obviously share a dislike for stupidity in all its forms (and they are many); but they are not cut from the same cloth. Keane comes across as a socially-concerned individualist, verging on the libertarian, while Razer is more than willing to own up to her own proto-Marxist and critical feminist intellectual development. Razer is also a bit of a potty mouth, so if you are offended by the occasional use of c—t, f—k and s—t in your reading material, perhaps you should only read the chapters by the more (ahem) refined Mr Keane.
But I’m not fazed by Ms Razer’s crudities because I love her razor wit and sharp insights. Her chapter on reason and unreason is one of the best in the book and one paragraph in particular sums up her (and my) take on the psychological pressures of modern working life: “When we fail at life as it is so broadly and meticulously prescribed, we call it mental illness. We have failed life. We are not permitted to think it is the conventions of life that have failed us.” (p. 164)
[…] both authors, but particularly Bernard Keane, have a blind spot to the ultimate form of Stupid: the problem of the system itself. Razer calls it “liberal democracy” and Keane calls it “liberal capitalism” and they ultimately concede it is all we’ve got. However, this is an ahistorical approach that denies the evidence of the past that it is the economic system that breeds inequality and that ultimately needs a certain level of ideological Stupid among the general population in order to prevent mass (and organised) public opposition that would be capable of overthrowing it. Previously Stupid systems of political economy such as slavery and feudal aristocracy have been defeated and replaced, so why not stupid Capitalism? If Stupid is in the way, then it is serving some purpose of the ruling class. After all, as Marx once wrote in his critique of Hegel: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Insert “Stupid” into that sentence instead of “Religion” and read it again—it makes perfect sense!
Cont./ Academia.edu

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Hot air, Media, Name, People, Politics

9 responses to “RNZ Sunday Morning —The Decline of Reason #mediapoliticsculture

  1. Stupid is: convinced he is right in the ‘real world’, which is defined by him. No room for ambiguity or doubt. Doubt is Reason, mein Gott! doubt is from the Age of Reason. Anyway, there’s T Shirts for this. One says ‘I’m With Stupid’, including indicative arrow. The other is arcane, a publicity shirt for Billy Wilder’s ‘Kiss Me Stupid’ (1964). There are no words, just Kim Novak.

  2. Elizabeth

    CEO stupid

    ODT 23.1.15 (page 12)
    ODT 23.1.15 Letter to the editor Beattie p12 (3)

  3. Hype O'Thermia

    Our Emperors have greater than commoners’ expenses.
    There’s toenail-to-hairstyle sun-block, plus 24/7 (very) personal assistant.

  4. Cars

    I have offered this solution before. Place advertisements in the ODT for a CEO, CFO and line managers positions for the key jobs at the DCC in the order of $150k down to $90k.

    Have an independent company analyse the experience, education and mental state of the applicants and choose the best candidate. Naturally the incumbent can apply, redundancy payments agreed if necessary. Immediately the debt problem of the DCC is solved, the total wage bill reduced dramatically as now other ranks must fall in line. Let’s get rid of the oinks at the trough of the poor Dunedin ratepayers reduced to poverty by the $15,000 bill they inherit by purchasing a house in Dunedin.

  5. Elizabeth

    Cars, you are rationally disposed to ending the regime.
    PS. That bill for buying a house at Dunedin is set to rise, quite soon.

  6. Elizabeth

    The Human Condition (Dunedin) Working Party was established after several irate ratepayers contacted the council upset the human intellect allowed them foreknowledge of their own death.

    Through the Local Government Official Imagination and Fiction Act, David Loughrey uncovered its first and only report. It gives some insight into the short life of a visionary, but ultimately doomed experiment by the DCC.

    ### ODT Online Sat, 24 Jan 2015
    One for the too-hard basket
    By David Loughrey
    OPINION The shadowy and little-known existential infrastructure services unit at the Dunedin City Council was set up to deal with issues of existence, philosophy and the absurd. The unit was housed in crawl space behind the stone facades of the Municipal Chambers and its reception area was an intolerably low and stuffy room in the ceiling of the Skeggs Gallery.
    The unit was disbanded not long after it was set up, amid dark rumour and angst at the Civic Centre.
    Read more

  7. Elizabeth

    ClarkeAndDawe Published on Nov 26, 2014

    Clarke and Dawe – (Some of these prizes will need to be looked at next year Mark).
    “Walter Waldrivel, Sales Manager at an important daily newspaper.” Originally aired on ABC TV: 27/11/2014

  8. Elizabeth

    █ RNZ Sunday morning audio links added to post at top of thread.

    Intergenerational Federated Farmers Stupid (nothing changes, the same boofheads usually play heaving rugby), and Plain Old Dairy Farmers Stupid (not all have a high regard for environmental standards) —AND THE HONEST COLUMNIST

    The Column at Taranaki Daily News:
    Farmers not exempt from country’s laws
    By Rachel Stewart (columnist, and a former president of Federated Farmers in Whanganui)

    The response:
    Rachel Stewart has said she received threats of sexual violence from leaders in the agricultural community following the publication of her column in two newspapers.

    RNZ News 25.1.15 Threat to columnist ‘should be handled by police’

  9. Elizabeth

    Link received from Anonymous
    Thu, 3 Sept 2015 at 5:46 p.m.

    Tourists to New Zealand often comment how unsafe they feel here but only after they’ve happened to catch a news bulletin. The reality is that we are fixated on crime to the detriment of important news.

    ### stuff.co.nz Last updated 05:00, August 31 2015
    Opinion: Being bed-ridden provides holiday from the media
    By Rachel Stewart – Manawatu Standard
    The last two weeks have seen me get to know and appreciate my bedroom in ways I could never have imagined. […] I am not alone. Thousands of us have been struck down by one of the four strains of influenza currently rampaging around the country. […] I didn’t feel well enough to read, or even use my laptop. I didn’t watch telly or listen to the radio. I slept most of the time. Bottom line. I’ve had no real outside contact with the world, and that’s what I have to report. I’ve absolutely no idea what’s been on the news.

    For a self-confessed media junkie it has been an enlightening period. Like many folk I have become increasingly dispirited at the new world media. Clickbait, endless and easy crime stories, entertainment news disguised as meaningful when it isn’t. The list of horrors is endless.

    Our two nightly news channels have, in recent years, morphed into something only slightly resembling journalism. I have spent so many nights jaw dropped over the choice of lead, or to what lengths a self-obsessed political journalist will go to insert themselves into the story of the day. The obsession with crime astounds me, and the laziness of that reportage is obvious.
    Read more

    30 comments at The Standard

    6 comments at Whale Oil

    (don’t forget, Murray Kirkness moved from the Oddity to the Horrid)

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