I Want A New Lens

     I want – possibly need – a lens designed and constructed for analysts to use in looking at the news. It would be utterly distinct from conventional lenses, for it would invert the usual idea of “focus.” It would blur nearby objects and events while it clarifies objects and events in the distance. That might make it easier to see the patterns into which nearby events fall…and the forces that propel those patterns.

     The talking-head newsreader on the evening news wants you to concentrate on what he’s saying right now. He wants you to pay close attention to the little clips his station is showing you. That’s what’s “new,” which of course is the essence of “news.” But how much of what we’re deluged with by the “news media” is actually new? New, that is, in the sense of not being just the most recent consequence of a causal progression that’s been in operation for years or decades?

     The accelerating tendency of Leftists to call Rightists “conspiracy theorists” is in large part a rearguard attempt to keep Americans from noticing such progressions.


     We are involved here in a far reaching conspiracy to undermine our most basic beliefs and sacred institutions. Who’s behind this conspiracy? Once again ask yourself: who has the most to gain? People in high places: their names would astound you! People in low places: concealing their activities beneath a cloak of poverty! People of all walks of life, left wing and right wing. Black and white. Students and scholars. A conspiracy of such ominous proportions that we will never, ever know the whole story and we’ll never be able to reveal all the facts! We are readying mass arrests. I am going to see that you people get every possible break. If there is any information you would like to contribute at this time, it will be held in the strictest confidence…. [Lieutenant Practice, in Jules Feiffer’s black comedy Little Murders]

     The above caricature of the “conspiracy theorist” is certainly risible. However, it’s also somewhat dangerous. Caricature is an exercise in exaggeration. “Lieutenant Practice,” in the above, is a caricature. His everything-and-everyone-inclusive conspiracy model is implicit ridicule of others who see patterns that actually exist and suggest underlying causes.

     That new lens would clarify the events in the distance, so that an analyst could unite them to more recent events that fit a recognizable pattern. It would allow us to find divergent events as well, that we might resist being carried away by confirmation bias.

     Reliable results are not guaranteed, of course. Scrutiny and rational skepticism are indispensable to the honest analyst. He must remain on the lookout for pattern-breaking events and patterns other than the ones that appeal to him. But that having been said, he must not be deterred by the denigration of others who want, more than anything else, for him not to see and plumb the patterns,


     This is on my mind because of these observations of recent events in New York City’s “education system.” It’s essentially un-quotable, so please read it before continuing here.

     A people-based system of any sort must have criteria for inclusion in its ranks. An “education system” would normally and reasonably be expected to make knowledge – of the subjects to be taught, at least – a principal criterion for the selection of teachers. A standardized test immediately comes to mind as the least troublesome way of determining such qualifications.

     But soft: what light through yonder broken window streams? Some testees can’t pass the test…and many of them are Negroes or Hispanics! Disparate impact! The test must be biased against minorities! Award them huge chunks of cash for having failed!

     I know what you’re thinking:

     But there it is.

     If we leave aside (strictly for the moment) the use of Negroes and Hispanics as attack instruments and look about five decades deep, a pattern begins to emerge. That pattern suggests that a process has been at work. Its principal aim has been to denigrate knowledge as intrinsically valuable and important for young Americans to possess. The number and variety of attacks on knowledge is breathtaking. Moreover, they show a startling breadth of venue: all the way from the lowest grades of “grammar school” (places that resolutely avoid the teaching of English grammar) to the summit of “institutions of higher education” (institutions that chastise the student for daring to excel).

     Surely, if the kiddies don’t need all that grubby knowledge, only a thorough indoctrination with the right attitudes, then the teachers won’t need it either. So what’s the point of this test to screen applicants for teaching positions?

     Note that this does not presuppose that any particular agency is propelling the retreat from knowledge as a principal aim for juvenile education. That it’s happening is what matters. Investigating to determine the moving forces and their motivations comes later. Once more: when seeking an enemy’s aims, reason backward from tactics and strategy to objectives to motives.

     But even to hint at such an intention will get you called “conspiracy theorist” and worse. You’re a racist! No: you’re an elitist racist! And a xenophobe, on top of that! Why, you’re no better than the nuts who claim that Plutonians are controlling the president’s brain by sending radio messages through his fillings. Intelligent, sensible, well-grounded people should refuse to pay you any mind. (After all, how could anyone plausibly claim that the president has a brain?)

     See why I want that new lens?


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    • Daniel K Day on July 18, 2023 at 8:09 AM

    Francis, the “these observations of recent events in New York City’s “education system” link does not go anywhere.

    1. Oops! Fixed, Daniel.

    • gl on July 18, 2023 at 10:09 AM

    Maybe the writer could take the 1895 eight-grade test from Kansas.
    Washington Post posted the test 7 years ago. When the author can pass the test maybe there would possibly, outside chance, remote, that his point would have a half-ounce of sense.

    1. Excellent idea. Most college graduates couldn’t pass that test.

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