The Mighty Joe Young of Media Theory

“A hippie is someone who looks like Tarzan, walks like Jane and smells like Cheetah.” – Ronald Reagan

“Not my monkeys, not my circus” (Polish proverb)

“I called on Dr. Johnson one morning, when Mrs. Williams, the blind lady, was conversing with him. She was telling him where she had dined the day before. ‘There were several gentlemen there,’ said she, ‘and when some of them came to the tea-table, I found that there had been a good deal of hard drinking.’ She closed this observation with a common and trite moral reflection; which, indeed, is very ill-founded, and does great injustice to animals— ‘I wonder what pleasure men can take in making beasts of themselves.’ ‘I wonder, Madam,” replied the Doctor, ‘that you have not penetration to see the strong inducement to this excess; for he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.'” – James Boswell

“Beautiful dreamer, out on the sea, mermaids are chanting the wild Lorelei; o’er the streamlet vapors are borne, waiting to fade at the bright coming morn. Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart,e’en as the morn on the streamlet and sea; then will all clouds of sorrow depart, Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!” – Stephen Foster

“Get your hands off me, you damn dirty ape.” – George Taylor


For a couple of weeks I toyed with the idea of getting a Medium account because – and without going into details – a serious boob I know was getting traction with an essay that was largely hooey.* So I figured that they must let anybody use Medium these days so why not recycle and spray around some of my thoughts on the current state of the media?

Then I thought better of it and shitcanned that idea.

Here’s why:

We had one of those short but intense summer heat spells at the end of last month. Needless to say the heat and humidity makes it hard to comfortably cry yourself to sleep as you would on any other night. On those restless nights I managed to finally drop off by counting the many things I intend to be bitter about when I am a bitter old man. This time around most of it fell into one category. Nietzsche said that he was the rope between the ape and the Übermensch, but in the past several years I have found myself – very publicly at times – being nothin’ but a monkey holding a rope.

Around 2008-2009 these people in Brooks Brothers and/or Ann Taylor suits would fly out to examine us. They’d circle us, they go “hmmm ” every so often, and then they’d finally slouch in expensive leather chairs to furiously steeple. There were times I expected one of them to at least poke me with a bony finger or even raise up one of my arms and sniff my hand. They were alarmed by the mystery of it all. Were we cybernetic? Were we another life form? Were we savants or were we some sort of accident?

That’s when the questions would begin and after I was done speaking most of these folks came to the conclusion that Mom was all the only thing that kept me from wandering off into oncoming traffic.

But you knew that already.

So they’d fly back to wherever having had their suspicions neither confirmed nor denied and they didn’t like that. What they had encountered was not so much a black, but pewter swan and that was going to be too much work to explain.

As was pointed out here – when it comes to foundation funded research, trade-journal analysis, or punditry you must adhere to a the conventional wisdom. Otherwise you send them back with nothing to report as whatever they found didn’t neatly fit into the existing frameworks. Not that my talking points were the opposite of anything you’d find in the current discussion, as simply opposing the given body of knowledge/going knee-jerk nihilist can only happen utilizing the conventional wisdom. Therefore since the body of knowledge and viewpoints I possess fall outside of the current industry groupthink no one wants to hear them.

But can that be changed?

I’ve long thought there might be a way, but there would have to be a way of slowly introducing the unfamiliar. While kicking it around this week one approach presented itself in the form of UCLA psych professor Matthew D. Lieberman’s interview with Edge. Near the end he said:

I’ll tell you about my new favorite idea, which like all new favorite ideas, is really an old idea. This one, from the 1960s, was used only in a couple of studies. It’s called “latitude of acceptance”. If I want to persuade you, what I need to do is pitch my arguments so that they’re in the range of a bubble around your current belief; it’s not too far from your current belief, but it’s within this bubble. If your belief is that you’re really, really anti-guns, let’s say, and I want to move you a bit, if I come along and say, “here’s the pro-gun position,” you’re actually going to move further away. Okay? It’s outside the bubble of things that I can consider as reasonable. We all have these latitudes around our beliefs, our values, our attitudes, which teams are ok to root for, and so on, and these bubbles move. They flex. When you’re drunk, or when you’ve had a good meal, or when you’re with people you care about versus strangers, these bubbles flex and move in different ways. Getting two groups to work together is about trying to get them to a place where their bubbles overlap, not their ideas, not their beliefs, but the bubbles that surround their ideas. Once you do that, you don’t try to get them to go to the other position, you try to get them to see there’s some common ground that you don’t share, but that you think would not be a crazy position to hold. There’s the old Carlin bit about when you drive on the road: anyone going faster than me is a maniac and anyone going slower than me is a jerk. That that’s the way we live our lives. We’re always going the right speed, and everybody else is missing the boat. We don’t take into account that I’m going fast today because I’ve got to get to the hospital, or I’m going slow today because I know I had something to drink, and I shouldn’t have, so I’m going to drive real slow. We don’t take those things into account. We just think whatever I’m doing is the right thing, and we have to recognize there’s this space around those, and if we can find that overlap we can get some movement. And so that’s not a nudge idea, per se. It’s really about finding when people are in a mental space where they’re more open to other ideas, and what is often going on there is you’re trying on identities.

Think of Venn diagrams. Imagine two circles that do not intersect, or better yet, think of two circles at a considerable distance from each other. Lieberman seems to suggest that you could put small bubbles around each independent bubble and perhaps eventually create an intersection.

Which leads you to ask, “So what’s this, The Bob Ross School of Media Theory? Let’s put in some happy bubbles?”

As a sort of bridge, or rather, a rope between them, yes.

I’d feel much better if I could visualize myself as a monkey holding a bubble.

Where were we?

Oh yeah, Medium.

Medium isn’t going to work out for a couple of reasons:

1. No matter what it is that I know – nobody wants to hear it. (Also believed to be true by someone who used to work here.)

2. I loves me the stupid.

Look at this mess. The only thing it’s missing is Magilla Goriila.

OK – so much for that.

Stupid is my comfort zone. What Medium requires is a certain amount of gravitas and self importance. To go there I’d have to get in touch with my inner J3ff Jarv1s and I don’t have an inner J3ff Jarv1s to get in touch with. Hell, for all I know there might be something in the Medium boilerplate that prevents quoting Yosemite Sam as a legitimate source of information. So I’ll stay here and we’ll have our own private little party and as Ollie told Stan, “They’ll be none the wiser”

*The essay in question was not about the media, but revolved around a subject I have had serious insight into for several years.

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