Monday, January 18, 2021

Hitler's TED Talk

What if Hitler had access to social media?
"In this week's Ted Talk, we hear a compelling speech from a Mr. A. Hitler, who's controversial bestseller, My Struggle is stirring up the blogosphere. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Chancellor Adolf Hitler!"
Perhaps that sounds humorous to my warped mind. However, that's pretty much what happened back in the 1920s and 1930s with regard to Hitler. He was viewed as a cuckoo and a crank until he came out with a best-selling book. Pretty soon, people were lining up to hear him speak and willing to believe anything he had to say.

That is one thing I find disturbing about these so-called TED Talks. I tried to watch some of them but they're just too painful to watch.  Some guy gets up on stage and blathers on for what seems like hours (but is supposed to be 18 minutes) about something and everybody sits in rapt intention.  And half the time, what the guy has to say really isn't of any consequence.

In a way, it reminds me of the Chautauqua movement - a catchy name, and some educational talks, and it became hip and cool to attend - and still is, in some circles.  It sounds enlightening and interesting, but part of me wonders, who is behind these movements and what is their agenda?  Because everyone has an agenda, and the fact that TED Talks started in Silicon Valley gives me pause - because Silicon Valley has no one's interest at heart, other than their own.

Similarly, I can't bear myself to watch people who do these so-called podcasts or whatever, where they stare into a computer screen in a darkened room, droning on in a monotone voice about some sort of conspiracy theory or another. or just talking about the latest video game - or what Justin Bieber's been up to.  I mean, boring!

There is just something creepy - the "I can't put my finger on it, but it's creepy"- about these TED talks, podcasts and whatever.

Granted, my YouTube videos are pretty low quality. But they're just home movies I make for my own amusement. I don't expect to accumulate a mass following of people nor do I expect to accumulate one with my blog, either.  In fact, I would prefer it if no one read it at all.  I write as a catharsis for my own benefit - to put down ideas on paper, so to speak, to help me sort things out. Once you start writing for an audience - all bets are off.

As we learn in technical writing, the first thing you determine is who is your audience and then write to them.  Otherwise, you may be aiming too high - and mystify people - or aim too low, and bore them.  But when you have no audience, you can write what you want to write, and the reader can go screw himself if he doesn't like it.

Some readers in the past (before I chased them off) encouraged me to write a book or do a podcast or monetize my blog.  I did try monetizing it for a year, and that $2200 was swell, but not enough to live on.  Moreover, I found myself changing what it was I wrote and how I presented things.  I realized what generated a lot of hits and what didn't and subtly altered my writing style and topics.  It was an interesting experiment in that regard.

That is the conundrum of modern media.  While A.C. Nielsen ratings drove what stayed on the air, often the folks running television had some latitude to experiment with what to put on.  And with only three channels to choose from, well even the worst of programs would run a season or two before being cancelled.

Today, social media allows us to interact in real-time.  A writer is scored by how many hits he generates and how much "engagement" and click-through revenue he creates.  He literally may be paid by the click - so you quickly learn to write what generates clicks.  And outrage tends to generate clicks.

So it is not enough to write a straightforward movie review - you are better off hating it and making snarky comments.  Better yet, create a viral "controversy" arguing that making an all-female cast of Ghostbusters is politically incorrect and by the way, one of the women has a fat ass.  That creates clicks, both from those who agree with you and particularly those that disagree.

Yea, Hitler would have loved social media.  Because not only would Party Members click on his videos, the Bolsheviks would click twice as much, and post the links on Twitter, saying, "Did you hear what Hitler said today?  It is just beyond the pale!" The Communists would end up funding the Nazi Party simply by clicking on Nazi videos.  Pretty slick!

But getting back to TED talks, there is something disturbing in my mind about people willing to mindlessly follow any pied piper that comes down the pike these days.  I mean, this is how we ended up with Qanon and Anti-Vaxxers and Trumpers.  People are willing to believe just any damn thing that someone says, without a hint of skepticism.

When reading anything on the Internet, you should be skeptical, even of me.  Particularly of me.  Because I don't know my ass from a hole in the ground.   And that perspective tells me that most of these other folks don't, either, as is routinely exposed.

If you tell people to think for themselves, they'll ask you how to do that.

I guess it is human nature, to crave a father-figure, a savior, an advice columnist.   The world seems confusing and difficult.  It would be so much easier for someone to "tell us what to do" because if it all goes horribly wrong, we can blame the people who told us what to do for our malfeasance.

"The school guidance counselor told me to go to college and now I'm $100,000 in debt!  It's not my fault!  We should forgive student loans!"  That illustrates the problem, neatly.  However, I am sure the guidance counselor didn't advise getting a Master's degree in advanced bullshit, nor did he advise borrowing so much money to go to a "Name" school, smoke dope, and get poor grades.  But that is the nature of advice - people take it selectively which is why I am not an advice columnist.

Arnold has seen some shit in his lifetime.

Arnold Schwarzenegger made a compelling video the other day.  We assume that a muscle-bound man with a funny foreign accent is not very bright, but we would assume wrong.   Turns out, he is a very smart man, and certainly has aged well.  His point about postwar Austria was interesting though.  Many people who followed the Nazi Party or just "went along" with things, saw their world destroyed over nothing.   In the post-war era, they were broken men, and took out the frustration over their failed lives, by getting drunk and beating their wives and children.

That is the price we pay - we all pay - when we mindlessly follow others.

I get a lot of flack from some readers who read something I write about personal responsibility and then think, "He's one of us, a Republican!" and then they get all upset when I write something to the effect that Trump is an idiot.   Personal responsibility isn't a choice nor is it a political stance - it is the default mode of operation.  When I write that doing what is in your best interest is a good idea, I say this because today, the "fuck you" economy is more in force than ever before.  Maybe we had a financial safety net back in the day, when 22% interest rates were outlawed and gambling was illegal.  Today there is none - so you have to look out for yourself more than ever before.  This is not to say that I endorse the "I've got mine, you get yours, Jack!" mentality, only that I am reporting that it is the reality we live in.

Similarly, I get flack from some on the Left who read something I write about how Trump is a moron, and they think, "He's one of us!  A Democrat!" and perhaps they are closer to the truth.  But just because I don't want to be gassed to death by the new age Gestapo, doesn't mean I think student loan forgiveness is an answer to anything, or that Bernie Sanders and Ms. AOC are politcal or financial geniuses.   I live in reality, and reality tells me that Bernie Sanders has failed at everything he has done in life and his ideas are not sound, and Ms. AOC isn't as old as my old coffee maker - and has a lot to learn about life.  She's not evil, just young.  We all were.

You have to think for yourself, or at least try to.  For the life of me, I cannot understand people on the Left or Right who blindly follow political causes or politcal parties.  Who is a big "fan" of the GOP?  Who is a big "fan" of the Democrats - and uncritically follows either party?   Or the far-left, Antifa, or Qanon?   Why do any of these people follow a "cause" without questioning any of it.

A friend of mine told me something the other day - that Trump was elected because people voted against Hillary and that Biden was elected because people voted against Trump.   It is sort of stating the obvious, I think.  The media talks about the rabid supporters of candidates, but the reality is, most of us are voting for the lesser of two evils.  Raphael Warnock - who shares his first name with Ted Cruz (no really, look it up although Republicans don't pronounce it to make it sound Islamic, like they did in the attack ads against Warnock) is a nice enough guy, but the reason why I vote for him was that he wasn't married to the owner of the New York Stock Exchange.   Jon Osshoff is a nice enough guy, but I voted for him mostly so the Democrats would have a majority in the Senate - for at least two years.  And I fully expect the Democrats to fuck that up, entirely.   Gridlock is good for government!

Sadly, the Democrats will assume that recent wins were a vote for them, and not merely a reaction to the Trump horror show.  They will assume we are all mad about Kamala Harris, and not merely mad at her.  Talk of a "President Harris" is a little premature, and may in fact bring the GOP back to the White House in 2024 or 2028.  But I digress.

Getting back to Hitler, he too, had a lot of mindless followers.  But I think the majority of Germans "went along" with him, much as many Americans "went along" with Trump - and no, the comparison of the two isn't unfair.   They were tired of the strife between right and left, often played out in the streets.  The Communists played into the hands of the Nazis by street-brawling, just as the clueless Antifa (who are they following?  Putin.) play into the hands of the alt-right and GOP.

Hitler, however, had only this newfangled thing called "Radio" as well as motion pictures, to spread his propaganda.  Today we have the Internet.   And boy-howdy would Hitler have loved the Internet!  And for sure, he'd be doing a TED talk, or at the very least, a podcast.