What's wrong with blaming "information" for political chaos


Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/03/18/oligarchs-r-us-3.html


My view is a little more simplistic. In the 60’s, minimum wage would get you a two bedroom apt and a new car ever 4-5 years. Costs of goods and services went up but minimum wage didn’t rise to keep up. The economic downfall and crime wave of the 70’s was a result. Things only got worse. We have become a nation of wage slaves.


That’s an overestimate of the value of the minimum wage back then - it hasn’t been raised to keep pace at all - but most minimum wage earners back then would never have been able to afford a 2 bed or a new car.


Paradoxically improved access to information hasn’t led to a better-informed public because access to misinformation has grown at least as rapidly.

We live in a world where it’s hard to keep the truth from getting out but easier than ever to bury it in an avalanche of lies.


I read and thought about that essay over the weekend. I think it had some good points, but missed a lot.

There are fields (say civil engineering) where self-education doesn’t really work. There is a long history in those fields of mistakes and possibly counter-intuitive results (eg, Galloping Gerty) that you need to learn before you can be successfully design and build a bridge to meet modern safety standards.

Additionally, not all information is created equal. If I understood his argument, the opinions of flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers have the same validity as any human since the ancient Greeks or 75 years of evidence (respectfully). This is (to me at least) obviously wrong and I don’t see any way his argument that “experts aren’t needed” can be realistically applied.


Your article says a person making minimum wage could keep a family of 3 above the poverty line in 1968.

Never you say?

Let’s look at '68 (the year from your article) when min wage got you $3328 a year or about $277/mo Average new car was $2282 so the monthly payment was about $62 on a 4 year note. Monthly food cost was about $15. Rent was about $130. That comes to $207 leaving $70 a month for other expenses. Of course those are averages. The typical minimum wage earner would be in less than average housing and buy a less than average car so the average minimum wage worker would likely have more than that $70 per month left over.


I guess they don’t need clothes, parking, phones, medical care, no expenses for the kids, gas, insurance or any entertainment expenses - seriously - it’s just not the case that minimum wage was as great as all that back then. Just better than now.


Very, very, VERY simple explanation for all the mess in the world right now - and it’s in the article.

The rich have captured the entire governing infrastructure, as many many people (incl. of course George Carlin) warned us about.

And they have an effective propaganda_n_lies channel/telescreen (called “fox news”) to keep a large segment of the population mad, not at the cause of their own misery, but at people who had nothing to do with it (“the eeeevil libs!”)

I don’t see much hope for the world these days, as any effort to even solve 1% of the root cause is met with dogged resistance, or co-opting (AKA corporate Dems like Harris, Beto, Biden, and all the rest except for the “eeeevil sssocialists!”).


The problem is that information isn’t knowledge and knowledge isn’t wisdom. So the internet bombards us with disconnected pieces of information, but simultaneously curtails our ability to make sense of it. Castells calls this “informed bewilderment”.

Here’s a helpful picture:


“As great as all that” is a straw man. Nobody except Republicans is trying to say the poor lived like kings. But remember also, unions were strong back then, and the number of people earning minimum wage was probably lower than it is today.


Uh - okay. It was fabulous to make minimum wage.

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Yes, I agree with this. And the sources reflecting and rebroadcasting this information love a controversial false equivalency, because that means engagement! And so anti-vaxxers and flat earthers and qanon have outsized voices. Every flat earth post has 20 detractors keeping it relevant, when it’s utterly ignorable nonsense.


And MSNBC. And CNN. And the New York Times. And the Washington Post.


I guess I never really made the connection between sowing doubt in institutions (e.g. the FDA) and anti-vaxx. But I can see how there might be that connection in this era. When I was growing up, my parents and grandmother had seen firsthand what Polio did and considered Jonas Salk a living god. For people growing up not knowing who that is and having never learned what happened when you get Polio or Tetanus, it’s the gaslighting, profit-driven media which ends up being the most effective at swaying an opinion.

Sure Andrew Wakefield is a fame-seeking asshole. But it was the media and the complete lack of nuance among its consumers that drove anti-vaxx to the heights it enjoys now.


I like that graphic and may steal it for future use.


The media was horrible with its false equivalency although this seems to have gotten better in regards to antivaxxers. I have never seen a discussion of geography in which a flat earther was interviewed “for balance,” but this was very common in regards to vaccines. Treating quacks as “just presenting alternative facts” does a disservice to consumers of information.


Parking? Ok…
gas was $0.34/gallon. A full tank (average 16 gallons on 1968 models) would have cost $5.44. A tailored suit would run you $40.00. Figure a new suite every year is $0.76 per paycheck. Telephone service averaged $5.68/mo.
I had been giving figures for the average minimum wage worker but if you want to move the goalpost and say this person is married with kids and health problems, that’s fine. But the fact remains, a two bedroom apartment and a new car every 4 years is will within the budget of a person making minimum wage in 1968. The question of whether or not a person could support a spouse and a child on minimum wage and still afford that new car every 4 years is another question entirely. I suppose our married with children worker would have to buy a used car or get an 8 year note and forego a new suit every year.


Please do! Wisdom wants to be free.



You’re picking an outlier year - even so - 1985 was a better year to buy a car.

I know it’s hard to believe that people who came before didn’t live in the lap or luxury and had difficulties - that owning a car that got a third the mileage and three times the maintenance of modern cars isn’t a direct straight line comparison.That financing costs in the 70’s were up to like 17% - that gas prices in the gas crisis were huge - if you could get it on the days it was being rationed. That the environment was horrible - and water & air are cleaner now. That everyone wasn’t even included in that census data - lgbt people still aren’t an immigrants are being shutout again.

That if you were a minority a woman or lgbt - these averages don’t apply. You literally couldn’t get many of these jobs or get into schools you’d like. Perhaps the more accurate statement is that straight white guys had it easier then; in some respects. Then again - none of my family then had college degrees - it’s the norm for my nieces and nephews.

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