Saturday, September 24, 2005

On the Spread of Bad Ideas

OK, last highly abstract post for a bit. I promise.

Have you ever wondered about the sources of the bad ideas that seem to permeate society? For now, I'll gloss over the meaning of the term "bad idea". You can think in terms of social pollution as I've already defined it. Or you can think of a concrete idea, like NASA's plan to put more people on the moon.

TV, schools, the Internet, and churches are all involved in a roundabout way. Of course ideas come from people and not from television shows, churches, Congressional committees, or Web sites. A person gets the idea and spreads it around using television, church pulpits, or whatever. Sometimes groups of people work together to hash out an idea, then they promote the idea.

So, the messages (ideas) we encounter about many topics are the product of a relatively small group of people. In the shopping amlls , maybe this is not a real problem. What about in political debates where public policy is shaped?

One has to wonder: What sort of people are these people who have tremendous influence over the ideas we encounter in daily life? What sorts of values, ideas, beliefs, and peer groups shape their thinking about both reality, and about the way things ought to be? How much of what comes from these peoples' circumstances (I'm thinking of politicians here.) will really serve the public good? How much is just mor esocial pollution?

Consider that politicians are famous for caring about getting re-elected and for pandering to interest groups of all sorts.

An important social issue: Control over the ideas that we encounter over and over again. These ideas tend to shape events for good or ill.


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