I read a thoughtful opinion piece a couple weeks back entitled: “You can handle the post-truth: a pocket guide to the surreal internet.” In the wake of extreme-postmodernism [Xpomo]—a world that includes surveillance capitalism, strategic disinformation campaigns, the Russian Internet Research Agency, false-flag operations, and deep-fake videos—how are we to discern what’s real and true? It will require faithful dedication to pursuing a shared truth, and a tenacious spirit of vigilance.
Stand-alone objective formalism and the days of believing that messages are independent of the messenger (or independent of the “platform”) are over. That meaning requires context, and that producers and platforms have agendas, are now a known given. The author of the ‘post-truth’ piece, Aaron Z. Lewis, argues that online survival—Yellow [GT]—will require going meta:
To go meta is to study the way history has been (and is) written. It’s trying to understand the story of the stories we’ve told about ourselves. There’s no one narrative that rules them all, no one way to connect the dots from the past to the present. The “meta” stance inspires humble curiosity and peace-of-mind amidst the many versions of reality we face in 2019.
‘To go meta?’
I feel we used to call this critical thinking through a pluralist frame? I enjoy neologisms and ‘meta’ does add nuance and specificity (introductory article). A definition of ‘metamodern’ (or post-postmodern) I find quite hopeful:
“Whereas postmodernism [Xpomo] was characterised by deconstruction, irony, pastiche, relativism, nihilism, and the rejection of grand narratives (to caricature it somewhat), the discourse surrounding metamodernism engages with the resurgence of sincerity, hope, romanticism, affect, and the potential for grand narratives and universal truths, whilst not forfeiting all that we’ve learnt from postmodernism. (here)” —Luke Turner
Meaning is nested
Having a way to check context—the story (or stories) the story under consideration is embedded within—will be crucial in discerning meaning and determining veracity. You’ll need some time to watch this video. Then we’ll tip-toe into some ‘meta’ analysis of this disturbing documentary from Seattle ABC news outlet, KOMO. The heart-breaking problems raised here are not unique to Seattle—e.g., San Francisco; Los Angeles; San Diego; Denver; as well as East Coast cities.
Seattle is Dying?
A story comes to mind (here).
We’ll need a heuristic to assess media.
Let’s try ‘metamodern’ analysis…
At first, it seems a bit like a right-wing hit piece. But isn’t this a reputable ABC news outlet in Seattle? Thankfully, the story does balance out a bit as the narrative continues. The overarching need is realizing that issues of this gravity cannot be dismissed simply because of reporting bias (whether liberal or conservative).
STEP 1: Identify the source. Just as we are mindful of who is publishing the books we read, analyzing journalistic content begins with knowing who produced the work. Knowing Sinclair Broadcasting Group owns the media outlet producing the piece offers important insight. A quick check at media bias fact check .com reveals Sinclair is biased significantly to the “Right,”—so, presumptions tend to attribute ultimate responsibility to the individual, and thus are (at best) half correct. I note, this reflects the error of the pharisees in Jesus’ time, e.g., to pharisees, (and conservatives today) at the heart of all problems are sin and sinners, it comes down to individuals, to personal issues.
STEP 2: Identify the key values systems being expressed. Presented from a conservative perspective, the video describes the same dynamics going on in Seattle that I’ve been writing about in this blog. The same dynamics are at work in the United Methodist Church [UMC] divide. That is, the oft occurring struggle between two values systems: Blue [DQ] (order) and Green [FS] (justice/inclusion).
There are 12,000 homeless people in King County, Washington. In Seattle, the video asserts, Green [inclusion] has tossed Blue [order] overboard with no real solution to manage/transform the problematic aspects of inclusion (in other words, the city council is expressing naïve Green).
This is a microcosm of the “border problem” that nearly all nations of privilege are reckoning with as increasingly mobile poor populations are being globally driven by economic and climate disruption.
Challenge at the crossroads?
Could a truly connectional church somehow effect this? How could the UMC work collaboratively to end this problem in Seattle [and elsewhere]?
Next week, we’ll explore other values and shadows at work in Seattle/the video, and look at Step 3: a mnemonic device to aid us in doing the crucial work of assessing information for meaning and veracity.
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?