Chapter 6 (The Convergence Culture of Campaigning)

redvsblue. (n.d.) Source: http://www.miller-mccune.com. Retrieved on July 17, 2008

redvsblue. (n.d.) Source: http://www.miller-mccune.com. Retrieved on July 17, 2008

Henry Jenkins is very hopeful that the convergence culture will make politics more accessible to all of us, thereby “democratizing” it so that it is part of our everyday lives. The new trend indicates that our politicians haven’t turned their noses up to the notion either. Jenkins rightfully points out Howard Dean’s success at mobilizing his supporters via the internet (specifically meetup.com). He also points out to specific examples of this “democratizing” taking place, citing Dan Rather’s erogenous report that Bush had used family privilege to avoid serving in Vietnam (which we all know he did, as all of the rich do, but anyway. . .). Unfortunately, the Dan (as he is referred to in Bernard Goldberg’s Bias which is a great read by the way) relied on forged documents to build his case, which was immediately exposed by the conservative blogosphere. Curiously, Jenkins never uses Dan Rather’s name, instead opting to blame “CBS” for the problem. Anyone who has indeed read Bias knows that Dan Rather basically ran CBS at that time, so I find the omission curious. Anyway . . .

The “Old Media” was forced to cooperate under the new set of rules introduced by the convergence culture. The new set of rules was basically this: If you lie, we will expose you. And we can assume that in return the old guard will feel obliged to do the same. Which begs the question: What if they both lie? Jenkins warns against assuming that the internet is the great truth detector in the sea of “Old Media” lies. He also warns against believing that everyone now has the ability to access all human knowledge right at their fingertips, the main problem being that human knowledge is just that. Human.

That is to say “not Divine”, which is to say, flawed. Humans operate with filters in their brains, sometimes willingly, sometimes not. If a human wrote it, I can assure you that there is a spin behind it. Yes that applies to all of my posts. I would claim to be un-human to say that I can write anything without a spin. No one can. This is why Jenkins can easily make the observation that the new media immediately takes the opportunity to spin things as soon as it gets posted. The refreshing thing is that most in this arena unabashedly admit it, but not everybody. I don’t really consume media that isn’t honest about it’s angle whether old or new. Let me know where you stand, and then I’ll listen to what you have to say.

Unfortunately, the new media is often times no better at discerning the truth than Dan Rather was. While the “conservative” new media heartily criticized the Dan for his obvious bias against Bush, they pushed different biases on the rest of us. I’m sure you witnessed all of the ruckus about how Sadaam was going to bomb all of us if we didn’t act immediatley. If you missed that, then check the home page of the Drudge Report when you get done reading this post. You can see all of it unfold again in textbook fashion with Iran.

Jenkins is right. When online, most only associate with and move in the circles of those who think just like themselves. It’s an incestuous relationship that is bad for all of us, no matter what our political ideologies are. I post on your blog and you post on mine because we agree with each other. They all tell the same lies because they want to believe them and so does everybody else they know. If they are so-called conservatives, they rabidly defend Bush because he claims to be against abortion, and supposedly loves God. I’ve never seen so much damage done to a nation by somebody who was both a conservative and God-lover. In reality we can say for certain that Bush was not conservative. I won’t dare to judge a man’s belief in God but I will this: Even Satan believes in God and I don’t think it is doing him much good. The real tragedy in all of this is that “conservative Christians” kept Bush in office for eight years. Solus Deus Judicabit

On the other side of the coin we have the left-leaning side of the new media who constantly kept their audience in a state of angst because Bush was . . . well, Bush. It didn’t seem to matter that he appointed pro affirmative action, pro-abortion, anti-gun attorney general. It didn’t matter that Bush approved a bill that allowed minors to have abortions without consent from parents. It didn’t matter that Bush gave the UN unfettered access to our military. They just hated Bush. Here is a president that literally vetoed five bills. Five. The man let Teddy Kennedy write the education bill. I could go on about this for pages. I mean, what more does the left want? It’s just mind-boggling.

The point is, the internet offers little promise in rectifying political ignorance, as Jenkins seems to hope it will. People are willingly ignorant. There’s nothing we can do to change it. On a more optimistic note, the internet is allowing those who truly want to find the truth the opportunity to seek it out, and the convergence culture can go a long way in helping us all determine what is indeed truth and what isn’t. We can pool our knowledge collectively and arrive at it.

Sources:

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press.

Chapter 5 (Heather and the Haters)

Satan Potter. (2007) Source: Uncyclopedia.wiki.com

Satan Potter. (2007) Source: Uncyclopedia.wiki.com

I was enjoying reading in Chapter 5 of Convergence Culture about the wonderful events surrounding Heather and her invention of a “Hogwarts” school newspaper that had a global staff of young contributers. But I found myself increasingly agitated at Jenkins for wasting 10+ pages to recount for us the resistance of roughly 1.75% of North American Christians to the Harry Potter Series. Eventually I came across the by-now-overused (and misunderstood) example of the City of Zeeland Public Schools’ battle over these apparent pinnacles of all human literature, the Harry Potter Books.  Since I live in said city of Zeeland, and also am good friends with one of the School Board members who was serving during this (and other censorship related) battle, I couldn’t help but finally reach the end of my patience with Jenkins’ utterly pointless diatribe, and here is why:

The whole “Christians-want-to-censor-Harry Potter” thing has NOTHING to do with Cultural Convergence.  If I am wrong about this, I am sincerely hoping someone will set me straight in the comments section. After doing nothing whatsoever to build the case that any of the examples of Christian intolerance, including this one, had anything to do with a fear of the converging culture of media, Jenkins hits us with this:

“The conservative Christians are simply the most visible of a broad range of groups, each citing its own ideological concerns, that are reacting to a shift in the media paradigm.  Anti-Harry Potter Christians share many concerns with other reform groups linking worries about the persuasive power of advertising to concerns about the demonic nature of immersion, taping anxieties about consumerism and multinational capitalism in their critiques of global spiritualism.” (Jenkins, 2006)

He goes on to portray the groups which he is referring to as trying to desperately maintain their position as gatekeepers of culture, knowledge, and societal norms, to which my reply is: Dr. Jenkins, since when has the Church been a gatekeeper of anything?  The invention of the printing press pretty much ended the Church’s status as gatekeeper, resulting in the little known event known as the Protestant Reformation.  It is absurd for you to portray “religious” people who wish to determine for their children which elements of the media are permissible for consumption as people who fear collaboration or media convergence. In my experience, some of collaboration/media convergence’s biggest advocates are (like Heather)
homeschooling families, the majority of which consider themselves “religious.”

Further more it is absurd to portray “conservative Christians” as Harry Potter hating fanatics.  Again, we are talking about 1.75% of North American Christians.  That would be the equivalent of me labeling “college professors” as ignorant writers simply because 2% of them wasted 10 plus pages in their books writing about something that had nothing to do with their stated reason for writing. I am pretty much the most conservative Christian I know, which basically means I believe the Bible, and if you believe the bible says anything other than what I think it does, then (GASP) I think you are wrong.  I know, I know.  It’s really intolerant of me to think that I’m right and you’re not, but that’s just the way we crazy conservatives are, and I have been made well aware by most of my teachers and the mass media that nobody besides crazy conservatives are dogmatic about anything.  Where was I?  Oh yes.  I am a conservative Christian and I happen to own three of the Harry Potter books. I also saw the first movie (which wasn’t that great). I enjoyed reading Harry Potter very much.  That being said, I don’t think that it is the end all and be all of English Lit. and really have a hard time believing that those children who didn’t read it are forever doomed to live a life of being unexcited about reading.

Allow me to elucidate the situation in Zeeland, MI.  I live in a city that JUST THIS YEAR began allowing the sale of alcohol at a particular restaurant.  The gas stations do not sell alcohol and the grocery store does not sell alcohol.  When we moved here, my wife went to the grocery store to buy COOKING WINE and after searching for it in every aisle was politely told. “Oh! We don’t sell alcohol here!”  I can count on one hand the number of stores that are open on Sundays.  Shortly after moving here, I was told by one of Zeeland’s residents that my house was in a good neighborhood because “people don’t mow their grass on Sunday’s or anything like that.” This is arguably one of the most conservative places on the face of the planet.  There is no reason why people living in this city, who pay the salaries of every school employee and for everything else in our schools, should not be able to determine what is and is not acceptable to teach.

These Dutch people up here are a very fierce  and independent minded people. I know many people that were literally born in the Netherlands.  The Dutch did not survive everything they went through as a people group by rolling over whenever somebody challenged their autonomy. The situation here with Zeeland had much less to do with Harry Potter than it did with PARENTS EXERTING THIER RIGHT TO DETERMINE HOW THIER CHILDREN ARE TAUGHT. This is a big problem with many teachers (including professors), most of whom assume that their clientele is much too ignorant to know what needs to be taught and should therefore pretty much sit down, shut up, and let the professionals handle the teaching. The superintendent made the right decision in determining that those parents who didn’t want Harry Potter shoved down their kids’ throats had the right to avoid just that.  What is so crazy about that?  “OMG!  You mean to tell me that the school actually let the parents be parents!  Why, that’s absurd!”  No what is absurd is that a teacher, who SHOULD have been mindful of parents’ rights to determine what their children read, not only fought them so hard that they were forced to take it to the school board, but also had the nerve to start a web site and bring a whole bunch of voices into the debate that had no business being involved.  That is an example of some one who clearly misunderstands her role as an educator, and I fear there are far to many teachers out there just like her.

There are many Christians in my masters degree program, and many in my church, and many at my school that are actually quite excited about the convergence culture and are nothing like those that Jenkins believes wish to return to the dark ages.  Many churches are among the first adopters of the very technology that is making this convergence possible.  I hope very much that the rest of this book is characterized by relevant subject matter, much as the first half of Chapter 5 was.  It is unfortunate that the readers are taken on such a distracting rabbit trail for the second half.


Sources:

Cartoon Diablo. (2007). Satan Potter, [Online Image]. Retrieved July 18, 2009 from Uncylomedia Commons. http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/UnBooks:Catholic_Church%27s_Version_of_Harry_Potter

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press.