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ALL FANATICS MUST DIE!

A post about the state of politics and media in the aftermath of the violence of the mentally ill. The actions of the ill bring upheavals, but our choice must be to forgive and grow, not retreat and sharpen our spears even more.

Heavy days that weigh on us all.  Some call it evil, others call out television, video games, or political rhetoric.  Would a rose by any other name shock the conscience as much as random acts of violence do?

Let me be clear: I believe the actions of the mentally ill are only tangentially attributable to outside sources.  The actions of a sick person are the actions of the illness.  Anything could trigger it; George Carlin once did a bit that went something along the lines of, “Have you ever sent anybody a bottle of Scope [mouthwash]?”  The image he followed with was that of a mentally ill, violent person receiving a bottle of said mouthwash, taking it as an attack on his person, and that final straw sends him on a violent rampage.

That’s not as far from the truth as that humorist might have hoped.  For people with severe mental problems, the most benign stimuli can cause severe mental turmoil that does result in major reactions, including violence.  As such, we cannot blame inane rhetoric by the likes of media profiteers (and I’m not limiting that to any side of any aisle, any particular feathered appendage, etc.).  Their rhetoric is deplorable in and of itself, and it should be replaced with something more meaningful, but it is not blameworthy for the actions of the mentally ill.

I also believe that in this case the young man had begun to plan, and at some point in that process he had internalized his plan to the point where only direct intervention in his life would have stopped him.  In that he is no different than our media and politics: the media has committed itself to a particular persona and will only change if it sees no way to salvage its current lifestyle.  Same for our politics.

We desperately need a shift in the media and politics in this country, but not because we might find salvation from violence.  Because we might actually build a country that can handle violence and can treat the mentally ill with the dignity they deserve and give them a chance to pursue happiness with the rest of us.  But if you look at the reactions, you probably fear as I do that we still aren’t headed in that direction. They still don’t get it.

The fact that the media will only even talk about the need for change (but it’s always the other guy that needs the change) in reaction to such an episode is not the problem, but merely a symptom.  There are plenty of symptoms.  The lack of any substantive debate is chief, but the fact that even minor agreement with a point from a colleague is often seen as weakness is also prominent.  Weakness is reviled in our society (which means we stigmatize things like mental illness), when calls to “man up” rule the day.  You might as well say, “show no mercy, take no prisoners, torture the sons of bitches until their last breath if that’s what it takes to win.”

We have fallen from grace, though not in the biblical sense, in the human sense.  Grace, as I learned it, was being happy for your opponent when you lost, and also being happy for your opponent when you won.  It was marching out on the field to tell them you enjoyed the game.  These days our grace is nothing, replaced by bitter sniveling and thoughts of revenge.  We pretend that the other guy is so different that our loss puts us a mere heartbeat from complete collapse.

That in a great nation is unacceptable.  We should have trouble deciding whom to vote for because they would both do a great job.  Instead, the campaign is a game played out in the media, a test that does nothing to prove the ability to actually govern.  And the laws that govern campaigning are then seen as the rules of the road.  If the rules don’t say to try to avoid hitting squirrels, you don’t have to.  They’re worth ten points, fifteen if their heads explode.  For gods’ sakes.

The way out?  Forgiveness.  Cast off your masks and cloaks.  Let the sunlight warm your face and bring gladness to your heart, for this is not the end of the road.  We did not die on 8 January, 2011 or on 11 September 2001.  We still have the choice to make things work, despite the challenges and despite our differences.

The green glow of the exit sign beckons us.  But it requires empathy and understanding.  It requires humility and forgiveness.  There is no magic switch to throw that will preclude Senator Bumble from returning to the gagging speech patterns that have been his bread and butter for two decades, so his colleague will have to forgive him when he does meander.  The talking heads on cable news will be in uncharted waters when they start to speak from the heart and stop trying to dominate their guests.  They won’t always succeed, and will revert to their old patterns.  Forgive them.

It is in forgiveness that we move on.  It allows us to move past the surface and into the meat of the matters at hand.  It allows us to escape playing the same games that got us here.  It disarms their attacks and precludes our own retaliation.  It is an invitation to the former opponent to be a colleague again.  It is the only way we can reclaim our country from the beast of incessant bickering and useless hatred.

Before we were enemies, we joined into a union of states.  Let us forgive ourselves for neglecting that and move forward as colleagues seeking the best for our company, the United States of America.  Play ball.

Hulu: Pay Model?

Pricing models are a common problem for books, news, images, videos, movies, television, music, video games, software, web applications, academic articles, and the like. Will Hulu find the solution?

Various sources (eg, The Guardian: Roy Greenslade: Murdoch’s propaganda campaign to charge for content) reported about hulu.com’s plans to charge for access.

The problem is that corporations tend to overcharge for their content.  Then they complain about an alleged sense of entitlement when their customers supposedly want it for free.  They are reading things wrong: there’s very much a sense of entitlement, but it’s one not to pay too much.  This goes for all forms of content and “intellectual property”: books, news, images, videos, movies, television, music, video games, software, web applications, academic articles, and so on.

Free is less than too much, so free wins over too much every time.

People deserve payment for their creations, but the economics dictate that how much they charge and what they are prepared to deliver (ie, their pricing/business model) will change the composition of their customer pool, determining their revenue.  Before the digital revolution, all sorts of sharing occurred that wasn’t priced in to their model, and yet no one screamed bloody murder over one newspaper getting passed around the coffee shop or office.

The sooner the content creators start moving to alternative models, the sooner they will find the sweet spots, and the sooner they will get paid for their creations.  But if they merely try to copy their old models in the new landscape, they are liable to find themselves with lingering pain for quite some time.

As I did not see specifics on the pricing/business model that Hulu will be using, I will withhold judgment about this move.  But I will say that if they plan on overcharging, they might as well buy some Going Out of Business signs while they’re cheap.

Update: An article on mediamemo.allthingsd.com, How Much Will You Have to Pay for Hulu? Nothing. How Much Will You Pay for “Hulu Plus”? Good Question. states the pay content will be in addition to the existing site, rather than moving some content to for-pay so it doesn’t sound like they are doing anything very dangerous with regard to their business model.  I just hope they get creative and take their time to create a better model that can be mimicked by others.  It can work, if they don’t get too greedy.