A "Pundit" Gets Burned on National Television

I am in complete awe of Meghan McCain’s disgraceful appearance recently on Real Time with Bill Maher…and I’m not even talking about politics!

A little background, courtesy of the Huffington Post:

“It all got started during a discussion of George Bush, who McCain acknowledged was a less than perfect president. But McCain also pointed a finger at the Obama administration in Bush’s defense, saying she felt that the Obama administration “has to stop completely blaming everything on its predecessor.” When Maher asked McCain if she really thought this is what Obama is doing, McCain said “I do to a degree.” A clearly annoyed Begala immediately shook his head and said “not to enough of a degree, I’m sorry not nearly enough.” He then began to explain how President Reagan blamed Jimmy Carter for years, to which McCain responded blithely “you know I wasn’t born yet so I wouldn’t know.” Going in for the kill, Begala fired back “I wasn’t born during the French Revolution but I know about it.”

Let’s face some facts here. Meghan McCain is the daughter of a well known Republican senator from Arizona…and that is it. She is not a political pundit and as she displayed, has no understanding of policy or history.

I truly respect what the Republican Party media relations people are trying to do here. Ms. McCain is a young face that has the potential to attract a whole slew of young folks who would normally not give the GOP a second look. However, this is only true if given the right opportunities and this television appearance was not one of them. She was sent out on national television without a moment of preparation from advisors and as a result looked like a deer caught in headlights.

Watching her try and run for cover whenever she got in over her head was more cringe-worthy than a Curb Your Enthusiasm marathon.

I do have to give credit to Ms. McCain for even appearing on the show. But her lack of preparation and the damaging results truly highlights a media relations effort gone the way of the buffalo.

Iran Has a Makeover

I think that the most overlooked aspect of the current election crisis in Iran is the fact that the western world has finally had a human portrait of Iranian men and women painted for them.

Time recently ran a photo-essay titled “The Faces of Iran” which can be viewed here. Do you see what I see? Young people attending university. Thriving art and business communities. Modern cityscapes.

This photo collection single-handedly shatters misconceptions held about Iran, its people and its culture.

Where was this humanity from the mainstream media when the President of the United States deemed Iran a member of “The Axis of Evil?” Where were the photo-essays during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York City in the September of 2007?

This is not a political post. I’m simply pointing out that our perception of Iran and its people until recently has been defined by photos of Ahmadinejad and that has been unacceptable.

After all, George W. Bush certainly did not win the 2000 United States presidential election with 99% of the popular vote.

Twitter's Biggest Flaw is Finally Exposed

I am not surprised that Twitter has become the medium of choice among Iranians protesting their country’s recent presidential election. It seems though that during its finest hour, the social networking site’s biggest flaw is  finally being highlighted on a global scale.

Twitter is an amazing service. But it also has an extremely low barrier of entry, which in turn dilutes its effectiveness.

The amount of mindless re-tweeting that has occurred in recent days is astonishing. I understand that the average user is not going to subscribe to a rigorous vetting process when it comes to verifying information, but this no excuse to blindly spread the same message about YouTube removing videos highlighting the violence in Tehran when they are doing the exact opposite.

Issues like this emphasize my concerns about Twitter’s sustainability.  In many ways, it is the epitome of the high school rumor gone nuclear.

Don’t get me wrong though. I’ll be micro-blogging until my fingers fall off.

Sometimes you just have to take the good with the bad.

Sociology and Social Networking

Emile Durkheim was a French sociologist who is often considered the founding father of the field. He held distinguished views on the topic of social solidarity. Social solidarity seeks to recognize the interactions and shared values that hold relationships together. According to Durkheim, social solidarity falls under two categories: mechanical and organic.

Mechanical solidarity refers mostly to a society that is linked mostly by the similarities that are shared by its members. Members often share the same lifestyle, values and experiences. Rituals and routines are very common and help build their collective conscience. Mechanical solidarity focuses on primary and familial relationships.

Organic solidarity refers to society whose members are highly individualistic but interact in order to achieve a common goal. Members are dependent upon one another and very often do not share the same lifestyle, values and experiences.  Organic solidarity puts a large emphasis on secondary relationships.

Below is a chart from the Collins Dictionary of Sociology which defines the two in a bit more detail:

Feature

Mechanical solidarity

Organic solidarity

Morphological (structural) basis

Based on resemblances (predominant in less advanced societies)
Segmental type (first clan-based, later territorial)
Little interdependence (social bonds relatively weak)
Relatively low volume of population
Relatively low material and moral density
Based on division of labour (predominately in more advanced societies)
Organized type (fusion of markets and growth of cities)
Much interdependency (social bonds relatively strong)
Relatively high volume of population
Relatively high material and moral density

Types of norms (typified by law)

Rules with repressive sanctions
Prevalence of penal law
Rules with restitutive sanctions
Prevalence of cooperative law (civil, commercial, procedural, administrative and constitutional law)

Formal features of conscience collective

High volume
High intensity
High determinateness
Collective authority absolute
Low volume
Low intensity
Low determinateness
More room for individual initiative and reflection

Content of conscience collective

Highly religious
Transcendental (superior to human interests and beyond discussion)
Attaching supreme value to society and interests of society as a whole
Concrete and specific
Increasingly secular
Human-orientated (concerned with human interests and open to discussion)
Attaching supreme value to individual dignity, equality of opportunity, work ethic and social justice
Abstract and general

This brings me to the social networking movement that has exploded in recent years. Everyone under the sun and probably beyond it has already told you this.  No matter what way you spin it, the advent of these new technologies has changed the way we communicate forever.

But Myspace, Facebook and Twitter have also undoubtedly created their own communities.

One might automatically assume that the types of relationships formed through social networking communities fall under the model of organic solidarity but I think that if you take a closer look, you might be surprised.

Either way, I think it is important to remember that Durkheim would also not care “What 80’s Hair Metal Rock Star” you are.