Part 1—Chomsky's thesis in action: We humans!
Despite embarrassing limitations observable through the annals of time, we can develop a ton of information— though only in situations where the sharing of facts and information is culturally allowed.
This noteworthy fact came to mind as we read Friday morning's Washington Post. On page A3, the Post reported the latest facts about the various shapes of the eggs laid by different species of birds.
Youngish Ben Guarino had received the assignment, and he had hammered it out. He seemed a good choice for the task.
No, we don't do name jokes here. But before arriving at the Post, Guarino had been an associate editor at a news org named The Dodo!
Now, his editors had assigned him the task of keeping the public informed. In reaction, Guarinoa had produced a clean, crisp, highly informative, fact-festooned news report.
Why do the eggs of various birds display so many different shapes? According to the Post's report, scientists have aggressively studied the question and have acquired some good solid facts.
Banner-width headline included, the Post was now reporting those facts:
GUARINO (6/23/17): Why are birds' eggs shaped like eggs? Scientists say they've figured it out.Hummingbird eggs are like Tic Tac mints? We pictured our favorite, the late Ed McMahon:
If a Hollywood exec dreamed up an egg, it would look like a chicken's: immensely popular, with an unblemished complexion. But the universe of wild bird eggs is far weirder and more diverse than the oval products on the supermarket shelf. Hummingbirds lay eggs shaped like Tic Tac mints—"perfect little ellipses," per ornithologist and evolutionary biologist Mary C. Stoddard. Sandpiper eggs come to peaks, in the manner of teardrops. Owls plop out tight spheres not unlike table-tennis balls.
A team of evolutionary biologists, physicists and applied mathematicians says it knows why eggs come in so many different models. In a report published in the journal Science on Thursday, the scientists linked egg shapes to birds' flight behavior. Stronger fliers, like swallows, had elongated or pointy eggs. Birds that couldn't fly so far or fast had rounder, more symmetric ones.
"Eggs are not just something we buy at the grocery store and cook up in an omelet," said Stoddard, an author of the new research and a professor at Princeton University. The story of eggs is the story of vertebrate life on land, she explained...
"I did not know that," he surely would have said.
Guarino presented a full-length report about the various shapes of eggs. After citing a howler by Aristotle, he described what we humans frequently do, though only in situations where knowledge and information are culturally allowed:
GUARINO: Stoddard and her colleagues took a more refined approach than dead Greek philosophers. They photographed 50,000 eggs representing 1,400 bird species, all specimens housed at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California at Berkeley.The Post's report continued from there. All in all, Stoddard's team had busted its ascots compiling this flotilla of facts. The Washington Post now reported those facts, just as a paper should so.
They mapped the bird eggs on a spectrum, from the spherical and symmetrical to the elongated and pointy. If there exists a Platonic ideal of a bird egg, an ovum shaped most like all the others, it is not laid by a chicken but by a small warbler called the graceful prinia. Prinia eggs, Stoddard said, are slightly more oblong but "substantially more asymmetric."
What's more, egg shapes really aren't about the shell, she and her colleagues found. Rather, the filmy membrane just beneath the shell dictates the overall shape of the egg. When a bird begins creating an egg, the animal pumps the egg through an oviduct, a passageway of glands like a factory line.
Armed with the knowledge that organ shape played a crucial role, the scientists scoped out the relationship of eggs across the bird family tree. "In this final mega-analysis, we were able to test for the first time, on a global scale, these different hypotheses," such as the effect of flight ability or cliff-dwelling behaviors.
This is what big newspapers do—but only in the types of cases where knowledge of facts is allowed.
The Post was sharing all the facts about the shapes of eggs. That said, there are major topics concerning which the Post won't perform this way.
Neither will your favorite stars on corporate liberal cable. By apparent common consent, there are certain topics concerning which the most basic facts will be disappeared, in accordance with the group dynamic which lays the egg known as Hard Pundit Law.
Way back in 1988, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky described this counterintuitive process through their use of the term "manufactured consent." Presumably, this helps explain why you rarely see Chomsky quoted in the Post.
In what areas will the Washington Post work to conceal basic facts? One such bill may come due this week. We refer to the general topic of American health care and, more specifically, to the question of health care spending and "costs."
By way of background, we liberals face a possible embarrassment of historic proportions this week. As Kevin Drum explained last Friday, the Republican Senate may pass a bill which would, with the assent of the House and Donald J. Trump, dismantle Obamacare.
This giant embarassment may not occur, but it certainly could. If it does, it will mean that the liberal world has been left for dead by the craziest person who ever got within a hundred miles of the Oval Office, and by his helpmates in Congress.
You're going to see many pseudo-discussions of this matter this week. On your favorite cable channels, your favorite corporate stars will offer endless speculations about the way some Republican solons may vote.
Rachel will be mugging and clowning, helping you learn to adore her more fully. But on cable news, and in the Washington Post, you won't be exposed to the data shown below, which underlie ever syllable uttered in this gong-show pseudo-debate:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015Those data are among the most striking found anywhere in the world. They're among the world's most revealing data—and they're among the least reported.
United States: $9451
United Kingdom: $4003
They form the background to everything occurring this week. Presumably for that reason, you aren't allowed to see those data, or to hear them discussed.
In all the discussions of health care this week, you won't encounter those data. According to Herman and Chomsky, public consent is being manufactured with respect to health care spending. On that basis, discussion of those remarkable data isn't allowed to occur.
Peculiar, ain't it? In Friday's Washington Post, you were buried beneath a pile of facts about the shapes of eggs. The newspaper told you what we've learned from the latest "mega-analysis."
But how strange! All last week, you didn't see those remarkable data about health care spending. Over the course of the past many years, presentation of those astonishing data hasn't been allowed.
The liberal world may absorb one of the most appalling defeats in American political history this week. (Or not. If we do, we will remain serenely sure of the brilliance of our own side.)
As we stare down the barrel of that debacle, those basic data about health care spending are kept from public view. Chomsky explained this long ago, which explains why he isn't allowed.
Why aren't we being shown those data? Why doesn't Rachel share them with us, along with her repeated complaints about the fact that Governor Bentley liked touching his girl friend's breasts?
If we're allowed breasts and the eggs of birds, why can't we get those astonishing data? We'll be exploring that question all week.
To all appearances, Noam Chomsky—he isn't "Chomsky the God"—answered that question decades ago. In this case, the process Chomsky described has served to enable a giant, massive and very large case of manufactured theft.
Tomorrow: Elisabeth Rosenthal and the language of corporate crime