Barack Obama

If you spend much time watching the news, or any media really, you might come away with the idea that human society is incredibly violent. In fact, you might think that we're in more danger than ever before in history. Although humankind's ability to destroy ourselves remains, the truth is that modern times are actually incredibly safe. Especially in the developed nations, like the United States. Increasingly the efforts of politicians to make us safer are meant more to stoke our fears and get themselves elected than they are to actually make us safer. In this episode we take a look at some of these developments, through the lens of an Intellectual Conservative. Recorded on 11/15/2011.


You can download the episode here.


Mike & Matt's Recommended Reading:

The End Of Politics: The Dawning Irrelevance Of Obama And The GOP, by Ralph Benko (Intellectual Conservative, 11/05/2011)Updated Link

Freakonomics: The Hidden Side Of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Lenore Skenazy's website

Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts With Worry) by Lenore Skenazy

Violence In The Media, by Kellydog10, Hawthorn Woods, IL (Teen Ink, 3/30/2011)



Mike Johnston: Welcome to Robot Overlordz, our new podcast, I'm Mike Johnston and with me tonight is Matt Bolton.

Matt Bolton: Hello.

MJ: Tonight we're going to be talking about an article that Matt picked so Matt I guess I'll turn it over to you to introduce your article.  

MB: Alright my article is from the it's a website called the Intellectual Conservative. The article is called "the End of Politics, the dawning irrelevance of Obama and the GOP". It's actually quite a non political article. At least I thought going reading through it. Really didn't have a lot to do with politics. The article is about the fact the entire world is trending towards peace basically around the world. 

MJ: I loved this article actually, I thought this one was awesome, I mean I've heard stuff about this trend quite a bit in some of my media studies because it's so contrary to most people's I guess thinking about the world.

MB: Yeah.

MJ: It even mentions that in the article. 

MB: It I thought one of the lines made a really good point was the reduction in the world mayhem seems alien TV and newspapers present afraid to drown on not dry facts. And that obscures the trend it's a when you watch the news you think you know the entire world is ready to erupt into world war three but

MJ: Yeah, well and you know the book Freakonomics covered that too that you know in the 50's and 60's they were predicting this huge wave of crime would sweep the world. You know and it didn't happen. I think in Freakonomics they had traced one of the causes anyway back to you know abortion be legalized because most of the predicted crime would have come from children that didn't know their fathers basically.

MB: Yes.

MJ: Not that that was the only cause but that was one they kinda singled out in Freakonomics but you know I mean I think that was one other place I saw that kinda trend of less violence in the world. Talked about and I know we've covered it in a couple of my media classes but you know that's kinda why I agree with John Stewart when he says the media bias is towards sensationalism and you know extremes.

MB: Yes.

MJ: So

MB: Absolutely I'm well I mean getting on the news and saying yeah we're now all peaceful doesn't get people to watch you have to drama the news up quite a bit to you know look here's some violence and sex and what not.

MJ: Yeah. Well they joke if it bleeds it leads. 

MB: Yes.

MJ: But at the same time I think that it's kinda pathetic that people form their impressions of the world from their media and yet the media so distorts that aspect of it because I mean really news has become especially the 24 hour news man, I think it just you know if they don't have anything to talk about it's like they create things to talk about. 

MB: Yes absolutely. And I you know I mean it's starting to get reflected in our society at least from my point of view you look at these parents you know they watch the news and they don't even let their kids go outside and play anymore cause they're so freaked out that there's a pedophile behind every tree and you know their kids gonna kidnapped and

MJ: Yeah.

MB: You know your kid's less likely... you're more likely to win the lottery than you are to have your child kidnapped. I mean not that that's 

MJ: Not that those things aren't bad but you know when they happen but they're generally they're so unlikely and usually it's actually family members that you have to worry about not strangers. 

MB: Yes.

MJ: You know and that's kinda why I liked the Free Range Kids lady is that she's almost a reaction against that to say hey lets go back to the way things were in the 70's. You know I used to ride my bike all over the place. 

MB: Oh I did too, my mom didn't want to see me in the summer time from the time the sun came up till the porch or the street lights came on at night. I was never at home and I didn't want to be there and you know I was assuming she didn't really want me there. 

MJ: Yeah.

MB: You know we were out with our friends. The other thing on the article that I thought was very and I didn't realize this was the US military budget is the size of the next 14 nations in the world combined. 

MJ: Yeah.

MB: 12 of which are our allies.

MJ: That 12 of the 14 being our allies really I that makes me laugh. 

MB: Yes.

MJ: You know I mean what why do we need our budget to be the size of all of those 14? When of those 14, 12 of them are on our side even.

MB: Right and the two that aren't are China and Russia who we aren't exactly at war with. I mean we have I would say a strained semi friendly relationship with them. 

MJ: Well he says that even I think in that quote it might or actually might not be cast as adversarial. I mean that says to me you know we may not agree with them but sometimes we work with them. Sometimes we might disagree with them.

MB: Right.

MJ: But like you said we're not at war with them.

MB: Right. Yeah it's you know I think our Ronald Reagan said and I still somewhat agree with this statement is nobody is ever attacked because their army is too strong. However, I'm not sure we need to be spending as much as the top 14 military's combined in the world you know. It's

MJ: Yeah maybe we could just take half of it like the

MB: Yeah.

MJ: As much as the top 7.

MB: Yes.

MJ: You know.

MB: And this goes back to one of our earlier podcast's is you know do we really need tentacles in every part of the world. Military base meaning military bases basically.

MJ: Well and it talking about things that kind of might contribute to that trend of increased team peace, I remember in reading a long time ago something about Buck minster Fuller you know who was really kinda big in the 70's. I think, well he was big before that but I mean a lot of his thinking was in some the popular press in the 70's but he had this idea that if you did a world power grid

MB: Yes.

MJ: Like all the worlds power grids connected, that that would decrease the likelihood of war by huge amounts just because why would you attack anyone because you're getting power from them.  

MB: Right, the article went on made another good point that basically it almost made it sound like we kinda, the only reason we go to war is to almost boost our sense of unity and

MJ: Feel good about ourselves.

MB: Yeah and you know to allow the politicians to kinda seize that power from us.

MJ: Yeah. Well that's the one thing that I've gotta admit I find in the article as kind of a warning but also something that personally I find a little bit troubling is that you know when you have this much peace the people that do want to shake things up or don't like the way it's going or you know committed to the other side not getting anywhere basically. You know I think that gives them a goal so to speak and even though you know this article is kinda talking about the trend towards less violence, I don't think you can count on that being absolutely a certainty in the future. I mean I think it would be nice if it continued and I think there's some strong trends it will continue

MB: Yes.

MJ: But I take the article point especially you know around that kinda you know the government using it to feel good about ourselves and you know kinda using war to direct people's attention. You know and kinda harness that whole team spirit or nationalism you know but that's really kinda the warning that as we move into these you know more peaceful times to watch out for people that are you know too much talking about the other side you know being evil.

MB: Yeah. 

MJ: So to speak.

MB: Yeah I would agree with that. Yeah I think anybody you know whether you're just throw this out whether you're a liberal or a conservative or whatever despite the name of the website it's a very good read. To go through this article. Like I said it's not politically slanted, at least I didn't think so one way or another. 

MJ: Yeah and I would definitely agree with you man on that. It's but I found it to be you know it's definitely one of those that it boosts up the conservative perspective but yet it also kind of boosts up a liberal perspective. I mean it even ends with that whole line about you know that we can restore America to what it's DNA destines it to be a liberal republic.

MB: Yes.

MJ: You know that's not very divisive partisan writing. 

MB: No not at all. And I've gotten some other stuff from this web, you know most of it is conservative but not all of it. They seem to have some very even handed writers on this website. 

MJ: Yeah. I would definitely check it out again, I mean you know like I said I think too often you know the other side is always made out to be evil. 

MB: Yes.

MJ: And you know I would say conservatives not a dirty word and neither is liberal. 

MB: No, not at all.

MJ: There are aspects of conservatives maybe or elements in the conservative movement that are less attractive and there are elements in the liberal movements that are less attractive. You know and instead of you know letting those the kind of less attractive folks you know kinda dictate the terms of the debate and lead us you know I mean I kinda like to borrow you know a phrase that they even reference in here that kinda better angels of our nature. He references it I think as a Steven Pinker book. 

MB: Yes.

MJ: But you know that whole phrase you know I think that's the stuff we should be looking for so you know to find an article like this on a conservative site you know I mean since I'm not coming from the conservative perspective you know I find that very encouraging. 

MB: Yes. Yeah. Well I think anytime you I find people who only subscribe to you know one you know John Beck or Keith Olberman you know told me on the news that I this is how I should feel, that's how I'm gonna feel. That's just very narrow you know. With all the information at your finger tips if you can't you know at least expand your mind a little bit, and read about what's you know what the other side thinks you know you may not be that far off from what the other side thinks not as far as you know as you think you are. 

MJ: Yeah. And I always think that other side can it adds so much more depth to your point of view. You only listen to your side it's missing shading you know. 

MB: Oh it is.

MJ: It's like a solid color you know without any kind of texture or depth to it. You need that other side to add those things to really have a three dimensional view of the world. 

MB: Well and it makes your argument a lot, I mean if that's your point is to you know to educate yourself and to be able to argue your point you almost need to understand where the other side is coming from, not just repeat you know what some talking head on Fox News or MSNBC told you.

MJ: Yeah well and I think that's the thing about the media is that too often that's what plays well because it's very it's a very simplistic model,  you're able to boil it down to us and them. You know right against left. You know it's almost a boxing match a political boxing match you know you got one guy on one side and one guy on the other side and they're going to box. 

MB: Right.

MJ: You know but that's not very constructive.

MB: No, well the other thing too and I think there's people like to, I think the reason people watch Fox News and MSNBC is because it reaffirms their, people like it when they, somebody agrees with them. 

MJ: Yes.

MB: So you know they're both of those channels are just you know MSNBC goes for their liberal base, Fox News goes for their conservative base and they just kind of rattle off well you know this will either rile up the conservatives and get em all upset or you know we're gonna say it and they'll agree with us. That's just you know and MSNBC does it with liberals too and it's

MJ: Yeah.

MB: So.

MJ: I will definitely agree with you on that.

MB: Yeah. 

MJ: Cool well this was a very good article. 

MB: Thank you. I was looking all for the last 2 days to find a kind of a non political article to

MJ: Yeah, this is a good one. Yeah, we'll have to look for some you know maybe some other ones from coming up.

MB: Yes. Cool, alright.

MJ: Anything else I guess about that one? 

MB: No I think that we've covered it. 

MJ: Okay well I guess that's it then for your article.

MB: Alright. 

MJ: And we'll wrap this one up then and so thanks everyone for joining us.

MB: Thank you.


Image Credit: "Official portrait of Barack Obama" by Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project - Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.