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Stephen Lewis on Infrastructure, Identity, Communication, and Change

Paradoxes: The Serpent and the Eagle, Newspapers and Weblogs, and the Unintelligence of Intelligence

Posted by Stephen Lewis on March 4, 2009

There is an image from Nietzsche that sometimes comes to my mind when I think of paradoxes of mutual dependency and mutual destruction: A soaring eagle devouring a poisonous snake that it has plucked from the ground just as the snake entwines itself around and sinks its fangs into the eagle.  A unlikely way of thinking about the relationship of electronic and print media but a useful one, possibly …

One of the best and most succinct statements of the paradoxical relationship between weblogs and newspapers I have encountered recently is My Year of Blogging by Haim Watzman written on the occasion of the first anniversary of his and Gershom Gorenberg’s highly professional South Jerusalem.  The paradox: If blogs erode the readership and economic viability of newspapers and magazines they destroy the very media and institutions that almost all blogs depend on for identification of issues and sources of information.  Indeed, most weblogs, this one included, for the most part rehash and re-serve the news, sometimes adding value and sometimes not.

Watzman also points out that weblogs are even less economically viable than print media, which leads me to a second link, this to an article that has been read and discussed by newspaper people and newspaper readers worldwide over the past month: Steve Coll’s recent piece (Non-Profit Newspapers) in the New Yorker calling for the end of business-models as the bases of newspapers and magazines and the institution of private and public endowments in their place — in my own words, the leveraging of print media from enterprises to elements of the infrastructure of information gathering and exchange, processes that are necessary underpinnings of economic activity, social stability, scientific and cultural advance, and democracy.

Also via South Jerusalem, this succinct critique of Israel’s recent misadventure in Gaza, aptly titled The Futility of Operation Cast Lead, by Stuart A. Cohen of the Begin-Sadat Institute for Strategic Studies.  For decades, I have marveled at the paradox of beliefs held in common by uncritical supporters of Israel and by neanderthal antisemites of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion / International Jewish Conspiracies stripe, in this case that the State of Israel is unique or superior to others in its intelligence gathering, military efficacy, and manipulation of world opinion.  Israel might have come close to this for a brief moment in the late 1960s but it has been a sad slide downhill since then.  “Operation Cast Lead” (the very name shows contempt for public and world opinion and  Jewish ethos) may have displayed something of Israel’s supposed  flair for short-range military tactics (however, Cohen’s piece casts doubt on this as well) but it also demonstrated an inability to think in terms of the human suffering it would create and the compromising of Israel’s image, policy objectives, and own security it would occasion.  Not least, in its hubris, Israel’s misadventure in Gaze showed an immense disregard for the security, status, and opinions of Jews worldwide, especially in the Muslim world and throughout Europe (I have alluded to this in a recent post and will explore it anecdotally in a future piece on Bubkes.Org).

In closing, my apologies for not giving the precise quotation and reference to the image from Neitzsche as recalled above.  Accept it as another proof of the time and capabilities limitations of single-person, part-time blogging.

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2 Responses to “Paradoxes: The Serpent and the Eagle, Newspapers and Weblogs, and the Unintelligence of Intelligence”

  1. Tom said

    Steve, I believe it was in Thus Spake Zarathustra.

    And behold! An eagle swept through the air
    in wide circles, and on it hung a serpent, not like a prey, but like a
    friend: for it kept itself coiled round the eagle’s neck.

    For me, Zarathustra redirects the focus of philosophy, which is mandated by the advent of modern man, when he beholds the sun and speaks:

    Thou great star! What would be thy happiness if thou hadst not those
    for whom thou shinest!

  2. Tom,

    Thanks for the correction. My memory failed me. And thanks too for reminding me of the importance of Nietzsche and the importance of addressing stars with confidence.

    S.

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