We had another strong field of nominees for this year’s Al Copeland Humanitarian Award, including Malcolm McLean, Gary Gygax, and John Lasseter. All of them would be worthy of “The Al” at some time, but one of them — Ken M — is the Al winner the world currently needs.
Why do we need Ken M to win the Al? Because serious and powerful people have adopted the ridiculous idea that policy can be changed and the world can be made a better place by constantly communicating and arguing on social media. This idea has infected virtually every policy issue, including education reform. Intellectual discussion of policy has often devolved into a perpetual campaign, where the goal is to get as many “likes” and “hits” as possible. There are conference calls to develop “messaging” and distribute “talking points,” as if they were orchestrating an actual election campaign rather than trying to better understand and improve public policy. This is why we see so much total b.s., half-truths, and distortions from people who should be more responsible. They just want to win as many votes (hits, likes, etc…) for their policy as possible, credibility be damned.
Ken M has made a significant contribution to improving the human condition by revealing what a complete waste of time social media is for anyone who takes it seriously and thinks they are changing the world by tweeting, posting, and arguing on the internet. Social media is filled with idiots, like Ken M’s persona, whose opinions can’t be changed and whose opinions don’t really matter anyway.
It’s amazing to me that people with a lot of resources and who imagine themselves to be politically sophisticated have absolutely no idea how policy change occurs. Retail politics with mass communication have practically nothing to do with how policy gets made, most of which is determined by better-informed elites and interest-groups. Mass opinion matters only very indirectly.
In addition, it’s amazing to me that ed reformers would be attracted to a perpetual campaign approach given that the unions and other status quo forces have way more money and volunteers than reformers can ever have. In a brute force political contest the unions and their fellow-travelers will win almost every time. The one thing reformers have going for them is the truth. The unions are stuck with lousy ideas that produce miserable outcomes. Reformers can beat them by remaining committed to telling the truth as faithfully as they can. Messaging, spinning, and distorting only undermine the credibility of reformers and deprive them of the one advantage they have.
I write all of this in a blog post with a complete understanding that this post will not change the world for the better. This blog exists mostly because I enjoy having a running conversation with a few friends and because doing this amuses us. Ken M has the right idea. Social media is mostly for socializing and having fun, not changing the world. For that he is worthy of this year’s Al.