I tried to keep the following post manageably short, but I failed miserably, as "Dick" Gephardt might say. In fact, I had to break the whole thing up with subheads, just to keep it all straight. If this debate bores you, there are other new posts below. But if has you riveted, then you're in for a real treat...
Strange response from Blog to my post on Dr. Seuss yesterday. I wonder if Blog only read the headline to that original post, which was titled "DR. SEUSS MADE ME A LIBERAL!" At first glance, that seems to be Blog's only hang-up -- that I really attributed all of my former liberalism to Seuss' influence. Yet surely Blog picked up on that sarcastically hysterical exclamation point? If not, he might have noticed that I only claimed "The Butter Battle Book," which I'm ever so curious to have a look at fifteen years removed, "helped solve part of the puzzle" of why I became "liberal by default." And I merely said the book "helped put the idea [that war is always to be avoided] in my head" -- I never said it was wholly responsible for turning me into the anti-corporate, pro-affirmative action, reflexively anti-authority mushhead that I was for a few years in high school and college. Yet Blog declares in his last post: "The 'Butter' book was only one part of the constant onslaught of left-leaning politics he was weaned on at an early age." To which I say: thanks for coming around to my side!
I could be content to leave it there, but I'm obliged to note that even if this debate started with a misunderstanding on Blog's part, it's still incumbent on Blog to say what he really thinks about this. After several volleys, any reader of these exchanges is still at a loss to explain what Blog's exact opinion on this is. Does he disagree with my previously-stated general mechanics of how media influence us at different stages of our lives?
In the last post, Blog makes some attempt to put books and video games on the same level of import. Video games can be just as "revered and loved" as books, he argues. I'm inclined to disagree, but that isn't the issue. The issue, as he writes, is that if a "mere book can influence the politics of a developing mind ... then ALL media can do the same." Well... not like we were supposedly arguing about. As I said before, video games focus more on action, suspense, etc. and less on story or plot, which means they tend to be poor carriers of meaning; I have yet to see a really allegorical video game. Actually, I have yet to see a video game with any subtext not limited to sexual entendres. Plus, a "mere" book? What, compared to something with real substance, like... "GI Joe"?
Blog thinks he has something, writing: "Still, if Seuss turned AP into a liberal, why didn't the 'violence is the only solution' dictates of GI Joe turn him into a schoolyard Cobra Commander?" The answer is simple: Seuss imbued his stories with meaning; the hacks who cranked out 23-minute plots for that cartoon show can scarcely be accused of same. The violence on "GI Joe" had less consequence than the primitive starting weapon in "Metroid." As I seem to recall, everyone, Cobra included, always managed to dodge explosions or eject at the last moment, and nobody died. Nothing was ever really at stake, and there were never any lessons to be drawn. As if to compensate for this, the show tagged mini-PSAs to the end of every episode, each bearing a simple moral lesson along the lines of 'don't steal' or 'don't tease your sister' or 'tell the truth if you smack a baseball through your neighbor's living room window.' And who can forget the recurring line: "Now you know. And knowing is half the battle." Not Armed Prophet!
When it comes to shaping young weltanschauungs, I just don't recall "GI Joe" being about anything. But if someone wants to pore over scripts to the old cartoon show (Blog, I'm looking in your direction) and prove that the show had something to say about national security (or gun rights or property rights, or much of anything) then I'm open to reconsideration.
But anyway, is Blog arguing that both books and video games influence kids' behavior or neither? The tone of his original, dismissive comment would seem to indicate "neither." But his post yesterday about pretending to be characters from video games appears to augur for "both." Which is it, Blog? And if it's some combination of both -- as I explained -- then how is my analysis wanting?
Blog almost seems to accept this my argument, writing "Maybe video games don't have the same philosophical impact on children as the moral lessons of Seuss," but immediately thereupon he starts fighting another losing battle, adding: "If AP is willing to open this can of worms, he must also acknowledge that games encourage children to be more violent. ... Blog spent most of free time circa 1986 bouncing from couch to couch over carpet lava pits: while swinging a beach towel whip. AP probably did his own fare share of Indiana Jones impersonations during the mid-80s."
Indeed I did, very possibly even with a beach towel. And while Armed Prophet never really had an imaginary friend in the truest sense, I did often pretend to hang out with the characters from "The Dukes of Hazzard." But that isn't the point. The point is this -- does Blog mean to say he wouldn't have jumped from couch to couch if he hadn't seen Indy swinging above the fiery pits in the cave behind the Rajah's palace in "Temple of Doom"? Does Blog think children weren't rowdy and sometimes destructive before the advent of television and movies? I sure wouldn't want to be caught having to make that case, but Blog seems to grab it. So, Blog, is that what you're saying?
On a point of lesser import, Blog also thinks it was a mistake for me to briefly invoke religion, comparing the symbolism of the Seuss book to that of parables found in various religious tomes. Well, I didn't intend to put the two on the same level, and I don't think a careful reading of that short paragraph would lead one to believe that. All I intended was to point out that simple stories often have powerful meanings. And that central point, which informed my original Seuss post, still hasn't been challenged.
So what is Blog arguing about? Nothing! It's just fun. And really, what else is the blogosphere good for?