Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Gatekeeper


Being recommended something is being told what you might want. You don't search it out yourself, but rely on outside influence.

The principle of popularity

When people are tired of what is currently popular, they are willing to look for something new.

They will have to look for it. And then, finding it, they will have to pass it on, in competition with other people tired of the presently popular and finders of something new.

A crowd of recommendation grows, with each person recommending the same thing to another, pressing out the less popular things from the chance to be recommended.

The top recommended, the person or thing that has succeeded in monopolizing the machine of recommendation, is a gatekeeper: no one of like characteristics can get past him to reach the wide public.

The Gatekeeper

The principle of public relations, advertising, and propaganda is to tell people what they want. It assumes people don't know what they want.

The intellectual gatekeeper tells people what they should want, and how to go about getting it, but nothing happens.

The reason nothing happens is that as long as people have to be told what to want they are powerless. Stop imperialism, the control of government by the wealthy?

Sounds like a good idea. But there are a lot of good ideas. Acting on this one is difficult and dangerous. And maybe it is not even true.


The number one public intellectual in the world - there is such a person - is a gatekeeper. He describes the behavior of the U.S. and its allies as imperialist. This is correct. But then, what about the victim of imperialism? What does it mean, if the victim of one U.S allied country, as is the case, sets out to kill children in the dozens, succeeds in doing it, then celebrates by dancing in the streets?

The opposite to deciding by recommendation, is deciding for yourself. That is an emotional decision. Emotional does not mean irrational. It means deciding what kind of behavior is absolutely not acceptable. It depends on habits that make a home for yourself in the world. Some behaviors cannot be practiced in that home you make for yourself. When they are, your response is emotional: you are uprooted from your usual, calm routines, and act, even if only in imagination, to remove the obstacle.

To many people, myself included, dancing in the street celebrating the deliberate, and deliberately carried out mass murder of children is an obstacle to be removed.

The Gatekeeper Intellectual

The no.1 public intellectual in the world speaks calmly, with both humility and smooth irony. He's effective is getting across his message, and absolutely ineffective politically.

He says he's kept his teaching job by making sure he expressed his opinions in his spare time, not in the classroom. Maybe that is why he's kept his job, maybe not.

But the job was his security, his real home. When people listen to him or read his books, they can feel that the arguments are spare time arguments.

What does it matter?

A spare time argument is received as telling you what to want. It is not giving you an example of someone making a home for himself in the world and protecting that home as best he can with the best reasoning he can.

When you speak you also are practicing a model of behavior. The people around you can pick up the model as well as information.

The model is knowing what you want and trying to get it. It is not finding out what you want by waiting for someone to tell you what it is.

The gatekeeper competes in that activity of telling people what to want with the experts in it he criticizes, whose influence is incomparably greater than his.

The powers he criticizes can relax and enjoy his performance as proof of their invulnerability.