Fast food for thought (was What's a sheeple?

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Tue Oct 24 10:06:27 PDT 2000

At 09:55 AM 10/24/00 -0400, Matt Crames wrote:
>Let me try and draw a picture.....
>Why shouldn't the US publicly criticise Isreal for killing Palestinians?
>"Well, the Isrealis are our allies and the Palestinians are a bunch of
>crazy terrorists" [sheeple].
>"I'm not worried about those laws being passed because you only have to
>worry about it if you are a criminal, and I'm not" [sheeple]
>"Unemployed people are just lazy and deserve to starve" [sheeple]
>"Outlawing guns will prevent crime" [sheeple]
>"Marijuana is bad for you but alcohol is not" [sheeple]
>"The public sschools have my child's best interests in mind" [sheeple]
>Every single one of those statements is an example of knee-jerk responses
>to complex situations and illustrates a possibly unconscious ignorance to
>that complexity.

I think you err when you attribute such opinions solely to "individual preference" (which underlies the term "sheeple"). In fact, such opinions you quote pertain to the matters encumbered with "bounded rationality" that is, with high cost of getting relevant information. In each of the situations you quote - a person needs to devote substantial energy to survey the relevant information, separate facts from fiction, to assemble a plausible explanation of what is going on. So instead of going thought that effort, most people simply buy fast food for thought mass-produced by franchises from New York Times to the National Enquirer.

That MacDonaldization of information gathering does not necessarily indicate the degeneration of taste, i.e. that people genuinely prefer McDonalds to a gourmet restaurant, or the pulp fiction they find on tee-vee or NYT to thoughtful analyses. Another factor is their availability of time and resources to get the top quality food or information. Most people are busy doing overtime and sitting in the traffic jam on their way to or from work. In such situation, eating at McDonalds, or listening to Rush Limbaugh or NPR on their car radio is the only thing they can do within th etime they are alotted for thinking for themselves.

As Karl Marx aptly observed, having enough time to fish in the morning and write popetry in the evening is what differentiates socialism from capitalism. I would add to it: searching for adequate information to understand the worlds around us. The current ignorance is a product of capitalist organization of work and leisure as much as of intellectual laziness.


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