I think the thing about social media is that if you can tune out the huge amount of white noise, you might able to hear coherent messages woven from the threads of many people. This weekend, there was a huge amount of 9/11 postings, which, with all due respect, I mostly ignored. I didn't expect that any of those columns would convey anything not previously conveyed. In the midst of that flood of words, I realized the normal Facebook/RSS Feeds signal-to-noise ratio had markedly changed. (Again, I apologize for calling the 9/11 postings "noise" -- it's just an analogy). I thought this might be a unique opportunity to filter out a huge amount of "noise," since so many postings were about one single thing, and look for weaker but important "signals." I thought, "Could what's left be only the news and commentaries thought important enough by the writers to merit a mention on 9/11 weekend?"
Maybe. Let me point to two things -- one international and one national (U.S.) -- that stood out to me across multiple articles in the feeds.
In the international arena, two related stories stood out. International writers appear to be identifying a narrative in Syria that echoes Libya. A Syrian colonel who defected to London July 31 -- reminiscent of a high level defection by a Libyan minister in March -- says that the "Free Syrian Army" has now established two battalions . Should they actually fight, can NATO air bombardment be far behind? Meanwhile, reports from Iraq indicate that Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq militants have been moving in to Syria to take part in operations against Syrian security forces. Are we seeing the same game plan as the one we saw in Libya?
I don't believe that either Gadaffi or Assad were/are beneficent rulers. I do believe, however, that it should be left to the people living under such rulers to decide and act upon their situations themselves. The west has intervened enough. The west helped Gaddafi tremendously with arms sales and oil purchases. The Soviets, back in the day, helped Syria with arms and training. "Aiding" rebel movements now is just as much intervention. We have merely switched sides.
Economics, of course, never takes a holiday. But the bits that stood out today are how they directly affect national politics. Firstly, in New York City, a Democrat (David Weprin) appears to be losing to a Republican for a seat in congress. This can only be attributed to an expected low turnout by Democratic voters lukewarm to President Obama's economic policies. That veteran Democrats like Liz Holtzmann are calling on Democratic voters to separate their frustration with Obama from their decision on this particular congressional race should be an alarm claxon for national Democrats.
Another article on economics, from Firebagger Central, i.e., Firedoglake, predicts that deficit mania will eclipse the very short outburst of goodwill following the President's jobs speech. That's probably a pretty easy call, sort of like dry weather for Texas. But the final paragraph of David Dayen's piece points to the President's follow-up speech on September 19, which is expected to call for more spending cuts, as an event that may fracture the Democratic party. I recall way back in November 2008 that the Republican party was so "on the ropes" that some thought it would not survive. We Democrats seem to be condemned to live with Harry Truman's quote:
"I've seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the Fair Deal, and says he really doesn't believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don't want a phony Democrat. If it's a choice between a genuine Republican and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don't want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign." - Harry Truman, Address at the National Convention Banquet of the Americans for Democratic Action, May 17, 1952.
Finally, a short article from OpEdNews highlighted the note in President Obama's recent speech which touched upon Project Rebuild, an effort to create more affordable housing (notwithstanding the commentator's earlier suggestion to build more housing). Though the cynic in me sees this as probably a temporary turn to the left in anticipation of the 2012 election, it is a good sign that the administration may be starting to listen to the economists it should have listened to from the beginning -- the Stiglitz', Krugmans and Bakers. The idea of forcing banks to rent foreclosed properties to people who need housing, including those who were foreclosed upon, is an idea by Dean Baker dating back to 2007. Something tells me that Brooklyn Democrats would be much happier with Barack Obama had he not waited till now to propose this.
The noise level was so high, but at such a precise frequency, that applying a filter left important things normally unnoticed in the general noise more noticeable. If you thought that it is in fact possible, and worthwhile, to connect seemingly separate posts into a framework such as this, be sure to let me know, either on my blog or on Facebook .