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We have More Important Things to Worry About than Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors, died a few days ago on April 11th. You may or may not have heard by now. The New York Times wrote a nice piece on his life and a large number of blogs and forums have filled with discussions of his books, essays, and politics. If you haven't heard by now, I guess I'm not too surprised. Ablogistan took a look and found that there were more twice as many mentions of Anna Nicole Smith in the news than Vonnegut. That fact is both depressing and fascinating at the same time. One of the tried and true methods of social science research is content analysis, where researchers pour over the raw text produced by a culture and measure things like word use. Content analysis is nice because it gives you quantitative data in areas otherwise relegated to qualitative research, but it can be a real chore. If you wanted to study McCarthyism, for example, you would need to poor over thousands of pages of microfiche counting word occurrences and judging usage. The chart comparing Anna Nicole Smith and Kurt Vonnegut is fascinating because it points out how the rise of the Internet has helped lessen a lot of the tediousness of content analysis. So let's take a look. What else is more important than Kurt Vonnegut? (Unfortunately the Internet has not made the difficult stuff like conceptualization and research design any easier, so the findings below are not exactly academic journal material). Google News search for Kurt Vonnegut (past week): 1,317 articles. Google News search for Anna Nicole Smith (past week): 10,232 articles. Google News search for Don Imus (past week): 9,534 articles. There you have it. Anna Nicole Smith, notable for going from being poor and attractive to being rich and less attractive, then rich and somewhat attractive again, is almost 8 times more important than Kurt Vonnegut. Don Imus, who hasn't even died yet, is about 7 times more important than Vonnegut for calling some basketball players "nappy headed hos." Google News tends to include more traditional news outlets (newspapers, television, etc.). So what about the unprofessional world of commentary and discussion found in blogs? Blog posts about Kurt Vonnegut Blog posts about Anna Nicole Smith Blog posts about Don Imus Congratulations, bloggers! You talked about as much about Kurt Vonnegut as you did Anna Nicole on the day the news of their deaths came out. And so far Don Imus has yet to have half as many mentions. Blogpulse shows an even clearer trend: Trend So there you have it: Officially speaking, Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote for half a century, producing some of the best novels of all time, is less important than a woman who was famous mostly for being famous. We have empirical proof. And once again, the bloggers have shown that they just don't measure up to professional news media.

Free Speech, Unless I Don’t Like It

Unless you've been under a rock I'm sure you've heard of the Don Imus controversy. They underlying point of this whole thing is free speech. Yeah Don Imus made a bad joke that wasn't PC, but in this country he has that right under the 1st amendment. The point of free speech isn't to protect speech that you like and isn't offensive, but the kind that is. Pretty much anything you say someone will be offended by. This country is made up of diverse groups of people from different backgrounds. Its impossible to know every little thing that will hurt people's feelings. And if you do you should be able to say your sorry and move on, not his witch hunt that is currently happening. I can't stand it when people say, "I'm for free speech, but...", no there's no but, either people should be allowed to say whatever they want or they shouldn't there's no middle ground. Then there's this issue of a double standard where certain groups can use words that others can't. So Snoop Dogg can make a career out of saying bitches and ho's, but the second a white man like Don Imus makes one off color comment he should be beaten up. The hypocrisy of the whole situation is what is so infuriating. People who have made racially insensitive comment in the past are acting like their holier than thou. Remember Jesse Jackson refering to New York as Hymietown? Or what about when Whoopie Goldberg defended Ted Danson for wearing Blackface? Hell her production company is called One Ho Productions! If there's one thing I can't stand is when people say black people have been oppressed for so long and didn't have the same opporunities as white people so it's okay for them to say such things. Give me a break Black people are every bit as intelligent and capable as white people or whoever else. Putting them in this separate category only serves to demean every black person. That sure sounds like racism to me putting someone is a different class becaue of their skin color. This whole incident is supposed to open up race relations in this country and make things better. If anything it has pushed things back at least 10 years. Nobody feels comfortable expressing themselves to one another for fear of being label a racist. Its really sad what is happening to free speech in this country. And the networks wonder why no one wtaches TV or listens to the radio. The only programs that are going to be left soon are these "safe" shows that have no content. If people want race relations to improve then we need to have an open dialogue in this country about it. Rather than dividing words into categories based on race.