A Talking Dinosaur, for Adults

…not just any adults, but national leaders.  The Global Climate Conference was visited by Frankie the Talking Dinosaur, who warned the attendees (and viewers around the world) about the danger of extinction.

Reminded me of Neal Stephenson’s interesting little book, In the Beginning was the Command Line, in particular, a passage in which he describes something he saw at Disney World–a hypothetical stone-by-stone reconstruction of a ruin in the jungles of India. It is supposed to have been built by a local rajah in the sixteenth century, but since fallen into disrepair.

The place looks more like what I have just described than any actual building you might find in India. All the stones in the broken walls are weathered as if monsoon rains had been trickling down them for centuries, the paint on the gorgeous murals is flaked and faded just so, and Bengal tigers loll among stumps of broken columns. Where modern repairs have been made to the ancient structure, they’ve been done, not as Disney’s engineers would do them, but as thrifty Indian janitors would–with hunks of bamboo and rust-spotted hunks of rebar.

In one place, you walk along a stone wall and view some panels of art that tell a story.

…a broad jagged crack runs across a panel or two, but the story is still readable: first, primordial chaos leads to a flourishing of many animal species. Next, we see the Tree of Life surrounded by diverse animals…an obvious allusion (or, in showbiz lingo, a tie-in) to the gigantic Tree of Life that dominates the center of Disney’s Animal Kingdom…But it’s rendered in historically correct style and could probably fool anyone who didn’t have a PhD in Indian art history.

The next panel shows a mustachioed H. sapiens chopping down the Tree of Life with a scimitar, and the animals fleeing every which way. The one after that shows the misguided human getting walloped by a tidal wave, part of a latter-day Deluge presumably brought on by his stupidity.

The final panel, then, portrays the Sapling of Life beginning to grow back, but now man has ditched the edged weapon and joined the other animals in standing around to adore and praise it.

Clearly, this exhibit communicates a specific worldview, and it strongly implies that this worldview is consistent with traditional Indian religion and culture. Most viewers will assume the connection without doing further research as to its correctness or lack thereof.

Stephenson argues that the sensorial, image-based type of communication…of which this exhibit provides one example…has very different characteristics from explicit, text-based communication.  For one thing, the sensorial interface is less open to challenge than the textual interface.  It doesn’t argue–doesn’t present you with a chain of facts and logic that let you sit back and say, “Hey, wait a minute–I’m not so sure about that.” It just sucks you into its own point of view.

Tunnels of Oppression, which became popular on university campuses some years ago and are apparently now very popular, represent additional examples of persuasion via sensorial communication. So did the Obama administration’s propaganda video game featuring space aliens, global warming, and gender issues.  And so does this dinosaur video.

I’ll grant that the dinosaur is very smart marketing; someone might well hire the person or group who did it to put together a good marketing campaign for a product or service. But it’s not science and not serious policy thinking, and no responsible person would put together a presentation of this kind for a board of directors considering a major corporate decision point.  Or a country, or a world.

I reviewed Stephenson’s book here.

5 thoughts on “A Talking Dinosaur, for Adults”

  1. The big story out of Scotland yesterday was a picture of Biden sleeping through part of it. This is probably the most sensible thing he’s done in decades. Sleeping is an infinitely better use of his time and diminished faculties than trying to make sense of the drivel spewing forth.

  2. Tunnels of Oppression
    That sure looks like a stupid thing.

    I do agree that that sort of experience does seem to slip through some critical thinking cracks. Probably something to do with reaction times and visual processing – can’t spend too much time analyzing the tiger before it eats you.

  3. C’mon, man!!! Where’s your inner (rational) cynic?

    Tunnels of Oppression? I seriously doubt anything more than 0.01% of all oppression ever occurred in a tunnel. But I digress…

    Question EVERYTHING. Nobody in today’s world present ANYTHING without an underlying agenda. And despite their best slick marketing efforts, the agenda is almost always obvious beyond obvious to even the most tangentially aware human.

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