Trump’s practice of surprise and Shannon’s theory of communication
The Donald has been until now a master of running the establishment media’s agenda, whatever else you may like to say about him.
His press conference last night was a master class. His comments about Charlottesville drove the establishment media into a nearly uncontrollable rage, for a very specific reason. In the master class, his set of remarks about black mask/antifa was a “dog whistle” to the establishment media, a slug of un-dodge-able information that The Donald masterfully inserted into the broad communication channel known as “the national conversation.”
Information in the channel…
Information in the channel points us to the mathematical theory of communication, Claude Shannon’s most famous theory from his days at Bell Labs. Shannon’s theory begins with the idea of information as a countable substance, as quantifiable as the volume of water in a pitcher or the number of apples growing on an apple tree.
For the basic quantity of information, some scientists use the term surprisal, and that is a nice term for informal conversation. In colloquial terms, information is surprise.
The amount of surprise you experience depends on who is at the other end of the communication channel. You, the observer, receive some amount of surprise from a sender, a source. Are you talking to an honest mensch or a crooked gambler looking for a sucker? In terms of throwing dice, is the source a pair of fair dice or a pair of crooked dice?
If the honest mensch is on the line, you are going to hear a random array of results: “The first roll is 3. OK, the next roll came up snake eyes. Let’s see: it’s a 7. Next roll 8…” And so on for the honest mensch.
The crooked gambler has his dice set up to come up 7’s at least 25% of the time, on average. So, his first four transmissions down the phone line to you might be: “First roll, 3! Come on, baby, next roll, 7! OK, shoes for the baby…. LUCKY 7! Let’s try another roll, come on: another 7! We are on a lucky roll, man, but it can’t last.” At which point, he asks you to increase your bet.
But if you are smart, you hang up the phone on the crooked gambler. You hang up the phone, because there is no surprise in what he says. Low surprise, low information. (A completely fixed pair of dice, all fives and all twos, would be zero surprise, and Claude Shannon would say that the source bears zero information.)
The crooked gambler’s dice are going to come up 7 most of the time, just like some establishment news channels like CNN have recently been all Russia collusion, all the time. Now, however, the blow up in Charlottesville permits them a new spiel, all white supremacy, all the time.
Thus CNN becomes Johnny One Note.
Johnny One Note is also known as Jack of No Surprises.
Jack of No Surprises is Jackie Zero, for zero information.
The rage of establishment media yesterday came from The Donald pushing information about black mask/antifa into their low information channel. He did not back down. Johnny One Note did cry a few tears of rage, like any 4-year old in a tantrum, but then they had to accommodate it.
In the master class, The Donald surprised Johnny One Note into exploring the octaves, using more of his channel’s capacity. CNN et al. do have the capacity for a lot of information, if they choose to use it wisely. There is a lot going on in the world they could be transmitting. more than just collusion and Charlottesville and other symbols of partisan rage. CNN et al. have a job to do, and we civilians have to learn more about all of the imbecilic criminal neo-Nazi types in Charlottesville and what they tried to do there, so that we be vigilant for those who would corrupt or destroy our freedom here in the USA. CNN, get to it!