Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Paper News is Dead

Here's a poem I posted on my MySpace blog not too long ago, on a topic relating to media old and new, and journalism, one that seems to grow more and more relevant with each passing day.

The Paper News is Dead

Extra!  Extra!
Read all about it!
The paper news is dead!
Hold the presses now and forever!
Put them all to bed!

Say goodbye to ink stained fingers!
So long to the straphanger fold!
Say farewell to stands and hawkers!
See, the journal's got yellowed and old!

Time for the printers to close up shop!
Set the shutterbugs free to roam!
Send the hard drinking reporters to rehab!
Send the crusading editors home!

No more tabloids with their exploits!
No more news that's fit to print!
I won't see you in the funny pages!
Now the papers have taken the hint!

I won't find you on my doorstep
At the start of each fine day!
But I may see you in the movies
Or in museums, on display!

No more column inch!
No more continued on page eight!
No more classifieds!
No more want ads!
No more editions
Neither early nor late!

No more columnists!
No more editorials!
No more of the op-ed pages!
No more letters to the editor!
Now they belong to the ages!

The dateline has grown out of date!
The typesetting's heavy like lead
The press's depressed!
Too slow to keep up!
The black and white's no longer read!
Believe it when I said
The paper news is dead!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Supreme Identification of Persons and Corporations

Another recent news item that has generated a great deal of internet and media buzz is the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to allow unlimited corporate funding of federal campaigns.  My friend and colleague Paul Levinson is one of the few people I know who thinks the ruling was correct and beneficial, and you can read his statement over on his blog in a post he called, Why the Supreme Court Decision Allowing Direct Corporate Spending on Elections is Correct.   

Paul is a vigorous defender of the First Amendment, a First Amendment literalist cut from the same cloth as Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas (who, like me, was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity--once a Beta, always a Beta, everywhere a Beta, or so we used to say).

Now, while I don't share Paul's position on the First Amendment, that issue does not concern me here.  Nor do I wish to go into the corrupting potential of unrestricted corporate spending on political campaigns (but see what former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said about the potential for undue influence on the judiciary, on the judiciary mind you, beyond officials elected to the legislative and executive branches of federal, state, and local governments: O'Connor Calls Citizens United Ruling 'A Problem').  These are all very important matters, and all have been the subject of serious discussion, and ultimately these are the issues that matter in this case.

And yet, it seems that the lion's share of the attention, at least as far as I can ascertain, has centered around the fact that the ruling involved the legal decision to grant corporations the legal status of persons.  This was a 19th century decision, traced back to the Supreme Court case, Santa Clara County (home of Fordham University's "sister" school, Santa Clara University) v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company 118 U.S. 394 (1886).  According to the rat haus reality press website, which provides a page devoted to the case, it was the result of a clerical error or unauthorized addition.  Here's what they provide by way of preamble to the actual text of the decision:
This is the text of the 1886 Supreme Court decision granting corporations the same rights as living persons under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Quoting from David Korten's The Post-Corporate World, Life After Capitalism (pp.185-6):
          In 1886, . . . in the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a private corporation is a person and entitled to the legal rights and protections the Constitutions affords to any person. Because the Constitution makes no mention of corporations, it is a fairly clear case of the Court's taking it upon itself to rewrite the Constitution. 

          Far more remarkable, however, is that the doctrine of corporate personhood, which subsequently became a cornerstone of corporate law, was introduced into this 1886 decision without argument. According to the official case record, Supreme Court Justice Morrison Remick Waite simply pronounced before the beginning of arguement in the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company that
          The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of opinion that it does.
          The court reporter duly entered into the summary record of the Court's findings that
          The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteen Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
          Thus it was that a two-sentence assertion by a single judge elevated corporations to the status of persons under the law, prepared the way for the rise of global corporate rule, and thereby changed the course of history.  
          The doctrine of corporate personhood creates an interesting legal contradiction. The corporation is owned by its shareholders and is therefore their property. If it is also a legal person, then it is a person owned by others and thus exists in a condition of slavery -- a status explicitly forbidden by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. So is a corporation a person illegally held in servitude by its shareholders? Or is it a person who enjoys the rights of personhood that take precedence over the presumed ownership rights of its shareholders? So far as I have been able to determine, this contradiction has not been directly addressed by the courts.

 And yes, this equation offers up all sorts of confusions, contradictions, and uncertainties.  An article on the controversy in the online magazine Slate bears the title, The Pinocchio Project, and the subtitle, "Watching as the Supreme Court turns a corporation into a real live boy."  The Huffington Post, another online periodical, ran a humor piece entitled Supreme Court Ruling Spurs Corporation To Run for Congress:First Test of "Corporate Personhood" In Politics.   And here's what the most trusted man in America (since Walter Cronkite, at least in certain circles) had to say about it:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c

Supreme Corp

Daily Show
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Health Care Crisis

 Now, just to be clear about all this, the legal system does distinguish between a "natural person" (which is what the rest of us mean by "person") and "legal person" (which is the kind of person a corporation is deemed to be, as explained in the wikipedia entry on the subject), sometimes referred to as an "artificial person" as well.  A "legal person" is a "legal fiction" which in a sense means that it's a fictional person, I guess...

 So, person1 is not person2 after all.  Longtime readers of this blog (meaning anyone who read my last blog post, Be Very Afraid) may recall that this is an example of indexing, one of the extensional devices associated with general semantics, as a way to help us avoid the problem of identification that our language encourages.  

A legal person is not a natural person, it's all legal terminology that may confuse the rest of us, but not jurists, right?

Well, that's in question here, since the decision seems to be about extending to corporations the legal rights of natural persons.   As explained on the website called The Straight Dope, in response to the question, "How can a corporation be legally considered a person"

What most people don't know is that after the above-mentioned 1886 decision, artificial persons were held to have exactly the same legal rights as we natural folk. (Not to mention the clear advantages corporations enjoy: they can be in several places at once, for instance, and at least in theory they're immortal.) Up until the New Deal, many laws regulating corporations were struck down under the
"equal protection" clause of the 14th Amendment--in fact, that clause was invoked far more often on behalf of corporations than former slaves. Although the doctrine of personhood has been weakened since, even now lawyers argue that an attempt to sue a corporation for lying is an unconstitutional infringement on its First Amendment right to free speech. (This year, for example, we saw Nike v. Kasky.)

Unless lawyers and judges have some general semantics education, such as the esteemed Frank J. Scardilli, Esq., a longtime Trustee of the Institute of General Semantics who has discussed just these kinds of issues on many occasions, officers of the court are just as prone as anyone else to make erroneous identifications.  Call a corporation a person and you start to think of it as a person, and even if you started out with the distinction between the legal and the natural.  

Moreover, apart from the legal fiction, the very word corporation constitutes a metaphor of embodiment, the root corp meaning body, incorporation meaning to give the entity a body, to make corporeal.

Ordinary people to do not, ordinarily, think of corporations as persons.  We think of them as businesses, organizations, and several other things I cannot name here because Blog Time Passing is a family blog.  It's folks working in the legal sector that talk about corporations as persons, and are vulnerable to falling into the trap of identification, of thinking


when they should be thinking instead


 Legal logic, like symbolic logic, allows us to make equations that make perfect sense in that symbolic realm, that universe of discourse, that deductive system, but that do not match up to the reality that we know through our senses, and our common sense.  

The legal map does not correspond to the territory, and the response on the part of critics has been ridicule, and rightly so.

And so, we find ourselves asking questions, some serious, some laughable.

If a corporation is a person, can it be subject to criminal charges?  Actually it can, at least under some legal systems, although typically it's those natural persons who are corporate officers who are charged with crimes.  Corporations can be fined, and sued of course, but can they be imprisoned?  Can they be subject to capital punishment?  Perhaps by being dissolved?  Can they be arrested?

Can corporations vote?  Can they run for office?  Can they be drafted?  Are corporations citizens of a nation?  (They are, in a sense, the nation and state in which a corporation is incorporated.)  Can they immigrate and become citizens of another country?  

Can corporations marry?  The Jon Stewart segment suggests that the answer is yes, in the sense that they can merge.  So corporations can marry each other, but can they marry a natural person?  Could I marry Time-Warner, or Apple?  Could we have children together?  Well, maybe not in the biological sense, but maybe adopt?  Can a corporation be a parent, or legal guardian of a child?  (Isn't that what happened in the movie, The Truman Show?)

As persons, can corporations be owned?  Clearly they are, but does that make them slaves? Can they be freed?  (Many would say that corporations are our masters, not our slaves.)  We might well remember that there was a time when African-American slaves were not considered persons in this country, or at best 3/5 of a person.  Sadly, we have not always granted the status of person to all human beings. 

If corporations are artificial persons, does that mean that robots can also attain that status?  What is a corporation, after all, but a kind of intelligent machine whose parts include natural persons.  (I get this insight from Lewis Mumford, and for a foundational media ecology scholar's insights on this specific topic, see Peter Drucker's 1946 book, The Concept of the Corporation.)  It's science fiction, sure, but this line of legal thinking opens the question up, after all.

If corporations are, in a sense, fictional persons, can other fictional persons also have rights?  Like maybe Superman, Spider-Man, Mickey Mouse, and the like--except they are corporate trademarks anyway.  Maybe Santa Claus, or Johnny Appleseed, or Tom Sawyer, or Paul Bunyan?

No, no, this will not do, not at all.  I am reminded of a line from Kurt Vonnegut's novel, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.  In describing a fictional novel by the fictional novelist Kilgore Trout of a fictional future where suicide parlors have been introduced as a solution to overpopulation, he writes

One of the characters asked a death stewardess if he would go to heaven, and she told him that of course he would. He asked if he would see God, and she said: 'Certainly, honey.' And he said, 'I sure hope so, I want to ask something I never was able to find out down here.' 'What's that?' she said, strapping him in. 'What in hell are people for?'

 What in hell are people for?  It's a question we don't have to reserve for the afterlife, or for God, it's a question we can ask ourselves, right here and now.  

One of our central media ecology scholars, Walter Ong, described his philosophy as personalism, the philosophy of the human person.  And it certainly makes sense to me to say, forget about these categories of natural and legal persons, let's just talk about human persons.  And corporations are nothing more than extensions of human persons, meaning that they are inventions, technologies, media.

Of course, the whole reason why the doctrine of corporate personhood was adopted in the first place was to allow corporations to enter into contracts, to hire and fire employees, to buy and sell property, to be sued (which limits the liability of the stock holders and employees), and later to be subject to taxation.  

So, taking all that into consideration, if corporations are not called persons, what else might they be called?  What other entities, aside from persons, can enter into legal and economic transactions?  

The answer seems clear enough to me:  Sovereign entities.  States.  Nations. Governments.  Just as corporations are incorporated, made into bodies, states (along with other organizations) have constitutions, are constituted.  The parallels are quite clear, but also quite discomforting.  We quite rightly can be concerned, and fearful at the thought of the corporation as a sovereignty.  

But corporations already are states, in effect.  And rather than deluding ourselves with legal fictions of corporate personhood, let's work with the legal realities.  Let's talk about and think about and act upon corporations as nations.  We will be, sooner or later.  We can make treaties with corporations, and we can go to war with them if need be.

This would make for a map that would better correspond to the territory, and it may well mean that we'll need new kinds of maps as well.  A new way of looking at the world that we already are living in.  Korzybski, who was a severe critic of commericialism (see his first book, Manhood of Humanity) would undoubtedly approve.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Be Very Afraid

Are you afraid of the word beaver?  Would you be horrified if someone called you an eager beaver?  What would you think if you heard some British type making reference to someone beavering about?  Honestly, when you hear or read the word beaver, what comes to mind?  Is it this?

Or maybe this?

Or this?

Or this?

Actually, the beaver character in Disney's animated adaptation of Winnie the Pooh is named Samuel J. Gopher for reasons unexplained, and doesn't appear in A. A. Milne's original books (but was apparently taken from footage of a beaver character that appeared in Disney's Lady and the Tramp).  But I digress.

The reason I bring this up is a news story out of Canada last week, which UPI gave the headline of, Web forces Beaver magazine name change.  Now, I don't know about you, but I never read this magazine, never even knew that Canada has a Beaver magazine before, but that doesn't stop me from feigning outrage.  Here's the January 12th story out of Winnipeg, the town where Marshall McLuhan began his higher education (so you'd think they'd know better):

Canada's The Beaver magazine is changing its name after 90 years because of online pornography and spam filters, its publishers said.
Deborah Morrison, president of Canada's National History Society and the publisher of the history magazine, told the Canwest News Service the next edition would be renamed Canada's History.

Is this a case of internet scapegoating?   Maybe so, but it is not without precedent.  Back in 2001, when spam filters were not as prevalent as they are today, an American institution of higher learning, Beaver College, changed its name to Arcadia University.  Let me quote from the history section of the Wikipedia entry on this school:

The school was founded in Beaver, Pennsylvania in 1853 as Beaver Female Seminary. [boldface in original]

Yes, that's what it says.  Why?  What were you thinking?  And yes, there is a town, actually a borough of Beaver in Pennsylvania, situated on the Beaver River, and located in Beaver County.  In fact, it's the county seat, and there's nothing funny about that either.  Anyway, back to the old wiki:

By 1872 it had attained collegiate status, under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was named Beaver College. The school admitted men from 1872 to 1907, then again limited enrollment to women until 1972. In 1925 Beaver College moved east to Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. In 1928, the school acquired the current campus in Glenside. The college operated both the Jenkintown and Glenside campuses into the mid-1960s, when it consolidated all activities onto the Glenside campus. [boldface in original again]

So, what about the name change?  Well, read on:

In July 2001, upon attaining university status, Beaver College officially changed its name to Arcadia University. It was thought that a new name would emphasize the school's position as one of the top small institutions of higher learning on the East Coast, and would cement its change in designation from "college" to "university." The decision was also made in part to shed its association with the former commonly derided name. As then-president Bette Landman noted, "[The name] too often elicits ridicule in the form of derogatory remarks pertaining to the rodent, the TV show Leave It to Beaver and the vulgar reference to the female anatomy."

Bette's frank explanation was included in a news story archived at, written by Ron Todt, and entitled Beaver College Announces New Name.   Interestingly, the article say that "the decision was announced just after midnight at a surprise pajama party for students, who were rounded up from residence halls with less than an hour’s notice." No comment on that, please.  And after quoting President Landman, Todt went on to note

Beaver College has appeared on David Letterman’s Top 10 list. Conan O’Brien and Howard Stern have made jokes about it. And when Saturday Night Live writers invented an annoying film critic for a recent sketch, they made him a representative of Beaver College campus radio. 

The college’s own research shows the school appeals to 30 percent fewer prospective students solely because of the name. And the problems worsened with the rise of the Internet, since some Web filters intended to screen out sexually explicit material blocked access to the Beaver College Web site.

So, maybe we should be applauding Beaver magazine for holding out as long as it did.  Returning to the UPI story which was quoting President
Deborah Morrison of Canada's National History Society

"To be perfectly blunt about it, 'The Beaver' was an impediment on the Internet," she said. "Unfortunately, sometimes words take on an identity that wasn't intended in 1920, when it was all about the fur trade."

Morrison said research showed women and people under the age of 45 were most likely to dislike the magazine's old name and others were complaining their e-mail spam filters were blocking The Beaver's e-newsletters.

It is the second-oldest magazine in Canada after MacLean's, a weekly news magazine founded in 1905, the news agency said.

This post is starting to get tricky, you know?  I mean, here I'm writing about two women presidents presiding over two beaverish name changes, at a time when just saying the word beaver in the workplace can have you brought up on sexual harassment charges (no joke!).  And all I really meant to do was to call your attention to an essay by Colby Cosh, a Canadian writer, and an assistant editor at Canada's oldest magazine, Macleans.  The article, dated January 21, is entitled Le castor fait tout, which according to my very rusty French means something like the beaver does it all, or the beaver makes everything, or the beaver entirely, or something like that.  It doesn't matter, anyway, what's important is what Colby has to say:

I wonder if any of the other Macbloggers have been straining at their imaginations trying to find a PG-rated way to talk about the name change over at Canada’s second-oldest magazine. It took me a while to remember that General Semantics has an answer for this. So: The Beaver, now to become Canada’s History, was named in 1920 for what we’ll call beaver1, the rodent Castor canadensis. The periodical was obliged to make the change because of jokes about and search-engine confusion with beaver2, a colloquialism for an anatomical neighbourhood in the human female.

Aha, you may be saying to yourself, finally we get to the point, a reference to general semantics.  And yes indeed, Colby insightfully draws upon the non-Aristotelian principle of non-identity, the topic of my last post, What It Is.  And he brings into play the extensional device called indexing, which reminds us that words can have many different meanings, refer to many different "things" or phenomena or events, and also operate on different levels of abstraction (e.g., the beaver pointing to one individual vs. the beaver referring to the entire species).  Indexing is a device that is meant to remind us that different meanings of a word should not be equated with one another, that beaver1 is not beaver2.  And it is meant to remind us to be more precise with our language than we otherwise would be.  But, as was the case for E-Prime as noted in my discussion in my last post What It Is, indexing is not meant to replace the way we talk or write, but rather is an exercise to help us think more clearly and critically, much as it works here for Cosh:

Beaver1 is, for my money, the best of the popular symbols of Canadian nationhood. Unlike the maple leaf, which is utterly unknown west of Lake of the Woods, the beaver1 is ubiquitous throughout Canada, yet is integral to our history as seen from most regional standpoints. (I was well into my twenties before I saw an actual maple leaf. I had always assumed that the silhouette on the flag was heavily stylized; when I saw just how similar the real thing was to the icon, I almost fell down laughing—partly at my own ignorance.) Perhaps the beaver1 and the maple leaf are best understood as representing “Hamiltonian” and “Jeffersonian” aspects of the Empire of the St. Lawrence, the one signifier standing for the agrarian past of our dreams—hot sweets, home cooking, big families pounding taps into trees at sugaring-off time—and the other representing progress, engineering, and the industrial virtues.

Now, I find this rather fascinating, as I had no idea that the maple leaf was a symbol of the eastern elite (it seems Canada has east-west issues just as the U.S. does, Colby being from Edmonton, McLuhan's birthplace).  I did know that beavers were an important part of Canada's economic history, as detailed by Harold Innis, who was Canada's leading political economist as well as a foundational media ecology scholar.  Innis's study of Canada's fur trade, published in 1930 as The Fur Trade in Canada, is a classic in the field.

And the question of national symbol also rings a (liberty) bell--Benjamin Franklin advocated for the turkey, a bird only found in the new world, over the eagle, as the USA's symbol.  Of course, down here the decision was made before the end of the 18th century, whereas Canada did not adopt the maple leaf flag until 1965, when it became independent from Britain, sort of (the Queen of England is still Canada's Queen, and I'm told that Quebec never officially approved their constitution, so in a sense when they said on South Park that Canada is not even a real country, it was not entirely a joke).  So Canada's flag for most of its history was the Union Jack, as depicted in this image:

Notice that it is a beaver waving that flag.  The flag I remember from my early childhood was an interim flag known as the Red Ensign:

It is a rather handsome banner, with a nautical flair.  And of course, the flag that Canada adopted in 1965 was this one:

Well, as it turns out, while we don't have any flags with turkeys on them here in the U.S., we do have a beaver flag ourselves.  Sort of.  You see, the state flag of Oregon, whose state animal is the beaver, and whose nickname is "the beaver state" (wonder if they are considering changing that as well?), has a beaver on it.  Sort of.  Here's the official explanation from the Welcome to Oregon website:

State Flag - The state flag is navy blue, with gold lettering and symbols. Adopted in 1925, the flag has the legend, "THE STATE OF OREGON" on the face, written above a shield surrounded by 33 stars. The 33 stars symbolize the fact that Oregon was admitted as the 33rd state. The shield, which is part of the state seal, has the number 1859 written below it. 1859 is the year that Oregon was admitted as a state. The reverse side of Oregon's flag shows a beaver. Oregon is the only state in the union that has a different pattern on the reverse side of their flag.

And here it is, take a gander:

A blog post by New Zealander John Ansell entitled How to compromise your flag praises Canada for its single mindedness in adopting the maple leaf design, stating

I was looking for a flag with a beaver on it. Why?

So you could see what the Canadian flag might have looked like had lovers of their national animal had their way – and why it would be just as nutty to put a kiwi on our flag.

And what did I find? That the beaver is also the state animal of Oregon (the Beaver State!)

And that Oregonians must have been similarly split over having fauna on their flag, because they’re the only state to have a different design on each side.

This will be ammunition for the day – and it’s only a matter of time – when some helpful person suggests that a New Zealand flag have the Union Jack or silver fern on one side and the Southern Cross, kiwi or koru on the other.
Lest you think this discussion is getting badly derailed and otherwise, well, flagging, let's just say that the maple leaf and the beaver are both worthy symbols of national pride (I wonder what Canadian-born general semanticist S. I. Hayakawa thought about the matter?).  Well, what do you say?

And that sentiment extends to those of us down here in the U.S. too!

As our not entirely forgotten friend Colby Cosh puts it, Canada has a dialectic between the beaver and the maple leaf (oh no, what was I thinking?):

It would be a great shame indeed if one pole of this dialectic were broken and lost just because of the beaver2 metaphor. I almost feel that The Beaver, as in the magazine, has been derelict in giving up the fight. But it’s not my money. The brand could perhaps have stood up to any amount of silent snickering, but no media organ can afford to offer confusion to search engines and spam filters now. Google is a powerful, underestimated force for prosaicness: just ask any sub-editor who’s been ordered to re-do a charmingly cryptic headline and get rid of the cute irony.

So, we're back to blaming the internet, and Google, rather than blaming Canada, eh?  But perhaps the solution lies in some combination of general semantics and the semantic web?

As Google gets smarter, or when some more subtle Nietzschean über-engine displaces it, such problems should disappear. Natural-language computing will, sooner or later, be able to tell whether a searcher or questioner is concerned with beaver1 or beaver2. The funny thing is, the beaver2 metaphor may have long since disappeared by then, and the story of why The Beaver had to change its name may be an incomprehensible piece of trivia as far as the future is concerned. “Beaver2” is already an outmoded vulgarism, something I would expect to hear spilling out of the mouth of a person my father’s age rather than a 30-year-old.

An excellent point.  Languages change over time, the meanings of words evolve and some words become archaic, and slang changes especially quickly, being essentially oral rather than fixed in writing.  Egad!  Zounds!  Don't be such a ninnyhammer, blaggard, and winnit!  Okay, sorry, I'm interrupting, so back to Mr. Cosh:

And we all know why: beavers2 aren’t seen in photographs or on video with their defining pelt very often anymore. Feminine depilation has become the norm—certainly not in everyday life, but in the visual culture. As a consequence, in all-male environments of the sort signified by the “locker room”, the favourite metaphors of today emphasize different sensory aspects of the part in question. This is true even where the context involves a strictly visual encounter: the beaver2 is not only called that because of its fur, but also because a gentleman is invariably excited to have caught a glimpse of one, as it were, in the wild. (Think about Jim Bouton’s discussion in Ball Four of the baseball player’s “beaver2 shooting” hobby.)
And speaking of language, come on, we really have to hand it to Colby for the subtle way in which he is handling the subject, successfully discussing the subject in PG terms.  And he continues

While reports of the extinction of the beaver2 are much exaggerated, North America’s experience of sudden shifts toward leg and armpit depilation suggest that women will change their grooming habits to match the visual culture. And not in the “long run”, either, but in a matter of a few years. There is no evidence that there will ever be any mass anti-depilation backlash. If you are a traditionalist sort who has been waiting around for one, you have already been waiting quite a while. The arc of history bends toward bareness. (Indeed, it does so even when it comes to men’s bodies.)

This is actually a very insightful point that he is making, about the effect of what he calls visual culture on personal grooming.  I would just prefer to use the phrase image culture instead, because the contemporary media environment is not so much characterized by the ascendancy of vision, which after all is very much associated with reading, writing, and printing, as it is with the rise of graphic images via mechanical reproduction, photography, motion pictures, video, and now digital media.  McLuhan associates literacy with visualism (as does Walter Ong), while Neil Postman, Daniel Boorstin, Susan Sontag, Walter Benjamin and others concern themselves with 20th century image culture.  

And the depilatory phenomenon that Colby refers to strikes me as an extension of our overemphasis on cleanliness in American culture, antiseptic, antibacterial, antibiotic.  And deoderized as well--my first scholarly publication was a piece on media and the sense of smell where I suggested some of these ideas (it appears in the 2nd and 3rd editions of the Inter/Media reader edited by Gary Gumpert and Robert Cathcart).   Anyway, Cosh concludes with a question:

So it seems near-certain that we will, one day, be able to speak of the beaver1 without the suppressed giggles. But will it still be associated with Canada, or will the symbol have been irretrievably relegated to the semiotic landfill?

I suspect that Colby is right, and I wouldn't be surprised if the
beaver1 symbol is retrieved and reclaimed by Canadians at some point in the future, and maybe even by Oregonians and Arcadians.  But for now, these changes seem to suggest that we North Americans have the collective maturity of the Beavis and Butthead cartoon characters, speaking of which (and warning, the following contains obscene language and adult situations):

So, what is there left for me to say but, be afraid, beavery afraid, be very very afraid, and....