Nobody Likes A Critic




By Dick Pellek




The Mice once called a meeting to decide on a plan to free themselves of their enemy, the Cat. Something had to be done, for they lived in such constant fear of her claws that they hardly dared stir from their dens by night or day.

Many plans were discussed, but none of them was thought good enough. At last a very young Mouse got up and said:

"I have a plan that seems very simple, but I know it will be successful. All we have to do is to hang a bell about the Cat's neck. When we hear the bell ringing we will know immediately that our enemy is coming."

All the Mice were much surprised that they had not thought of such a plan before. But in the midst of the rejoicing over their good fortune, an old Mouse arose and said:

"I will say that the plan of the young Mouse is very good. But let me ask one question: Who will bell the Cat?"

Adapted from a Fable by Æsop (6th Century B.C.)



That lesson from a child’s fable makes a profound philosophical point.  If we want to feel safe from those who would do us harm, we should be aware of the sources of harm; and be prepared to do something pre-emptive to maximize our own sense of safety. 

This book is prompted by the thought that if we, as members of a pampered but distracted society, don’t see or hear the cat coming, we may become victims of our own technological conveniences.  When we have earplugs blasting out rap music, we won’t hear the cat; and when we mistake a stalking cat for a disguised snuggly pillow or a soft powder-puff, we may become victims of our own inattention.  If it looks like a cat, and meows like a cat; it might be a cat.  But if our adversary takes the trouble to disguise himself as a snuggly pillow but is really a cat on the prowl, we all can benefit from the warnings of those who know something about disguised intentions.




By Dick Pellek

Anyone surfing the Internet and stopping at the website “the 29th” is likely going to be confused about what that website is really about.  The yet to be completed on-line book that is part of the website menu gives us a hint.  The main objective can be discovered by scrolling through the menu items.  The electronic book that is a-building there is presumably about how exponential applications of communications in the modern world of computers affect us all.  Since the upcoming book being developed on-line is intended as an electronic book end product, it does not yet have a target date for publication, nor does it have a final title. Some 5-6 planned chapters have not yet been written. Thus, it would be a tentative gesture in making a satisfactorily complete or convincing critique about the disputed contents of the book, itself.  But I will try. 

As a sometime reader and writer of technical reports, I happened upon The 29th Day website when I was looking for specific information about biological processes, specifically how exponential growth greatly accelerates the maturation of a population of lily pads in a pond.  It was easy to find the information because state of the art search engines allow computer users to arrive at likely destinations in a few seconds.  All that is required is using appropriate key words.




In hierarchical searching, most search engines list the most visited or the most likely references first.  The process of searching for references is a convenience for users but is also a pitfall for those who settle on the first choice in the menu, as the only choice.  What you will get is the search engine equivalent of one particular point of view.  If you are unaware and uninformed, that first choice may also lead you to get a distorted view on any manner of issues.  What I was looking for was a precise description and explanation of exponential growth in a biological system.  What I got was something else.

Some 15-20 years ago, I had read the original book The 29th Day by Lester Brown, who later went on to become the Founder and President of the World Watch Institute.  What I found, however, at the top of the list of choices in a Google search, was a reference to a website with the URL address: The 29th To my knowledge, the registered owners of the website are not affiliated with Lester Brown or the World Watch Institute; nor do they have his blessings in presenting some revolutionary theories that are far afield from what his book was really about.  That was the first reaction I had when I  saw the initial results using the chosen keywords.

In fairness to Google, Inc. the universal popularity of their search strategy had led to the word “google” being added to our daily lexicon; and even embedded within the chemistry app. plug-in of my computer’s WORD software.  So, in the future, it may not be possible for me to override the choice of fonts in which the newly minted dictionary word “google” appears. Of course, an experienced practitioner can add the new word, or other selected words, to his/her own dictionary that is linked to their own word processing software.  One point that should be made right here and now is this: the sophistication of computers, computer software, and plug-in applications and/or capabilities sometimes results in presenting us with fait accompli constructions that we never intended, or were even aware of.

The unintended consequence is part of the bigger picture in computer technology. Although the application developers and software engineers may have intended only to be helpful, when they embedded only the Arial font (or other font) as their one and only choice to incorporate into the chemistry app. plug-in, it will forever result in a fait accompli construction within the documents that use that same plug-in feature, unless the computer user makes the effort to change it manually.  This is an example of software technology making a choice for us, without our prior acquiescence or perhaps knowledge.  The object lesson is purportedly also one that the author of the upcoming book on The 29th Day website is striving to elucidate.  For the moment, however, the tenor of this self-criticism chapter addresses the issue of why nobody likes a critic.  As a likely future critic of the unnamed book, I should put some context into my thoughts; or some thoughts into the envisioned context.




In my e-mails to the author, one of the first things I mentioned to him, an Internet stranger to me, was that it was not my intention to be critical of his book, I was just being myself when I reacted to what I saw in the draft chapters.  When anyone says, “I don’t want to seem critical, but….” it usually means that I am going to be critical, but I don’t want you to be mad at me for it.  There seems to be no easy way to be a critic and still have anyone like you.  That is perhaps why I decided to write this book—the one I never wanted to write, but the kind of a book I wished many times that someone else would write.  I’m well aware that anyone reading these lines might justifiably think, if I didn’t want to write it, then why did I?”  I don’t have an answer for that.  It may be that an instant knee-jerk reaction is part of my individual make-up; even if the reaction is justified or unexpected.  On the other hand, most of us recall times when we wish we had responded to someone as a way to make our true feelings known; or as a way to make our positions clear.

If you don’t stick your chin out, chances are that someone will not take a swipe at it.  But if you don’t speak up when the situation calls for it, you may be doing a disservice to the other person in the long run, while seeming to insult them in the short run.  As regards not speaking out about situations, your timidity or reluctance to speak out may perpetuate an injustice that affects others.  That is the dilemma that I have subconsciously considered since the days of hurt feelings in my youth.

Sometimes I was the one who got my feelings hurt, and I’m ashamed to say that sometimes I hurt the feelings of others. Hurting other people’s feelings lingered in my memory just as long as remembering my own bruised feelings.  So, irrespective of whether or not other people consider me as being insensitive, I do consider other people’s feeling.  Nevertheless, I think that speaking out is very often more important than fretting about what somebody might think of me or of the criticism, itself.  Anyone who knows me well also knows that I wish to focus on the content about which I criticize; and not to make personal attacks.  Protecting one’s dignity is important to me, despite what others may think my motives are.  Regrettably, I sometimes say things in a way that might offend. 

One other thing, the reason why I chose to write the bulk of my personal memoirs as tales told in the third person tense was because I wanted the readers to relate to the story and not to the teller of the tales. Likewise, my criticisms of written reports and other inter-personal activities that have had job-related or professional interest at their core have never been about the other person—they have always been about the subject matter.  Not that saying it will convince anybody:  the other party has always managed to be offended. 

If he could remain anonymous, the Footloose Forester who usually prefers the role of observer and nameless commentator might apologize and hope that the other party would somehow be less offended. In truth, I cannot remember anyone who was not personally offended. Furthermore, as much as I would like to be anonymous when cast into the voluntary or involuntary role as critic, there is another issue at stake.  Being a critic without credentials is one thing, but if the critic somehow comes across as having some standing in his/her profession; then by virtue of an informed opinion, the person receiving the criticism might benefit.  That is another risk worth taking.          






Having professional standing is not something that I ever sensed was something that belonged to me.  One might earn appropriate academic credentials and thus get unspoken acknowledgement from some people, but I never saw it that way.  As an outsider in most of my past jobs, assignments and postings; I always got the feeling that I had to prove myself at each and every stage. That is not something I begrudged the other parties.  Nobody should take themselves for granted; nobody should assume that they know it all; nobody should assume that their word will be taken as legitimate; and nobody should assume that someone along the way will not take on the role as antagonist. Nobody likes a critic. So casting yourself voluntarily as a critic is especially problematical because the other party likely will question your motives for speaking up when it is so easy to just shrug, walk away, and thus deter any two-way enmity.        

As this short book unfolds, I may get somewhat personal about my past experiences as a critic of others. Only in recent months have I come to realize that my style of writing might be described as emblematic of the “stream of consciousness” genre. I write what comes into my mind, first; then review and correct it later. That is why I sometimes offend others when my written words are not edited out before sending them along within some manner of communiqué.  One the other hand, there is no telling what may offend some people.

Once in a while I was chastised for being polemical or over-the-line. When I once made the comment to a superior that I did not get the courtesy of a written reply to a special report the Director commissioned me to write, the superior told me that I was over the line just saying that to him—the supervisor— in private.  The report itself was my volunteered critique about another commissioned study. The study itself spanned two years of effort; cost tens of thousands of dollars to fund; engaged the services of four people; and amassed data and information from four countries on three continents.

All of the authors of the report were present when I was invited to make my personal comments.  They seemed aghast when I commented that their findings did not square with the realities that I had personal knowledge of.  In short, I told them that what it said in their report had so many exceptions that were counter to their main thesis, that I could not acknowledge that it should be recognized as being representative of the full state of affairs. Two of them made a direct challenge to me to be specific about why I thought there were exceptions. 

The following day I again appeared before the assembled group of study report writers.  I handed over a typed list of 26 exceptions to their findings.  In addition, I told them that I had not planned to draw up a list on short notice; but what I listed was only about the more important exceptions that I knew about personally. Over the next several months, I came up with a few more legitimate exceptions to their main points, but only after I had the opportunity to check with other offices, and in other countries where I thought certain practices were different from those in my own office.  And, after two years, nobody ever came to my defense.

As far as I know, the intended final report that the study team had shown me as a draft was submitted to the Agency For International Development headquarters in Washington, D.C. without any change, whatsoever.  But since I never heard anyone say that it would be amended as necessary, I have to guess about how it was handled in Washington.  It might go without saying that I also never got a written reply. I was not looking to be a critic in that case of the review of the U.S. Agency For International Development Report on Management Practices; but I was asked to read it because its subject matter pertained to my class of employee; indeed, was the main focus of the report. During the first interview, I told the writing staff that they may not have asked the right questions; or sought out the people who might have given them some answers that they were tasked to incorporate. Such umbrage! They all seemed to be offended.  Nobody likes a critic, especially one who shows up just a few days before they were ready to wrap things up and go home.

During a TV interview between Charlie Rose and a Professor of Management at Harvard Business School in late December 2010, I tuned in late to catch just a few pearls of wisdom. Professor Clayton Christensen was making the point that he instructed his students at Harvard to ask the right questions.  He then paraphrased Albert Einstein with a reference in which Einstein said that 95% of the answer lies in asking the right questions about the problem.  He went on to say that even at the national level (in government) some key officials don’t ask the right questions.

Long ago, I learned a similar axiom: that if you don’t have the right answers, maybe you are not asking the right questions. Cliché enough, but a good cliché to remember. Part of my style of doing things has subconsciously included that particular cliché as one tool that might be appropriate for most jobs. The same thing applies to other clichés that I thought were worthwhile.  One example that fits the bill is this: if you know how to read but don’t read, you might be considered as functionally illiterate.  What is the point of learning how to read, and learning how to write, if you don’t read or write to the best of your ability?  Why would anybody choose to abandon useful tools that can do the job at hand, especially when those tools are the only ones you might have available?  If you see a job that needs to be done and you know how to do it, you should at least consider doing it. In the case when your career training  and professional society Code of Ethics demands it, you should act. Others are welcome to judge me, if they so choose.  But since I have not forgotten the spirit of the code of professional ethics to which I pledged, I will continue to be an activist in the manner that I think is expected of me.   

There are plenty of institutional critics out there.  The radio and TV political pundits are somewhat more abrasive than I would care to be, and some of them are outright insulting. Well known and nationally syndicated personalities often say things that are blunt, rude and too often so baldly fallacious that there seems to be an entire industry devoted to bashing the other side. Newspapers also get into the game of being the critic. Here is a direct reference from a recent editorial in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: 

“More than 1,000 editorials later, another year draws to a close. And it has been another year of this newspaper’s opinion and commentary pages and website being, as Benjamin Franklin noted in another era, ‘frequently censured and condemned by different persons for printing things that they say ought not to be printed.”   “…. But unlike old Ben, whose words come from a 1731 editorial in the Pennsylvania Gazette, we offer no apologies for our views.  For they have remained a steady and trustworthy beacon….”  [Ref. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review December 31, 2010.]


The same December 31 editorial goes much further in its tough talk, and should encourage the would-be critic. The editorial goes on to say,

“The Trib’s positions have been consistent and clear. Never have you found—nor will you find—weasel words masquerading as opinion here.  We tell it like it is.  And as the new year bows, we will continue to expose and opine on the mountebankery that’s sure to follow, be it around the nation, around the commonwealth, around the region or around the corner. If criticism is deserved—and sometimes stinging critiques we have offered—it will be delivered in the appropriate meter.  If praise is due—and praise, sometimes profuse, we generously have bestowed—it will be delivered in proper measure as well. But dissent, dear friends, must never be mistaken for disloyalty to the cause of finding solutions to our mutual challenges.  For we firmly believe that the negative consequences of unchallenged misguided “solutions” are a far greater threat to our liberties and fortunes than healthy dissent and robust debate even could be.”       

But there is more to the Trib editorial.  It goes on to wholeheartedly subscribe to Ben Franklin’s directive to “request all who are angry with us “on account of printing things they don’t like, (to) calmly consider these following particulars:”

▀   “That the opinions of men are almost as various as their faces…”

▀   “That the business of printing has chiefly to do with men’s opinions; most things that are printed tending to promote some, or opposite other….”

▀   “That it is unreasonable in any one man or set of men to expect to be pleased with everything that is printed…”

▀   “Printers are educated in the belief that when men differ in opinion, both sides ought equally to have the advantage of being heard by the public; and that when truth and error have fair play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter…”

▀   “That if all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed….”

The final thought in defense of the freedom of criticism, as found in the Trib editorial, was their commitment to fight the battle against avarice and contemporary inequities.  Battle against avarice and contemporary inequities?  What a great segue.  There are those who use the Internet to promote themselves and their ideas for avaricious purposes, while taking advantage of the inequities of their audiences to hoodwink an unknowing society at large.





Nobody likes a critic.  Many would-be writers like to think that they know their craft, so may think that they have little to learn from unknown or uninvited critics.  Even scientists who have distinguished careers are sometimes offended, or take umbrage when complete strangers on peer review boards tear into their cherished ideas. I remember the mood of a University of Hawaii professor who had already published over 100 scientific papers; the day he meekly walked into the classroom he was about to teach. Instead of getting right into the subject of Soil Chemistry, he paused in front of the class to teach us something we were not expecting.  Sorry, he said, if he seemed moody today, but the peer reviewers for his latest paper had rejected his manuscript. Did they know more about the subject matter than him?  I doubt it.  Was he being careless after more than a hundred publications in respected national journals?  I don’t think that was it, either.  Did he have a considerate and understanding attitude about the critics?  It didn’t show.  Was he happy or philosophical about the rejection?  No, certainly not….even if they were right. Nobody likes a critic.       

My biggest rebuff was not the team reaction when facing the writers in Nairobi who were commissioned to assemble an Agency for International Development Management Study. It was the ire I faced when I arrived in Washington, D.C. on a flight out of Nairobi, Kenya in regard to another project. I was surprised to see a two-person reception committee at Dulles International. They were not there to welcome me home, they were presumptively there to waylay me before I disappeared into town and hence become unavailable before they got in their licks.  A week or so previous to my arrival, I had been asked to comment on the draft of a report that had been sent to my Nairobi office.  The e-mail system in those days of 1990-91 was still experimental, but the system that USAID had chosen to test-market was so remarkable and so effective that it was possible to add an attachment of over 100 pages to the e-mail; and have the attachment fully printed out within 15 minutes of its arrival in Nairobi, 5,000 miles away. The attachment that some folks in Washington had assembled was a draft manual that the Washington counterparts had wanted me to review and comment about.

As the Regional Natural Resources/Policy Advisor, I was expected to respond. There were others who saw the report and perhaps were invited to comment, as well.  But they had asked me, so I made a review.  After the first 38 pages, I sent back an e-mail that said that I discontinued my review until such time as the authors considered a pretty thorough revision.  I also sent back a list of specific observations and objections about what I thought should be flagged.  So, the welcoming committee was not there to congratulate me for saving the Agency from more lost time before they released the manual; or for saving them the embarrassment of publishing a how-to-do manual full of unworkable and untested concepts.  No, they were there to complain to me personally that I was off-base.

At least 40 other organizations or governmental agencies, they claimed, had received and reviewed the draft document. None of them had any serious objections to the contents, so why should I?  “Sorry, I might have said, ‘you asked me to review it and then to provide my feedback. That is what I did, and you have my report.” Furthermore, I challenged them to dispute my findings. That included any person from any of the organizations.  I was prepared to show them where the non-functional parts were, but I never got anybody to take me up on the challenge.  But nobody likes a critic, so from that time forward they just ignored me.  Perhaps I was well on my way to becoming persona non grata.  On the other hand, more than two years went by and the manual was never released in its original form.

Why, some readers might wonder, am I so often in the middle of controversies when others who are in the same or related professions go about their affairs without seemingly getting embroiled?

The answer I offer may have something to do with the management style I choose to adopt. If asked to paint a picture to make my style clear, I would offer the analogy of an auto mechanic.  A mechanic fixes your car because he or she is interested in cars, but also because he/she knows enough about the workings of cars to be of service to those whose autos need repairs. Finally, most mechanics I know chose their line of work because the work appealed to them.  So although it does not take a mechanic to know when you have a flat tire; or it does not take special training to change a tire; being a licensed or certified mechanic takes some special skill. Certified mechanics take pride in knowing when your auto needs work; they know how to fix it; and enjoy job satisfaction when they fix it up to run like a top.  I’m like a mechanic who not only lifts the hood and kicks the tires with every job; and I pledged to do my job in accordance with a code of personal ethics.  But here is where the comparison ceases. Clients to the auto repair shop may complain about the final bill, but usually don’t complain about the mechanic, especially if he/she did the job that was expected; and did it right. Nobody likes a critic, even if he/she provides a service that is intended to make a project run properly, and with practical and needed components that serve purposes that are worthwhile.

Another painful recollection of past events comes from the days when I was the Senior Forestry Advisor in Haiti.  Where to start gives me pause.  I had my opposing critics in place even before I assumed the role of reviewer, writer and field monitor. Good thing I was armed with the attitude that I was not expecting anyone to take my word for it, whatever IT was; or for them to believe what was in my reports.  In a perverse way, it was flattering when people actually read my reports. That way I knew that I was successful in communicating;  and if they wanted to challenge what they read in those reports, it would further show that they has some interest in what I was doing and perhaps lead to the potential for further dialogue, hence an augmented level of understanding.  As I said, I seldom expected anybody to take my word for it, whether the idea was a verbal one or a written one.  Most colleagues over the years never showed much interest in what I was doing, so I went about my business as a lone wolf, most of the time.  They, or course, had their own jobs to do, so I didn’t make demands on them. But in retrospect, I must admit that it hurt when one of my supervisors stashed one of my official reports in his desk for more than a year and refused to release it to those about which it was written.  The supervisor didn't like my findings, so he stashed it in his desk and dismissed its contents.       

If there ever was an individual who appreciated the fruits of honest criticism, it may be a man I met in Haiti.  He was an employee of a Washington, D.C. consulting firm that specialized in executing international development programs.  His specialties were agricultural and forestry projects.  Although he worked for someone in Washington, he wanted me to read his proposal for an agroforestry project in Haiti.  When he asked, he simply said that he wanted my views because I knew what worked and what didn’t work.  He was a senior member of that proposal writing team, so his opinion carried some weight back in Washington.  At another time, and in another country, he reappeared on the scene, this time as part of a Project Mid-Term Review team.  Once again, he sought me out to be sure that I would be available.  As he said, he wanted me on the review committee because I knew (he thought) what worked and what didn’t work; and he did not wish to spend time and effort following weak concepts.    

Another supervisor, in another country, came into my office one day with a thick sheaf of papers that contained a proposal that was directed to him.  He was new, and so was his involvement in the project that was newly assigned to him.  Since I had worked on that project for more than a year, I was happy to review the proposal that would add a few million dollars to the operating budget of that project in Malawi. I have no idea how long he took in reviewing the proposal before handing it over to me; but after about three days of reviewing, the comments I made in “red pen” were numerous. He casually walked into my office and asked me, every so cavalierly what I thought of the proposal. My considered reply was, “there are significant parts of it that are unworkable.” My new supervisor immediately set the tone for our future relationship when he then said to me, “yes, I think so too, but I would have said it in a more diplomatic way.”  Unless I am completed unhinged, I would wager my past and future reputation on calling him out as being disingenuous at that moment.

Not only did he not read deeply enough into the text of 50-60 pages, he probably did not understand most of what he was reading.  That is why, in all likelihood, he asked me to review it. My answer was not designed to assuage the sensibilities of the Malawian proposal writers; it was intended to protect the interests of the American taxpayers by giving an honest assessment about what I thought was an unworkable proposal.  But nobody likes a critic.  Many USAID supervisors sometimes act like they are obliged to honor the proposals from host countries, irrespective of whether  they make sense or not.  I saw my role as making judgments on proposals and other project documents,  as I saw them.  If I thought that they were worthy proposals, I said so;  and if I thought that they were unworkable I made it a point to describe, for the record, how and why they should be flagged.





It is not my intention of discouraging others, merely to caution them that people like me are justifiably skeptical of new theories. The issue is not that we distrust everything new; it is more a case of wondering what to make of an idea that is entirely new to us. When the new idea is presented as a theory, it does elicit a modicum of attention that should include the formulation of questions in the mind of the reader.  New facts about old issues may not elicit questions in our minds because we all already carry within our brains some level of knowledge or understanding that makes the new facts easier to accept at face value. Since the new theory of CIC found at the 29thDay website is about concepts that few people think about, there is no prescient face value as part of process.  An analytical thinker will ponder and question as he/she reads along.  In the process of learning what it is all about or supposedly to be about, the analytical thinker may inadvertently become a critic when he/she wasn’t intending to be.

After many decades of reviewing hundreds of documents about concepts that were largely untested or previously unchallenged, it was quite natural of me to approach the theory of CIC with a healthy dose of skepticism.  That is not to say that some of the ideas are not valid; or that some of the examples used are not legitimate ones.  What I find myself thinking and questioning is whether or not the ideas and their supporting examples carry enough originality and scientific importance to place CIC on the pedestal of new discoveries in social and/or communications science.  Also as a consequence of decades of reviewing the raw texts of others, I am inclined to make notes and scribble comments—one line at a time.

Many times in the past, my employer or supervisor instructed me to make my review with precisely that approach.  It was called the “red pen and ruler” approach.  Use a ruler to keep track of where you have been; and to keep you from getting distracted from the message within that sentence.  Then, use a red pen to note that you had been at that line; and to signify that perhaps you had gotten a reaction strong enough to make a red mark or notation.  Although I had heard some people discuss that method of reviewing documents, I think it was a US Army Major in Viet Nam who was the first one to tell me to my face that he was going to use that technique in reviewing the Dust and Erosion Control Plan that I was writing for his boss, General Parker.

Just as reviewing a project proposal could be started by using the red pen and ruler techniques, the crafting of the resulting critique combined the assemblage of individual comments, corrections and suggested alternatives.  Line by line notations recorded in red pen had to be re-evaluated and packaged into coherent themes not only to strengthen the case for improvement and greater acceptability of the entire proposal, for example; but during the process to also highlight the weaknesses.  Too many cumulatively negative notations might lead to rejection of the proposal.  Although the author or authors of the proposal might have put their best talents into the document, you—as reviewer—had to offer your criticism, if it was warranted. Writers who thought their ideas were superior to yours took offense at your criticisms; and very few writers over the years bit their tongues and made the changes without grumbling. It was a case of one person or group pitting themselves against the reviewer. The proposal writers were tasked to produce a workable document; and the reviewers were expected to accept or reject the document, at least at the draft stage.

During one project review in Cape Verde, I was mentioned by name in the review because I was one of only two full-time counterpart participants in the project. It was a mid-term review of the Watershed Management Project, a relatively inexpensive foreign assistance venture whereby the US government made Food for Work funds available in return for local participation in erosion control activities. Four or five members made up the mid-term review team.  They were the ones who were commenting on a project that was geographically outside their own areas of personal experience. Only one team member had been in Cape Verde before.  But they crafted their evaluation of the project based on what they learned though field interviews, and the work activities on the ground.

When they completed the draft report, they asked two USAID staff members and we project “officials” to make our own comments. The Program Manager, the ranking USAID person in charge, made two written comments. The USAID Project Manager gave three written comments. My colleague, who spent every day as an implementer of that project; and at various locations, contributed six written comments. Some of my 54 comments were probably not well received.  Nobody likes a critic.  There was no point in stopping at a dozen or so comments, because a full reading  resulted in a full complement of insider remarks, as my concept of thoroughness demanded of me. Some of the comments led, nonetheless, to changes in wording in the text of the final report; and helped the writers to understand the project from my point of view.

When it is time to speak up, you can choose to speak up and thus make positive changes for the future.  My being judged harshly as an entirely negative stereotype of a development worker was always a possibility, and I stuck my neck out plenty of times.  But my career involvement did not ever include agreeing with the other party, just for the sake of getting along with them.  Putting truth first was always the goal.    





Defining CIC has been an effort of the principal author, G.L. Berry, to make comprehensible the main elements of a process that presumably has three vital links: Creativity, the individualistic starting point that amasses and mobilizes both the best and worst elements of human intelligence; Information, the middle link that transmits the products of human intelligence along a world-wide network to the end users at the end of the chain, the Communication link.  With all due respect to the authors, I find so much of the CIC concept so unfocused that my initial reactions about it led immediately to me wanting to rebut certain statements. To restate something I wrote early in the process; it was not my intention to be a critic, but I just could not stand idly by and let yet another untested, unsubstantiated and potentially fallacious idea become a self-published work of non-fiction.

In this modern world of instant communications, transmitting ideas around the world in mere seconds is not hyperbole; it is a fact that brings a greater importance to its power. Transmit the pure truth, and everyone in the world who has access to receiving the message can, in principle, know that truth.  Transmit falsehoods, even if they are thought to be truths, and the result would be the same.  In my view, given the power of the Internet, I did not want a falsehood enshrined forever in cyberspace.  Potentially everyone in the world who has access to the ideas might be receiving a falsehood. 

Therein lies the potential danger to making use of television, radio, telegram, telegraph, and the Internet to transmit ideas. In deference to author G.L. Berry, he is on the right track in recognizing that information transmittal has become exponential at a rate that nobody seems to be tracking. Unfortunately, some of the modes of transmission cannot easily be regulated. As powerful and as sophisticated as television and radio are, the messages emanating from the sources in the first C node can be edited, reviewed, approved and then transmitted through the I node of information.  That does not mean that they are going to be entirely truthful; that only means that the collective ideology behind the decision to transmit that message, or a suite of thematic messages, rests with a group of individuals who act in concert to connect with their audience.

On the negative side of the realities, the monitors of information transmittal systems have the power to interrupt the flow of ideas in the short run.  When civil turmoil in Egypt erupted at the end of January 2011, a television newscaster in Cairo reported that the Internet had been taken down, temporarily; and that cell phone service was interrupted, with as few as six phone calls. This amounted to the authorities turning off the switch that let the light of information shine upon Egypt.

Building an audience base is also a conscious decision on the part of those who seek to gain some kind of advantage for themselves, for their employers or sponsors; and even for political parties that use the airwaves to preach their messages to the world. That is where the main differences exist between users of the technologies who wish to inform, instruct and to entertain without regard to personal agendas and political philosophies; and the manipulators of the technologies who know how powerful and pervasive modern communications can be.  Make no mistake, persons at one end of the political spectrum distrust what is transmitted by those at the other end of the spectrum. It matters little on which side, left or right, the receivers of the information stand in their personal views; if you listen solely to the views transmitted from the left, those views seldom seem favorable to the right.

On the other hand, if you listen or watch the messages only from those on the right, or more specifically by commentators who align themselves with the right, you will hear different interpretations. Both left and right have access to the same powerful tools to transmit to the world.  The receivers of information are left to decide what is true and what is not; what is a fact and what is an opinion; and then decide for themselves what ideologies they want to accept. Unfortunately, some modern technological gadgets lull us into making up our minds. For example, the keyboardless iPad has an embedded bias that leads to passive consumption of what we see on the screen.  [Ref. Newsweek, 24 Jan. 2011, p.42].

The most important point, perhaps, is that too many people don’t make distinctions between facts and opinions.  Cable television has lots of “shows” that may start with factual events and then spin the content into ideological points of view.  We need to know and to understand the differences between news programs that don’t take political sides when reporting the news; and the cable TV programs that use news events to craft and elucidate political points, that favor either the left—or  favor only the right.

It is too much fun for me, personally, to pick apart and make fun of the gaffes of politicians. Would that mean attacking them as individuals and thus damaging their dignity?  No, I don’t think so.  They are the ones who go on camera and in front of the bright lights of TV studios to make points for themselves and their causes.  And they have producers and editorial staffs backing them up.

A former president of the United States went in front of the TV cameras, looked directly into the eyes of the vast audience and… and lied to us.  He did not get away with it and was eventually impeached by his peers in Congress.  But his motive to lie to us was based on a personal issue that did not have our national security or well-being at stake. His lies damaged himself, not us.  I’m much more fearful about politicians who deceive and lie to us on a regular basis; and use CIC principles to control the situation for present or future political gain.

As individuals, or as members of a team intent on deceiving and/or lying to the audience, the collective Creativity capacity of its coterie is far above what we might expect of any individual.  A team of a thousand informed, schooled and committed scientists at the C node is a stronger force than a single lonely voice of an unschooled, misinformed and untruthful commentator. Yet, when a fanatic who nevertheless possess some plausible level of creativity, has the wherewithal to access the Information node to a wide audience, to some it may seem like his/her ideas are equally compelling.  The authors make that point; that CIC can be used for good or for evil, but it seems so obvious that it neither makes a case for CIC as a plausible theory; or even a good argument that CIC is an unrecognized reality.  To make my point that CIC does not yet deserve to be accepted as a theory, I will use another analogy:  guns, the ownership of guns, the use of guns, and the consequences of firing guns.

Getting a grip on CIC as a legitimate theory is the task of the principal authors. As a doubter of its validity as a concept that rises to the level of presumptive theory, I will make use of substitutions.  Instead of the creative products or ideas of individuals and groups that reside at the first C node in CIC theory, I will substitute guns instead of creativity.  Big guns, small guns, exposed guns and concealed guns; they all have their own characteristics and implicit ways that a creative individual can employ them—for good or for evil. Although guns are physical objects and; presumably the Creativity node of CIC theory has only abstractions as products, the innovators with creative intelligence can transmit the information from their first C locus, through the I locus and on to the end-users of guns in the other C locus. Transmitting the pictures of guns, diagrams of how to conceal them and where to obtain them; might be construed as merely sharing information, an abstract product....but when three-dimensional CAD diagrams of guns are put into three dimensional printers....a reasonable facimile of a gun might result, all thanks to CIC principles.  




How Can We Make Use of CIC?

Many great ideas have catchy phrases and acronyms attached to them, the better to recall the essence of the ideas, themselves. Thinking of Einstein leads us to think of atomic energy, of genius, and the most celebrated equation in the world of science.  Even grammar school children know the formula, E=mc2.  Likewise, just saying MIT or UCLA has built-in connotations that have wide ranging implications.  On the other hand, getting society to relate to CIC will be an uphill battle, made more difficult by critics like me who doubt that the precepts behind the fundamentals of CIC are sufficiently rigid to make them palatable.  Making the case with specific applications of how and why CIC works is one thing; but if there are enough examples of where and why it does not work; other critics might then make light of its inconsequential attributes.  Having the idea of CIC catch on will require broad popular agreement.

One other criticism of CIC theory that I had, and still have, was the fact that the principles of exponential function was not a new idea.  Although it may be argued that most people do not think exponentially, it should not be forgotten that literally millions of people have at least been exposed to educational experiences in which exponentials have been part of the instruction.  For example: bookkeepers, bankers, actuaries, economists and financial analysts have all been exposed to compound interest and how it predominates in their careers.  Likewise, biology and ecology students have learned about exponential functions as related to growth of organisms. In my opinion, at least 80 million people in professional careers have a clear understanding of what exponentials are all about; and what might be at stake where exponential growth is an operating mechanism. On the other hand, not enough people in positions of authority seem to have a deep appreciation for the ins and outs of exponentials; or do not consider the negatives in a systematic way.  An anonymous source puts it this way:

The greatest shortcoming of the Human Race is the inability to understand the Exponential Function!....Check out this table.  If you have a non-renewable resource that will last 10,000 years at a stable rate of use, it will last only 462 years if the rate of use increases by 1% a year.  And if use increases by 10% a year, the same resource will only last for 69 years.


Lifetimes of non-renewable resources for different rates of growth of consumption.

Except for the left column, all numbers are lifetimes in years.


Lifetime of Resource in Years































































































0% annual growth = “at current rate of consumption”






Checking the Facts

With the Internet maturing into a vital source of information that can easily be bookmarked for future reference, challenging opposing points of view has become much easier.  Some would say it has become exceedingly easy.  The paragraph below was lifted from a daily political blog, the Huffington Post.  People who think that what it contains is merely partisan bias must also consider that the number of cross references in the full article makes outright dismissal almost impossible.  Every partisan will have to contend with such challenges because such potential challenges will not go away.  Furthermore, the average computer user who knows how to highlight text and then attach it to the Microsoft Word clipboard, for example, becomes a force to be reckoned with. You don’t have to have a personal knowledge of the events found in the blogospheres of the Internet; you just have to know how to isolate the relevant points; highlight them; attach them; and add them to your own argument.  When it comes down to it, the use of cross-references to research an issue is an application of an exponential process. 

Of course, the process can be used to seek out and strengthen the truth of an argument; or it can be used for devious purposes to smother the truth by burying it under a mountain of sophistry. Different points of view do matter, so it becomes important on a daily basis to be willing to challenge opposing arguments—because they are ever-present.  Consider the following point-counterpoint exchange, lifted by a mouse click from an Internet blogsphere: 

That’s the difference between Olbermann and his Fox News counterparts. When Beck claims that radicals in the Obama administration want to kill 10 percent of the American population and overthrow the U.S. government, or Sean Hannity uses bogus footage to exaggerate attendance at a Tea Party event, or Fox News hosts give credibility to those claiming that the health care reform law included “death panels” or that the president wasn’t born in the United States, they are not shining a light on anything.  Instead, they are using the cloak of “the press” to lie, exaggerate and use innuendo as a way of promoting an agenda.

Huffington Post, January 25, 2011


Of course, using Internet technology to make political points seemingly makes second-person experts out of people who may not have any personal skill in journalism, or a flair for writing.  To that end, however, we might all become better informed and better educated.  On the other hand, the propensity toward deceiving the other party does not go away.  There is always the option to change what was written or reported and to substitute a bogus blog in the place of the original.  It would be doubly sinister if we were unaware that it was done that way.

Another contentious argument about growth and the manifestations of growth rates can be found in the works of Julian Simon (1909-1997) who pontificated against the main tenets of Thomas Malthus. The essential points made by Malthus are also available on-line; thus easily assembled for review.  From the Doomslayer blog comes this passage:

The classical case against population growth was expressed in 1798 by Thomas Malthus, the British economist and country parson who wrote in An Essay on the Principle of Population: "Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will show the immensity of the first power in comparison of the second."

As a point of abstract mathematics, there is no way around the conclusion that a geometric progression, if carried on far enough, will eventually overtake an arithmetic progression, no matter what. If population increases geometrically while "subsistence," or food, increases arithmetically, then sooner or later the population will run out of food. End of story.

Or so it would appear, except for the following embarrassing fact: "Population has never increased geometrically," says Simon. "It increases at all kinds of different rates historically, but however fast it increases, food increases at least as fast, if not faster. In other words, whatever the rate of population growth is, the food supply increases at an even faster rate."

Another long-winded argument proposed by Julian Simon and picked up by his devotees in the website makes several convincing points.  Simon backed up his assertions with tables and graphs that might persuade any potential reader that he was on the right track and the Malthusians were in error. I do not disagree with much of what Simon has published, but do wish to state emphatically that he is comparing oranges to oranges when he cites only resources and biological entities in making his case. All of the examples, to my knowledge have exponential features hidden within their possible explanations. On the other hand, the depletion of non-renewable resources such as minerals do not conform to his outlook.  Although the decline of non-renewable resources follows mathematical precepts that also have exponential possibilities, as shown in Table I above, a systematic diminution of any given resource is not inevitable if people stop mining those minerals.  That is to say, the rates of depletion will change if we, as the decision makers among species, choose to alter our approaches to resource use.  We create and use substitutes, when necessary, or feasible.


                         CHAPTER 8               

Our opinions of things may come from within us, but nearly everyone would confess to being influenced, to some degree, by others. It helps greatly if we form our opinions based on searching out the facts, consulting the writings and research of others; and then distill the main lessons we perceived in those searches for information into opinions that are worthwhile.  It might be said that everyone has an opinion, yet I will always give more credence to the opinion of a professional than to some off-the-cuff remark by someone who obviously has not done a lick of checking around.  Learning how to sound intelligent—in my opinion—depends in part on having a point of view that does not sound too outlandish.  We should be able to provide context for our opinions, not just spout them.  People who express opinions ought to be able to explain the basis for that opinion.  And that takes becoming informed, even for the simplest of opinions.

Besides, if you are challenged by someone who might have a different opinion, you may be able to influence them enough to win them to your side.  Furthermore, that person may then alter their viewpoint to the point of sharing your point of view, the next time the subject comes up. 

Forming opinions, crafting an editorial, or bolding expressing your view to the general public does involve a rational process.  One local newspaper in Pittsburgh devotes a computer link to a page where would-be editorial writers are guided on how to craft an editorial.  Excerpted below is the original text from that page.  Since accessing the source is easy with built-in search engines, and transporting the text in toto is accomplished in seconds with a click of a mouse, the text could easily to associated as the opinion of the person importing the text. Such is the danger of drawing conclusions, in the case that the person doing the importing does not agree with the ideas. On the other hand, borrowing the ideas of others is perhaps the most fundamental way by which people form their opinions.



By Reg Henry
Post-Gazette Deputy Editorial Page Editor

It starts with an idea.

The idea is considered, challenged, argued and researched. Before long, it becomes a full-blown opinion - ready to be written down as an editorial.

If only editorial writing was as easy as it sounds! Before impressing you with how difficult it is, and how clever I am, and thus how much I need a raise, let me first define my terms.

Unfortunately, people often would confuse Editorial Writers with, well, editorial writers. Just so life won't be too simple, the term "editorial" is both specific and general in common usage.

I am an editorial writer in the strict journalistic sense; that is to say, I am one of those who writes the unsigned opinions that appear under the paper's masthead on the Editorial Page.

These editorials are not to be confused with the products of the lower-case editorial department, the majority of journalists on the paper who report the news and are obliged to keep their opinions out of it.

My job is to get opinions in it. These sort of editorials - the topic of our discussion today - typically tell the president what is wrong with the country, or tell the country what is wrong with the president (i.e., he won't listen to our editorials).

And where do we get these ideas about the president (or, for the matter, about anything else that becomes a subject of an editorial)?

To the Immortal Bard, all the world was a stage. To the mortal editorial writer, all the world is an editorial idea.

Ideas for editorials are everywhere. They can be found in a walk down the street, in a private conversation, at meetings, or in a play or film. They appear in the morning mail (and e-mail), in books, in magazines, on TV and especially in the newspaper.

These ideas are presented at the editorial page conference, usually held daily, Monday through Friday. We decide at this conference what editorials will be written and what they will say.

Of course, no one has to write anything that offends against individual conscience. But in practice, because we agree generally on broad principles, that situation rarely arises. Indeed. Sometimes writing an editorial opinion that is not a perfect reflection of one's views is a stimulating intellectual exercise.

As I say, it all begins with an idea. Let us suppose that in the Post-Gazette this morning there is a story about the proverbial widget factory shutting down in the face of stiff foreign competition. The threat from foreign widgets being real, there is an idea here for an editorial.

At the editorial conference, I will suggest widgets as a topic. I will give my point of view, whatever it may be, and all the others will have their say - pro or con. In the process of this often-spirited debate, the Post-Gazette's past positions will be recalled. Each editorial inherits a past, and we don't just break with past opinions without very good reason.

Eventually, we reach a consensus. Now it is time to start the real work.

The chances are that because I suggested this subject I may also know something about it. All of us stake out various areas of interest and try to gain some expertise in those fields. (Me, I'm the widget man.)

The first thing I do is to log on to the P-G library and call up past stories on the subject.

The next step will be to go to my own files. Every day position papers and fact sheets from numerous organizations arrive in the mail, and the important ones are read and filed away. Perhaps something in there will give a bit of extra background, or suggest a name to call.

Despite the caricature that is favored by the average city-room reporter, the phone is not an exotic instrument to editorial writers. You cannot know too much about a subject, and this often means calling people you may end up criticizing. Not only is this fair; it also may mean discovering something that changes the intended thrust of the editorial. When at last I believe that I thoroughly understand the subject, it is time for my personal ritual of sweating and going to the watercooler. In other words, it is time to start writing.

Editorials representing the view of the paper should be the best written pieces in the paper. They should be clear, thought-provoking, well-informed, reasonable and decent. Ah well, that's the goal anyway.

A technical problem that plagues the craft is exposition: Editorials are opinion pieces, yes, but people must be given enough facts in an editorial to know if the opinions are well-grounded. You cannot assume that people know enough about widgets; you must tell the story of widget-making even as you comment upon it. The trick is not to lose the point of the editorial among the mass of details.

The writer also must decide what the purpose of the editorial is. While editorials must not be wishy-washy, not all of them can cry out for unequivocal and dramatic change. Some editorials take note of things as a matter of record, others seek to place continuing news events, which unfolds as a series of snapshots, in an understandable context. Still others merely try to amuse.

The subject often suggests the tone, which is all-important to a successful editorial. People don't like to be lectured, they don't like to be patronized, they don't want pomposity. An emotion like anger has its place - but it can easily be overdone. If you thunder every day, you will rain on your own arguments.

So finally, it is done and ready to be printed. If you don't like the final product - sob, gasp - that's not the end of the world.

Ultimately, it's all a matter of opinion.   [Ref. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 28 Jan. 2011]



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Nancy Bauman on Wednesday, 03 August 2022 08:48

Your post is quite interesting, but exist a few aspects I'm not ready to agree with. The critique might be useful too. It may help the person to develop. I would like to advise people who feel hesitant about their works to use assignment writing tips there you will find many suggestions on how to conduct a quality research paper.

Your post is quite interesting, but exist a few aspects I'm not ready to agree with. The critique might be useful too. It may help the person to develop. I would like to advise people who feel hesitant about their works to use [url=]assignment writing tips[/url] there you will find many suggestions on how to conduct a quality research paper.
Dick Pellek on Wednesday, 03 August 2022 12:27

After several years in print, I don't know if I should be flattered by your comment, or disappointed that you are the only one who ever made comment. In any case, thanks for speaking up.

After several years in print, I don't know if I should be flattered by your comment, or disappointed that you are the only one who ever made comment. In any case, thanks for speaking up.