The Media Loves You
Forget the Set
There was a time when our journalists were heroes. There still exist heroic journalists. But the machinery behind them that puts news in front of our eyes to the exclusion of all else and saturates our ears is untrustworthy. It cannot be just me. I no longer have a clue as to what is going on. Neither do you. I could, if I wanted, turn on the television, watch the news, and pretend that I was gradually being brought up to speed. But the stories are selected from a hidden batch. What news lies unnoticed, disregarded, on the cutting room floor, or in an envelope marked "for your eyes only"? It might be worth knowing, but only if you want a life style that incorporates the news. For some time, I have been toying with the idea of deliberately remaining ignorant. The idea originates in religious, otherworldly thought, but can be adapted by the secular to increase the quality of life. In a brave new future, people might learn to pay no attention whatsoever to the news or anything else that might deflect them from their own guarded self-interests. Do you have anything to do with the latest murder? A bombing ten thousand miles away? An epidemic in a third world country? A politically incorrect comment with the microphone on? Why chase after these news items? True enough, blissful ignorance, though happier, is not held in high esteem. Perhaps a reevaluation is in order. But there is more to it than that. At present, government and citizens move in two different directions, well out of sync with one another. The government is obsessed with both making and controlling the news. But the individual, unless his or her livelihood depends upon keeping up, can get along without. To turn aside from national gossip and assorted local drivel is a free choice, of course, as well as one that has the potential to liberate the chooser from being susceptible to yet another high-tech addiction. Whatever it is that news programs hope to accomplish by telling us bits and pieces of random information is also unlikely to lead an individual anywhere. Why not wear a blindfold and have the neighbors twirl you around? News only gives way to more news, ad infinitum. In other words, the rebellious, anti-news individual's goal is to redefine himself or herself apart from the media. It seems possible, if farfetched, that the individual, with the help of programmed computerized gadgetry, can create his or her own, unique world, thus transforming the virtual into the genuine article.
What Just Happened?
It is not just television. It is our own eyes and ears. We cannot accurately determine what we think we just saw or heard. This being the case, why give audience to professional guesswork? In other words, there has never been a better time to simply turn one's back on the world defined, embellished, and practically speaking, owned by the media. Relatively speaking, it is not important to know who is President nor what year it is. In fact, 2014 could be the year, or the next one, for a mass movement away from television-based reality. Will we eventually wind up huddled in caves? Confined behind barbed wire? Who knows? I do not think so. But the first step is to simply not know what is happening. I can think offhand of many things not to know, since I already do not know them. I do not know the most popular, current songs. I do not know the names of the most popular video games. I never follow a single television program, so there are a vast number of famous actors and well-known plot material that I am unaware of. I do not know all the U.S. Senators and Congressmen or Congresswomen. I do not have to know, if I so choose, who won either the last World Series or Super Bowl. I am ignorant of the latest badmouthing parceled out to select audiences on regional television shows. I would know even less if I did not exercise at a gym with numerous television screens. I could easily do without them and other useless transmissions of knowledge so-called. All in all, I can, in addition, safely testify that none of my own self-imposed ignorance causes the least suffering.
The News for News's Sake
What do the Critics Say?
This time, I'm really asking. It has been a long time since I studied Erik Barnouw's Tube of Plenty. At that time, I was in film school, overawed by the two not-mutually-exclusive screens, movie and television. But if it turns out that the news medium is more art than craft, then what, hypothetically, would television art critics think? What they say might be interesting enough to grant purveyors of television shows a magical reprieve. The artistic angle applied to television seems legitimate. News is not news; it is art. It is not information so much as spectacle. It is also routine. Its reliability in terms of daily broadcasts creates a sense of security, however false. Someone is watching. Someone is analyzing. Someone is doing all this, ostensibly, for you and me. But as an art form, which is what I think the news will eventually come down to, as it is gradually and systematically repudiated by the privileged, oligarchic inner circles, what would art critics think? Would they give certain broadcasts a thumbs up for keeping one's interest even if they had no substance?
An Air of Unreality
Since the idea of the virtual came into existence, it has gradually seeped into the mainstream. As everyone knows, hardly any pictorial recreation maintains total integrity when it comes to holding up a mirror to reality. Video, for instance, can be raw or doctored. Either way, the viewer is absolutely helpless to determine its authenticity. Is it real? Is it fake? What is just outside the frame? It never seems to fetch attention. What does? A batch of love letters is found. An elephant gives birth in a zoo. An army marches against another army in a country far away. Someone wins a lottery. Contraband worth millions of dollars has been confiscated. A nabob has allegedly been caught cheating on his or her taxes. A pillar of society enters rehab. Another pillar of society decides to run for office. Yet another pillar of society dies suddenly. The viewer never knows what to expect or why any given story has merit. It is knowing merely for the sake of knowing. There is no way to critically engage what is presented before one's eyes. It is simply there. But what about the whole story doled out in miniature bites? Without any intentional manipulation at all, it is incomplete -- which is to say unintentionally manipulated. The news is now on a level with a ouiji board. It is, almost by definition, as well as by its own unique nature, lacking in integrity. Thus, rather than make the world a more open place, yet smaller and cozier, news driven plasticity has only succeeded, or succeeded best, in making the screen much more opaque. In other words, there is no longer a window to the world so much as a window. What kind of window dressing do you like? Showing something real or imagined makes little difference. It is the representation alone that achieves relevance, not what it refers to -- which may or may not contain so much as a kernel of truth.
Know Thyself a Little More
Your Latest Thoughts -- The New News
Jiddu Krishnamurti and his bunch have probably by now gone over this subject with a fine tooth comb. But this is Western philosophy, too. More important than the latest read-all-about-it are your own rumblings within. How do you feel about subjects that are not topical, not the basis of a highly touted documentary, not researched by pollsters, and now marketed to the hilt? Why not stop watching a favorite program? Why not give no ear at all to a talk-show? How bad can it be not knowing names, events, and real-life narratives that run the gamut from the slums to high society? Is this really turning one's back on the world, hiding one's head in the sand, or embarking on a brave new path into the unknown? Personally, I was trained to teach. Then, my field of interest changed. Career changes are a constant anyways. What about you? Where did you start out? Where are you now? Outside my basic activities, some of which earn money, most of which do not, I still have ideas. Most of them are business-related. They do not require a global perspective. As to what is going on right now, not in my own personal life, but in the lives of our new world-wide community, I need not bother myself. It is the same with you. Mobilize in Iraq? Raise interest rates? Grant amnesty to illegals? Lower gasoline prices? Why not let others indulge themselves and their friends and neighbors in such quibbles while you and I, by various alternative routes, leave them behind and get smart?
Create Your Country within the Country
A Bloodless Revolution -- No Casualties
This is a new day and age. Our number, as citizens, either of countries or the world, is large. As such, many controversies, such as those current in the news, may or may not be solved, but can go either way without affecting our social or emotional conditions. Take conscientious objection, which seems unfair to the nation. Then, think how many want to fight over almost anything, you name it. Plenty. Problem solved. Nations should not need large armies anyways, considering how deadly force can be applied without much human assistance. Or, let's zero in on the fact that the job market is shriveling up into a massive amount of undesirable jobs readily available and a minute amount of highly desirable jobs that hardly anybody can obtain. Why not do the next best thing and build enormous, state-of-the-art, shelters? It seems that from now on there are going to be lots of citizens with nothing to do and no way to care for themselves. Or take what I have been suggesting above. Suppose more and more people simply drop off, tune out, and deliberately forge an alternate, self-made universe? The system, such as it is, is a failure. Why search for solace within a narrowly contrived news format? What is so good or essential about the way things are? Even if you are not religious, why be a part of it? There is a legitimate point-of-view that has gained currency of late with the notion that it is not going to get better. The idea of steady improvements is aging badly. Looking toward a perennially bright future is the quickest route to disappointment. There will always be news hounds. No need to feel sorry for unsatisfactory Nielsen ratings. The point is, you do not have to watch, listen, or in any other way join the merrily piping news professionals.
The Media Loves You
Your best friends may desert you. Your family may disown you. Your pets may take a dislike to you. But the media truly loves you. What turns you on? Bloodshed? Lurid tales from the crypt or the boudoir? The media is a product that fits all sizes, all mentalities, all dispositions, the highborn and the lowborn. It also makes us more of a single unit. Because of it, we know what to think, what to opine, what to buy, who to emulate, who to shun, and how to quickly judge those with whom we come into contact. Face it, we are inundated with data that has no value. The media is the leading disseminator of information-less information. Some of the topics are truly interesting. That much I will not argue. But how little is offered! How much is repeated! Oh those smiles! Those well-crafted hellos and good-byes! There can be no doubt. The media loves you. But so do your loved ones, the genuine article.