The Trivialization of News

Corporate Advertising Is Making It Difficult to Distinguish One from the Other

What, really, is news? According to one definition, it is “newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events.” But the question is, important to whom? The news media themselves are owned by corporations, many of which have entertainment divisions. So suddenly, one finds the latest Game of Thrones episode is newsworthy. Is it perhaps that the news medium is owned by the same corporation that creates Game of Thrones.

Then, too, one finds “sponsored content” that is vaguely news-like and interspersed with real news stories about the happenings of the day. For example, the following “sponsored content” comes from today’s NBC news website:

  • Deliver native mobile apps seamlessly
  • The airline miles trick that airlines don’t want you to know (this phraseology is a dead giveaway)
  • Collaborate in the classroom with OneNote
  • Born before 1967? Don’t miss out on these exclusive benefits
  • Experience the best-selling third-row SUV
  • These river cruises are the cream of the crop
  • Play this for 1 minute and see why everybody is addicted

There is a close relationship between sponsored content and clickbait: The act of suckering you into clicking by promising you a lot more than will ever be delivered. The classical attempt sends you to a long video which doesn’t get to the point for up to twenty minutes, if it ever does.

None of the above refers to a newsworthy event. All are attempts to get you to buy into a product or service. When sponsored content is interspersed with real news stories, the hope is that you will be more interested in what is being marketed. One easy way to tell the difference is that real news tends to make one feel nauseated, whereas sponsored content merely makes one feel uneasy for missing out on a good deal.

 

 

The Internet Erupts … or Does It?

The Internet Is Bigger Than You or Me

One of the most common “fillers” on news websites is the reaction of the Internet to various news stories. Often this is accompanied by a triumphant tone, such as the recent story that Tomi Lahren, even as she excoriated Obamacare, was enjoying the benefits of Obamacare. The news story usually sounds like this: “The Internet erupted when it discovered that ….”

Except for one thing: The Internet per se does not erupt. Those who hate Trumpf may do a happy dance; but hard-core Trumpf-followers just don’t care. They might even think more of her for her hypocrisy in taking advantage of a program she was attacking, thus helping in a strange way to bring about its demise. I am sure that Tomi Lahren, Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, the Mooch, Kayleigh McEnany, and other Trumpf spokespersons do not believe more than a fraction of what they announce to the public. Let me go further: Even Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and other highly paid news-like “entertainers” may very well believe in their heart of hearts what most of us believe, but they have learned that there is big money pandering to fools.

So do not be too heartened—or disheartened—by what you discover on the Internet. It’s just another minor bump on the road hat could, on one hand, be a seaming pile of turds or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Don’t Read Me! Watch the Video!

Be Even More Passive! Sit Back and Watch Us! NOW!

We are beautiful people with all the right cultural traits. And we are all naked below the waist. So stop reading the news right now and watch us interact with each other. It’s more fun. We know you can read the text twenty times faster than we stumble our way through it all coked and boozed up. So what if your Internet is as fast as a snail going backwards. Just be patient: Sit and wait for the little whirligig to stop rotating and return with us in glorious motion. It’ll be worth it. It won’t do anything for you, but we’ll be even bigger celebrities than before. And, after all, what you read isn’t as glittering as having a celebrity mouth it for you and titter complicitly.

It seems as if all the news websites are intent on ramming videos down your throat—even when your browser is set to exclude videos. It doesn’t help matters that we are forced to watch an ad of indeterminate length for starters, always beginning with loud voices assuming a corporate tone that only vaguely resembles human discourse.

My reaction is to start by turning the sound all the way down and then hitting the STOP button on the lower left. For good measure, I scroll down past the video so it disappears from view. Some websites like CNN have gone one better: They put a miniature video screen off to the side in case we want to return to the Blah Blah Bling Bling.

All I can say is Double Ugh!

The Perils of Clicktivism

Yes, Let’s Put a Stop to Internet Petitions!

Yes, By All Means Let’s Put a Stop to Internet Petitions!

Let me begin by saying that, in Britain, “barking” is short for “barking mad.” There are thousands of petitions on the Internet. Even the ones that are well intentioned could have repercussions far different from your goals in signing them.

For one thing, the creator of the petition has your name and e-mail address to sell to whatever nefarious operators are in the spamming business. If you absolutely must sign an Internet petition, give them a throwaway e-mail address that you don’t care to check on a regular basis. Don’t expect your signature to have any effect at all.

Online petitions are in the news today because of the San Jose judge who sentenced a rapist to only six months in prison, with time off for good behavior. Some one million Internet users have signed petitions to remove Judge Aaron Persky. It’s a waste of time, unfortunately, because that’s not how one influences a judge.

Even more interesting—and much more effective in my opinion—was a protest by ten members of the San Jose jury pool who refuse to serve on any case in which Judge Persky is involved. That could be devastating to a jurist and force him to resign.

Clicktivism, also referred to as slacktivism, is the lazy man’s way to try to effect social change.

In the meantime, I suggest you send a tub of lubricant preferably mixed with gravel to Brock Turner’s cellmate. That’ll work, too.

Downbeat on Tweet

Do I Really Care?

#WTFDoICare

Several months ago, I started signing up for Twitter. When I was asked to name three Twitter accounts I was interested in following, I couldn’t think of a single one. I just wasn’t that interested in following anyone. And what would I tweet? There was that 140-character limitation that encouraged users to murder the English language. And when Twitter and tweets were in the news, they were usually from political or entertainment figures like Donald Trump or Kim Kardashian—on whom I do not care to waste my time.

What is more, that whole hashtag convention struck me as forcing one’s thoughts into other people’s channels. Nope, not for me.

Tarnmoor’s First Law of the Internet

Trash Reigns Supreme

Trash Reigns Supreme

Tarnmoor’s First Law of the Internet is very much like Gresham’s Law: Bad money drives out good, except in this case news is driven out by dross. In the end, the Internet tends to resemble that garbage dump the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean. In terms of websites that purport to concentrate on informative news, I see this trash as being of five different types:

  1. Outright clickbait, usually hinting at something surprising or earth-shattering and featuring a picture of an attractive thirty or forty year old model.
  2. Articles about television series on news sites, not surprising considering that news sites frequently own production companies.
  3. References to “viral videos” usually featuring cute animals or spectacular fails.
  4. Links to videos where the video adds nothing to the story and consists of a few seconds buried within a boring talking head sequence.
  5. Articles about dumb things that wingnuts on all sides of the political spectrum say.

Places where I turn expecting to find something I can sink my teeth into, yield instead a kind of digital styrofoam containing no intellectual nourishment. Instead, one finds what I call WABAW (WAste of BAndWidth). Look what I found on CNN’s website today:

  • Odd houses come straight out of ‘Flintstones.’
  • Reason #1 not to pose for a selfie with a rattlesnake.
  • Mother duck guides her ducklings past swerving cars. (Awww!)
  • Water balloon explodes with man inside.
  • See Paula Abdul recreate ‘Opposites Attract’ video.
  • What ‘Back to the Future’ got right about 2015.
  • ‘Sharknado 3’: the tweets, the cameos, the crazy.

If you want to see even a more determined effort to send you down a brainless rathole, go to Weather.Com. My eyes glazed over when I saw “Ever put coins in dry ice?’ and ‘WATCH: He dropped a basketball of a dam and didn’t expect what happened.’ I presume that if you are reading this, you do not go hunting through multiple windows following an attractive woman who promises to show you something that would really make the IRS, TSA, Catholic Church, or your beloved Lhasa Apso furious.

This Morning’s Harvest

Go On, Believe It! Be Stupid!

Go On, Believe It! Be Stupid!

It appears that one of my e-mail addresses has made the Numero Uno suckerbait list. Here’s a selection of just some of the garbage offers that ended up in my mailbox:

  • Interest too high? Find the perfect card—from “Zero Interest Cards.” Yeah, well, did you ever hear of fees?
  • Uncover your ancestors and your family tree. Try it – 14 days no/cost. Give us your e-mail address so we can send you even more clickbait.
  • Most Wanted summer-slim-down – ready for delivery!  You, too, can experiment with your health by using expensive and untested meds.
  • Final Notice: Your gift card is about to expire.  Why would Chilis Bar & Grill, which I’ve never heard of, send me a gift card?
  • 10-second trick makes Diabetes go away. This is from Harvard Research Dept (whatever that is), so it must be true.
  • Do you want to Improvement your hearing in 1-7 days? No, but I’d love to Improvement your English!
  • Cover all of your Appliances with Choice Home Warranty. Whaddaya mean you won’t reimburse me $1,000 for my bum toaster?
  • You have been selected for inclusion. This is from Eddie Lopez, who sent the same e-mail twice, so he must want me real bad.
  • Fabulous and wonderful in your kitchen. Why thank you: I didn’t think you knew!
  • Avoid the Hassles of Home Repair. Get Your First Month Free! It’s those Choice Home Warranty (CHW) people again. In essence: Pay us and say goodbye to your money.
  • When you lose something finding it fast with this! What about that quarter that fell through a hole in my pocket in 1956?
  • (Wow!) Satellite photos make amazing discovery. That’s nice….

This is just a small selection of what parades through my mailbox every day, sometimes as many as several hundred in one twenty-four hour period.