LA Times Photo of Bus Riders
Looking back on yesterday’s very pessimistic post, I wish I had not posted it. And while I’m in an apologizing mood, I wish I had not used the title “Chinese Virus Torture” for this post—except, as you will see, it is oddly appropriate.
While I could see that COVID-19 is the news story of the century, I am appalled that the news media are pre-empting all other news to strike heavily and again and again and again on the subject of the virus. Almost as if it were a form of Chinese water torture. (I will not otherwise use the racist term Chinese Virus, much beloved of our Orange Führer.)
I think that, at this time, people should learn to laugh again, to remember that, yes, there will be life after the coronavirus slinks away. Other than five or six basic facts such as washing your hands, maintaining social distance, etc., there really isn’t much else to be said. When the broadcast media become all virus all the time, the result is to strike fear among the population.
When toilet paper suddenly disappears from the shelves of our supermarkets, it is an indicator that the news media is presenting an out of balance picture that creates an environment of irrationality and panic.
If I were in charge of programming, I would not replace the endless news cycle with some entertainment. Right now, it is difficult to avoid the talking heads drumming death into our eyes and ears.
The mess we are in is going to last a while. My post yesterday was a sign that the virus news hammer was starting to get to me. Today I feel a little bit better.
It’s That Time Again
I suspect that one of the reason so many Americans don’t vote is that politics as practiced in these United States is so divisive and utterly ugsome. With the many 24-hour news channels hammering into our brains and all the phone calls and TV ads, we all look forward wistfully to the day after the November elections—provided that we don’t have another 2016 debacle on our hands.
The above cartoon was in today’s Los Angeles Times in Wiley Miller’s underrated “Non Sequitur” comic strip. I laughed as I thought about the endless Democratic debates and the never-ending tweets of our orange-headed troll of a president. Treating our obsession with the news as an info-virus was a stroke of genius.
When I spent election day 2016 in Quito, Ecuador, I thought I was being smart. Instead, learning that Trump won, I seriously considered for a few minutes staying in South America, but I did return to the mess that greeted me when I returned to our borders.
In recent weeks, there are some of my friends with whom I refuse to discuss politics. I just mutter something about endlessly covering “Subject A” and hurriedly trying (not always successfully) to change the subject.
Flag at Half Mast for Depredations by Trumpf and His Minions
The following sources are no longer to be considered as newsworthy:
- Anything appearing in a tweet, irrespective of from whom.
- Anything said or tweeted by our current presidente.
- Anything said by Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Tami Lahren, Sean Hannity, Fox and Friends, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Bill O’Reilly, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, and their ilk.
- Any word that “The Internet” had just punished or shamed somebody, anybody, for what he, she, or it said.
- Any predictions from any source.
- Any descriptions of rants from anybody.
- Any comments from Evangelical sources impinging on politics, or on anything for that matter.
- Any agonized analyses of mass murderers employing gunfire.
- Any thoughts or prayers regarding man-made calamities.
- Any comments to social media posts.
Don’t Worry: I Have No Intention of Succumbing
At least once a day, I get a spampost asking why I don’t attempt to “monetize” my website and make tons of money. Give me a break! If I give in and allow advertising here, then I am no longer in charge of its contents. The advertisers would be.
These days, whenever I go to a news website like CNN or NBC (Fox was never on my list), I am not only surrounded by ads: I also have to close the ones that pop up in the middle of the screen or encroach from the sides. I hate having to close or minimize all the ads that prevent me from getting at the news. What is worse is that interspersed with the news is so-called “sponsored content,” which is nothing but advertising that attempts to fool you into thinking it’s news instead of mere clickbait.
I hate that! Advertising is becoming so all-pervasive that I have given up on many websites where it is particularly intrusive. When you come here to watch me rant and rave, that’s all you get. No links to what Phoebe Cates looks like now or why you should stop taking Metformin. Then there’s “12 Smart Travel Hacks” or free shipping with some CPAP mask, whatever that is.
So if you’re more interested in some huckster’s false promises than what I provide here, I have a great bridge for sale that might be right up your alley!
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 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.
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!
But Don’t Let That Lull You into Passivity!
That little photo inset in the above picture are of Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). You remember that picture: It’s where pods from Outer Space are replacing the citizens of a sleepy Northern California town. How appropriate! It seems that the invasion is coming from the Evil Forces of Trumpfism and his Alt-Right followers.
The news cycle has become overcrowded with Tweets, Executive Orders, and the usual run of Republican Follies (such as the new unlamented American Health Care Act (AHCA). Where the presidency used to generate only two or three news stories each day, now we are confronted with a whole slew of attempts to deprive the citizens of this country of what they want and what they need. Our formerly good government is being replaced by an invasion of Right Wing Pod People with their alternative facts (lies), economic nationalism (isolationism), enemy of the people (friend of the people), fake news (truth), and America first (corporations and billionaires first).
There’s Always Plenty to Go Around!
There is an old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times!” It’s so easy to become dispirited and just give up. Even if you feel as if you’re being attacked by a hydra, I suggest you stay awake and defend your liberties. Get used to letting your two state senators and your congressman know what you want. Call or e-mail them on a regular basis. Let them know they can be replaced in 2018—and you know that’s just around the corner.
A Warning to Protect Your Sanity
Newscasters are in the business of delivering the news that is approved by their corporate masters for your delectation. Please note that the news being delivered is, as often as not, false. A news anchor could say anything with a straight face. If there are two takes on a news story, regardless if one of them is flat out wrong and stupid, both will be given equal weight. Some examples:
- 2016 has been the hottest year on record vs. There is no global warming.
- A small minority of Arabs are jihadists vs. All Arabs are terrorists.
- Coal is a major pollutant vs. We need to put more coal miners to work.
- We don’t need to import more oil if we develop wind and solar power sources vs. We need to drill, Baby, drill!
This elevation to respectability of crackpot points of view is usually referred to as Fair and Balanced Reporting. I prefer to think of it as abrogation of responsibility to discriminate between what is true and what is considered desirable by the lunatic fringe.
I have posted many blogs recommending that people do not watch or listen to news programing, especially if they are easily influenced by what appears to be blatant attempts to influence your thinking. During the upcoming Trump presidency, Americans will be told blatant lies, frequently self-contradictory. The strategy is known as gaslighting, in which an alternative reality is created to neutralize potential opposition.
Most at risk are people who tune in on the same news program every night.
Any Sort of Tragedy Brings These Termites Out of the Woodwork
Maybe it’s because I was raised a Catholic, but most public displays of prayer leave me cold. What is this thing about holding your arms out while emoting excessively? Is it to prove conclusively to God and to your fellow man that you do not have round-the-clock protection? And what’s all this mummery with candles and flowers and cutesy stuffed animals?
Perhaps I am disturbed by the similarity of that holding-out-one’s-arms prayer gesture to a fervent “Heil Hitler!”
Am I knocking prayer? Not at all. I believe in God, though in a somewhat heterodox manner; and I have even been known to pray. But my prayer is a private matter between the Creator and myself. I eschew all mummery, and I have no desire to prove myself holier than anyone else. (Which I certainly am not.) Demonstrative public prayer is just … well … a form of showboating.
Whenever there is a terrorist act or a mass shooting or some horrendous accident, you will see them making some sort of pseudo-Evangelical religious demonstration. Our awful news media even likes to interview them—even though they have never had anything to say. It’s kind of like hiring an official mourner to keen for your loved ones. Can you wonder why I can’t stand to see how television reports “tragedies.”