I am Jack's Smirking Revenge

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

The News, For Losers


It takes two things to make a news item good, and by good, I mean, good in the eyes of the people who generate the news.

One, someone has to write it. Truth or fabrication. Someone must create it and then stick it out there.

Two, someone must view it and then repeat it to other(s). Word of mouth will make or break anything, and since our media does not care about truth but continued advertising revenues, it is in their best interest to find whatever will cause their readers to excitedly spread the word about some featured item.

I suppose I speak there mostly of the printed news article.

Television news is much like Keno, the gambling you play from your table in that crummy, smoky diner in Reno. That is to say, Keno is gambling for the dead, and television news is News for the Brain Dead.

Spam e-mail, cheap con advertising, and television news all share a common idea- lead the dupe on with the temptation of something [useful,good,tasty,profitable,sexy,etc]. The dupe will follow because they believe they may get their desired outcome.

The few times I have watched network television recently, I realized this little connection.

"And coming up on our 10 o'clcok news blob, we'll show you how local X is Y-ing >your< Z."

...sounds familiar, yes? Well that's because the formula for leading suckers on is being honed every working day by millions of people who hope you'll click, listen, repeat.

When the news finally hits, though, there is very little content there. You get some tidbits, a teaser, a commercial break, a teaser, tidbits, and usually around 3/4 of the way through the show you get to see that the teaser was a crummy news item with a catchy tagline. Sucker.

I have a strong suspicion that, were I capable of actually watching an entire news program, I could summarize the entirety of a 30-minute show in 1000 words or less. Probably a lot less.

It would read something like "Police shoot someone, and we imply that they probably deserved it. There's a war, far away, and people died. There was an earthquake, also far away, video clips of smooshed buildings and worried people. Local politician runs his yap, but even if you care there's nothing you can do about it. Vague hint at the weather tomorrow from the weather idiot. Assorted grunts from the sports idiot, clips of grown men chasing after balls. Fluff piece about baby ducks rescued by firemen."

Rather than aiming to be informative, useful, and honest, news settles for being tiresome, empty and dishonest.

It is as if the expected viewership is a crowd dosed on valium.

And my point can't be made any clearer than: Most people my age trust The Daily Show, a comedy program, more than we trust the real news.

So, why?

Well, obviously, advertising dollars. Cafeteria food is usually bland because we have to make sure everyone can eat it. The news can't tick off the viewership or people won't want to watch it, and then no advertising money. Not to mention you can't tick off the advertisers, or their owners, or the owner's owners. Or their neighbors, dogs, or poolboys.

But what else?

Well, if you take the country and divide the adults up into groups, I would have to guess you get a spread something like this:

5% too stupid to understand the news, and don't care whether it's valid
15% fantastically gullible, sweet, innocent and don't realize what they're not being told
30% certain the news is the truth, and that they can't lie to us
20% not certain the news is true, but largely too busy to care much
15% smart enough to be wary of the news, tend towards scholarly journals, PBS, NPR, and other assorted focused sources
10% either smart or crazy, don't believe the news or just don't have time to pay attention to it because they are busy with something else
5% not sure who this last percent is, but it should cover anyone I missed, and likely they are not the crowd the news panders to anyway

So, of this various array of mindsets, who does the news care to reach? What purpose does it serve?

I get the feeling sometimes that the news media has created an idea of popular opinion which it presents as reality, and that this idea exists nowhere but in the media. It's a lot like the idea that our government does something bad, then denies it, and later everyone just acts like- oh, ok, whatever, fine. There is not ever-increasing level of anger for the people who have been lying about everything they have done, not an ounce of moral outrage displayed that did not end with the smearing of the person doing the outrage.

What is the boiling point for the people in the middle, the 20% and 30% groups who the news exists for? When do THEY jump up from their recliners, displacing their tv tray and microwavable dinner, thrust their fists in the air and bellow at their tract home cieling "My god, what's wrong with the world?!?"

Without the complacent cows' attention, there will be no change. How to get their attention, but in a good way?


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