Today was my day off. I spent most of the evening recording a home demo, as I’m trying to get things as mapped out as possible before I hit the studio later this year. Earlier today I was in a restaurant and I caught a rare glimpse of CNN. It was dealing with the horrific and sensational. Everyone has heard the saying, “If it bleeds, it leads.” It says nothing to me about my life. That’s not because I am unsympathetic to pain and suffering around the world. But just showing a horrific incident doesn’t teach me anything. We all know that the world can be a tragic place at times. But day after day people face little decisions, that in and of themselves may be insignificant, but as a whole lead to more pain and suffering around the world. What we eat, where we shop, how we travel, and what ideas we consume, all help to create the daily world that we all inhabit. We’re in a maze and the light isn’t very good. A thousand things are going on around the world at any one moment. We should know about A,B, and C, but cable news is constantly showing D. Some people think what is on cable news mirrors the world at large, but it is a funhouse mirror at best.
I have remarked many times that I do not have cable. Especially with regards to cable news, it is very freeing. No one needs 24 hours of surface news. I have noticed that several republican candidates have declared. I don’t need to watch endless public relations stories about people I don’t intend to vote for, or even people I do. That doesn’t mean that I am championing staying uneducated about what is going on, nor am I claiming that all politicians are the same. I think in a democracy that it is every citizens duty to pay attention to what is going on. But cable news is the kind of thing you turn on for five minutes, hours later you have seen the same five stories a hundred times, and your blood pressure is way higher than when you started. You can spend way less time reading a couple of in depth articles and you will find yourself way more informed. You can spend all of that extra time reading books and actually learning about the world. Or you can do things that you enjoy that actually bring meaning to your life. At the very least you can space out for a couple hours and be far healthier. You won’t be any dumber. So be good to yourself and turn off the TV news.
I only just found out about Jon Stewart’s decisions to retire from The Daily Show tonight. I realize many of you have probably already heard about this. I don’t need to be the one to tell most of you that we have been lucky to have him on television since 1999. The Daily Show has been a place we could go to laugh and remain sane in these years of insanity. Not only is his own contribution tremendous, but without him we would have never had The Colbert Report. I have only seen one episode of The Nightly Show, but hopefully that and whoever takes Stewart’s spot will keep this kind of truth telling comedy going.
I think the most important thing Stewart is done is helped people decode the bullshit that is cable news. It’s true that many people before Stewart knew that something in our media wasn’t right, but sometimes it helps to have someone that can adequately verbalize what you feel. Night after night he was not only able punch through the mask of talking head absurdity, but provide people with the tools to do it themselves.
Why is it that, so often in our society, comedians are the only ones that can get at the truth? If we had a mainstream news media that was actually doing its job, Stewart wouldn’t have been needed. However, many of us unfortunately know that he, or someone like him, was needed. Because he could do what he did through humor, he was able to get away with things that others could not. One of my favorite quotes, that I have probably used too frequently here is Oscar Wilde’s quote, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”
Hopefully there will come a time when someone like Stewart isn’t needed, when we can actually trust television media to give us an accurate picture of what is going on in the world. I don’t think that time will be soon though. In the meantime, lets be glad that he was able to slip unnoticed through the gates, in this kingdom of madness.
Above is Jon Stewart’s famous Crossfire appearance. Crossfire was a show on CNN. It was a typical cable news program where you would have one rightwing pundit and one leftwing pundit debating the issues, without any kind of real insight give. There also was no weight given to either argument, letting the viewer know if one or both were at all rooted in fact. Jon Stewart went on and at the time did the unthinkable: He told the truth about why this kind of show was so meaningless. Crossfire didn’t last much longer.
Huffington Post is still promoting the missing plane mystery as their headline. How many days will this go on?!!! I bet the cable news is having a field day with that too, though I don’t know for certain, as I don’t watch that shit!
I’ve been going on a media diet in recent years. I cut out cable TV and I cut out radio. These are two outdated forms that offer little if any value to one’s life. When I listen or watch one of these formats I almost start believing my conspiracy theory friends that the media is manipulating us to make us dumber. Songs riddled with clichés and Ken and Barbie dolls reading Teleprompters are running ramped over a demoralized public.
Did you see the singer form Hootie and the Blowfish has a country career now? Who buys that stuff? Who bought his Blowfish albums? Kevin Russell calls this stuff golf rock. Did anyone notice how metrosexual a lot of the male country stars are now? I find that funny as their base is partially composed of redneck males who think they are tougher than the rest and are often homophobic.
I wish Hunter Thompson and Kurt Vonnegut and George Carlin were still alive. They were of the rarified few that knew how to expose the great contradictions in our society. This is an absurd country in many ways. Our comedians have become our truth tellers and our newscasters have become our mindless entertainers. Remember in a capitalist democracy we vote with our dollar a good deal of the time. Support those things that bring value to your life and cut out on the fat!
Today’s morning Huffpo headline is Ghost Plane. It is at least the second day in a row where their main headline has been in reference to the plane that disappeared near Vietnam. My friends that have cable news have talked about how much this story is being covered. It’s a story and most definitely not news. I’m not saying it is not a tragedy for the people involved and their loved ones. One can imagine what those poor people are going through, especially when it is being blasted on television all the time! But it is not news that we need to contemplate for any length of time. Knowing about it doesn’t increase our knowledge of the world and something like this actually distorts it.
Roughly about 155,000 people die every day. That was a calculation I found for 2005. The number is probably higher now. In the US in 2011 roughly 89 people died every day in auto accidents. So why is our news media going batshit over a couple hundred people dying on the other side of the globe?
Airplane crashes are rare. They also have had trouble finding the wreckage which is rarer still. It’s sensational. However, I would argue that dying in and of itself is not news as people are leaving this world left and right on a daily basis. Also, because it is rare it is actually less newsworthy. It distorts our image of air travel. You have a much higher risk of being killed in an auto accident. However, when a plane crash is posted all over the news it breeds a sense of fear about air travel and makes it seem as if flying is more dangerous than it really is.
There are so many issues that confront us in this country on a daily basis, from large to small. The news should help us make decisions about large things like who we are going to vote for and what global issues we as citizens should be concerned about. It should also help us with small day to day choices concerning what we are going to do with our day such as what is going on in our community and how is the weather going to be. Celebrity stories and strange tragedies from the other side of the world don’t inform us in any way. If anything these kinds of stories actually make us dumber. You can imagine some hooplehead deciding that they are going to now drive instead of fly, which is again far more dangerous. If you turn on a news station and they are blanket covering something like this just turn it off. Hell, better to watch some kind of ridiculous fantasy show or something. It will at least make you happier and you won’t learn any less.
The scholars over at Headline News just spent an entire segment talking about a guy that wanted to eat children. I saw it while I was eating breakfast in my hotel. Good morning America! While this might be interesting and sensational human behavior, it is most definitely not news.
I deem news to be things that are relevant to you and me and people in general. Unless this guy lives in your neighborhood, you don’t need to be thinking about him. The news should be helping you to sort through all of the information that is out there, not clouding your mind with more bullshit.
Cable news is often just one giant stroke job after another. It keeps you uniformed, afraid, and easy to control. Next time you watch it try to think of the number of stories in front of you that are relevant to your life in any way. If you watch it for entertainment, or for the one or two stories every couple of hours that concern you and this planet, then fine. If not, just realize you are watching another bad reality show. This one features Ken and Barbie dolls reading cue cards and putting together clips of America’s strangest videos. I sure wish they would combine this one with the one where they make people eat spiders!