I have been trying to avoid the early election shenanigans. The mutant right is constantly making headlines with total insanity. I don’t mean to infer that to condemn anyone that is a Republican. I am simply referring to the freak pack that seems in control of the national party at this point. (Scott Walker being one of the many in this realm.) I am someone that believes in voting. I don’t think voting is enough if you really care about what is going on. However, I don’t think disengaging from the political realm due to dissatisfaction is an option. I am not a big fan of the Clintons and would rather see someone like Bernie Sanders capture the nomination. Bill, in his term, was actually a rather right leaning corporatist Democrat that did many things that I believe harmed this country. (NAFTA, Telecommunications Act of 1996, and so on.) However, if you can’t see that there is a difference between Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, or Hillary Clinton and Scott Walker, than I don’t know what to tell you. (Those that believe that all politicians are the same only need to look at recent headlines having to do with Iran and then imagine what those headlines would look like if “Bomb,bomb,bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” John McCain had won in 2008.) But what I think is important is that it is okay to disengage until it matters. I don’t need to be paying attention to the right wing horse race, as I will certainly not be voting for anyone that wins that. I can’t help, in trying to keep up with the news, catching a headline or two. I mean I try to pay attention enough that if I am having a conversation with someone, I can refute whatever insane argument someone might be making on whatever policy issue, but having a deep emotional investment in who is ahead is only going to destroy my health, make me angry, and burn me out on this whole circus before there is really anything I can do about it. The news is really good at destroying one’s soul, only to have you speaking gibberish by the time it comes down to canvas for an issue or candidate you believe in. Also, please keep in mind that I am talking about ignoring the election and not what is going on in general. It is important, extremely important, that a citizen of a democracy stays informed. But at this point in the election cycle it is much more important to pay attention to what is going on, rather than who is saying what, if you get my drift. So try to keep abreast of current issues, but whenever a circus animal like Donald Trump gets paraded out on TV, instead of turning your mind into rat soup, exercise one of the very few freedoms you have and turn the damned thing off.
The above link is a Rolling Stone article about former NYT reporter Judith Miller, who played a role in making the country think that Iraq was a war of necessity. She has just released a book and is trying to redeem her reputation. But there is nothing she can do to redeem herself at this point, especially when she still seems not to understand the full ramifications of her actions. She helped lead this country into a war that has caused untold pain and suffering, with thousands of dead soldiers and even more innocent Iraqis killed, along with untold numbers that were either maimed or now face psychological trauma. She betrayed the public trust in a way that I don’t think can ever be fully forgiven.
When I watch the news I often think of the movie Apocalypto. This is a Mel Gibson directed movie that deals with the Mayans. The movie is an insane spectacle filled with ideas and blood. The characters speak in ancient Mayan dialogue, but the movie is brilliant because it manages to tell the story in ways that are mostly visual. It is an extremely intelligent piece of entertainment, an action movie with ideas. It is barbarous, batshit insane, kinetic entertainment.
Now why do I think of this movie when I see the news? This is not due to the themes of the movie. The Mayan empire is depicted as a civilization on the verge of collapse due to environmental calamity and human exploitation. It came out during the Bush years and the Iraq War. Gibson even commented that the Mayan rulers were very similar to Bush in his boys. Sure, the invading Europeans put the nail in the coffin of the Mayans, but the Europeans are aided by the Mayan leaders’ tyrannical rule. That is not to say that is true in history, but Gibson is trying to draw a parallel through art. He is saying if we don’t quit oppressing people, if we don’t protect the environment, history shows that we and our way of life is in trouble.
However, none of that crosses my mind when I watch the news. The greatest emotional quality of Apocalypto is insanity. When I watch the news and they focus on the trivial and ignore the important, I feel emotionally like I do when I watch Apocalypto. When I see war and oppression trumpeted as normal, when I see global warming treated as not real, when I see celebrity eclipse the common good, I feel the same as when I watch Apocalypto.
There is intellectual truth and emotional truth in art. Even if you argue that the movie doesn’t have the former, it has the latter in spades. It feels like what happens when the world turns upside down. It’s why the movie makes me happy, even though it is largely an action movie and a quite dark one at that. Someone connected to an emotion that is all too common in the modern world. It’s always uplifting to know someone feels like you do. If there are others, you might just stand a chance.
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 just checked out Huffington Post to see the latest news. I think if anything Huffington Post is a good place just to check headlines as it is comprehensive, even if many of the articles themselves are not worth reading. The front page headline is about the European plane crash. 150 people died. While this is tragic and horrifying, and definitely sensational, one must keep in mind that 457 people have been killed in just the state of Texas on the highway this year. Maybe this is news, but it is not front page, top of the page news. If it is news, and I mean this in no way disrespectfully of those who might have lost loved ones in the crash, it is something that should be acknowledged for a brief amount of time and moved on from. I wish this accident hadn’t happened at all, but since it did, that it was the worst thing that we had to deal with. However, given the conflicts that are taking place around the globe, the environmental calamities that are threatening us, and the fact that so many people still exist in a constant state of poverty, let alone many other tragedies that are happening all around us on a regular basis, this is distorting our perception of the world.
Bloomberg Business News is reporting that Obamacare is not causing any harm to business the way its opponents stated. The article is worth reading in full to get all the details. This article basically means that some of the main talking points Obamacare opponents tried to use to make people fearful of the law, have had a giant shit taken on them.
John Oliver takes on big tobacco. Oliver is someone that enlightens while he entertains, a hilarious teacher. I wish the real news communicated as much as he does and that it was even 5% as entertaining to watch. I’m glad that he out there amongst us.
Bill Maher with the best and, in my opinion, last word on the Brian Williams scandal. He knocks this one out of park. Maher makes a convincing case why the real news scandal has nothing to do with Brian Williams lie.
The above article about Brian Williams is extremely interesting. It is in Rolling Stone and it is an alternative viewpoint to the scandal surrounding Williams. I don’t personally know enough to come down one way or the other. I think that the scandal fits a narrative that many of us hold about the mainstream media, that it is basically entertainment in the guise of news, and that many of the people that give us our news aren’t very credible. That being said, it is also true that we often rush to judgment in our society before we have all of the facts. We should always retain a bit of skepticism when judging someone, especially when something already falls neatly into our own personal bias of how we view the world.
President Obama recently stated that the news media overstates the threat of terrorism compared to climate change. Despite some initial waffling by his press secretary, who also eventually answered the question in agreement, this statement seems like a no brainer. Here is an article on islands that are threatened because of sea level rise related to climate change:
Or check out the the predicted future for one of our country’s biggest cities:
My point is not to scare you about climate change, though I wish more people would get motivated to make the smart changes that we absolutely need to make, only to give some examples of arising problems related to climate change, as it is a serious issue. Overall, the threats we face from terrorism pale in comparison.
However, this is just another example of a mainstream media that entertains more than it informs and a human brain that is good at identifying localized or regional threats, but not large systematic ones.