Monday, April 27, 2015

The End Of Journalism In America

One last thought regarding CSS, Corporate Sponsored Stupidity (see previous post). I mentioned that CSS has so infected the minds of people that the news only placates to one side or the other - such is the brand-loyalty which has poisoned citizens against the truth. Well, there is another consequence that I would be remiss not to address. The news now has to disguise itself as comedy in order to entice people to watch it.

This phenomenon seems to affect the young people of America more, and this makes sense. They are the ones who grew up in a corporate-dominated world, with corporate-dominated media, where advertising assaulted them from the cradle on into adolescence. Naturally they would suffer from CSS more acutely - albeit more sophisticatedly - than older Americans who saw corporate advertising evolve from earlier, less effective formats. As such, the necessity of disguising the news as comedy seems to be targeted at young people, because it's the only way to get them to watch. They have to literally be lured into learning things by laughter. Jon Stewart and John Oliver tell us that they are comedians, not journalists. I respectfully disagree. They ARE journalists. It's simply a new variety of journalism - one which has evolved to not only report the news, but then figure out a way to get people to sit up and notice it. First they have to dig up the news, and then they have to dig down to reach you.

The opposite situation seems to apply to older adults with CSS. The way to entice them into watching the news is to get them pissed. They are the angry generation, and so want to get mad about something. Vietnam is over, forgotten are the liberal ideals they had in their youth, and they now want to defend faith and family, not realizing that by supporting today's so-called conservatives, they are eroding both. So their news comes in the form of angry white males who vent and vent and vent, and, according to the ratings, people just love that shit.

You  know what? Fuck all this. Does anybody give a shit about the truth for the sake of the truth anymore? It seems not.

So that's my take on it. People need to give a shit about the truth. Say what you will about Jon Stewart and John Oliver, but they at least do, if only because the truth is so bizarre that it's funny.

Do you give a shit about the truth? Or do you blindly bat for Team Conservative or Team Liberal?



Corporate Sponsored Stupidity (CSS)

Remember TV back in the 70's? It was awful, wasn't it? Even the so-called "good" shows, like Emergency!, or The Rockford Files were only good because the leading characters were good. The supporting cast, however, might as well have been played by cardboard cutouts. Why on earth was television so bad back then? Well, the consensus is that it was due to only three networks being on the air to choose from. Any given television program didn't have to be all that fantastic. All it had to be was better than the other two shows available. Oh, sure, there was public television and the token UHF channel, but the former was for kids and snobs while the latter was where old programs went to die unnecessarily prolonged deaths. For the entirety of the 70's and 80's, the UHF outlet was pretty much where you went to watch Happy Days, Scooby Doo, or (heaven help us!) Gilligan's Island.

But at least one thing was good about 1970's television: the news. With three choices to pick from, and with every household tuning in at precisely 6:00 to learn about what was happening right after eating dinner, there was real competition to be the best in journalism. The news had a solid time-slot which was, up until very recently, all but unshakable. And people had a real sense of value for the truth. Lack of journalistic integrity was the kiss of death for any network. Over-editorializing was generally rejected, even by those who might have agreed with it. It was the glory age of Walter Cronkite, which saw the overturning of the Red Scare, the end of the war in Vietnam, and the resignation of a dishonest president. It guided us through the lunar landings as well as the Iranian hostage crisis, and let us know through a prolonged gasoline shortage that, although things were bad, things were moving to make it better. Best of all, it was local. The local newscaster you saw lived in the area. Very likely, he or she grew up there. There was no need for journalists to hop from city to city like carpetbaggers. There was assurance that your friendly face on TV reporting about local events was someone who pronounced the suburban villages correctly because he grew up near them. In short, it was an age of journalism. Not perfect, but fairly responsible.

Kiss all that shit goodbye.

Today, the news has been hijacked by well-moneyed interest groups bent on influencing the public for its own ends more than for safeguarding the truth. And, just like back in the 1970's, there are only three outlets to choose from. Thanks to some unwise deregulation of the airwaves in 1996, and an end to the fairness doctrine before that in 1987, the news is now dominated by three outlets, none of which have a regular time slot, and almost all of which are no longer local. Whether it be your traditional television channel broadcast at your nearest city of residence or a giant cable network, almost all the stations are now owned by three corporations: Newscorp (FOX News), Time Warner (CNN), and Comcast (MSNBC). And it doesn't matter which affiliation your local station might have, whether it be the traditional CBS, ABC or NBC, or the more recent ones like the CW (essentially what's left of UPN and the WB). They're all part of one of three hydras. And all three of them back corporate interests over your own.

It's primarily for this reason that they pay people full time jobs to do nothing else but pour fuel on the political fires of America. Because with each election cycle, they get to cash in. Every two to four years, huge amounts of money get dumped into political advertising. All that money doesn't go down a deep, dark hole, you know. It all goes into the pockets of the three big companies who own damn near everything. And they get to charge premium prices for ad time due to high demand - which only gets higher as they continue to influence the general public through professional polarizers such as Rush Limbaugh or Ed Schultz. People become so pissed that they open up their pocketbooks wide to do battle with the other side, liberal vs. conservative, not realizing that the money they dump into the machine is only making their problems worse, not better.

Were it not for the Internet, this would mean the downfall of Western civilization.

This consolidation of network power has not only affected the news, although that's its greatest consequence. It has also affected attitudes in general. Television has always been funded by advertisers. Yet those advertisements have had much more than a selling effect for products. They are deliberately designed to convince you, the consumer, to be dumb enough to buy their product over their competitors' products based on some shoddy argument which doesn't hold up under close scrutiny, but which they're counting on nevertheless. In other words, they win when you don't think too much.

And if you think they wouldn't dare try to deliberately try to dumb down the intelligence level of the general public so that they can boost their profit margins, you'd be mistaken.

This results in a phenomenon which I will dub "corporate sponsored stupidity." (CSS for short.) It essentially means that people get primed to believe complete bullshit by giant mega-corps who depend upon such blind faith for the sake of their shareholders. The CEO's of these corporate giants fully realize the potential this has to influence politics, and so have worked hard to harness CSS to favor their own political viewpoints - ones which are often conservative due to the elderly status of most zoots. But CSS also has another unintended and dire consequence. Because it primes the proletariat to be accepting of bullshit, the public ends up buying into nonsense which is crackpot, but which follows the same template of argument the corporate advertisements do. So people believe wrongly that vaccines are harmful, refuse to vaccinate their children, and then their children (and worse, those of other parents) become sick. People believe the lunar landings did not take place, not because the evidence is compelling, but because the conspiracy theory is. People believe in creationism rather than evolution because the religious advertising follows the corporate model of inducing stupidity. Or worse, people believe a war is justifiable because the propaganda machine says so.

CSS has infected the minds of most people so much that the news can now only be reported in such as way as to lure viewers into learning what's going on in the world. Liberals, fired up by CSS to be more irrationally liberal, suddenly want more and more liberal news sources. Conservatives, fired up by CSS even more so become irrationally conservative and listen only to the conservative news outlets. The result is a growing level of polarization in news coverage that gets ever worse and worse. As we all know, FOX is primarily conservative, MSNBC is primarily liberal, and CNN, well, CNN basically twists in whatever direction the wind is blowing in, which often means reporting human interest fluff over the real news that's going on, i.e., over-covering a downed Malaysian Airlines Jet while ignoring critical legislation being considered on Capital Hill.

Well, I have to say that it's time to call out Corporate Sponsored Stupidity. Come on, everyone! Purge yourself of your CSS! And don't think you don't have it. We ALL do! Somewhere, somehow, even the most rational and level-headed of us are bullheaded and wrong about something.

So find that something, or group of somethings, in your life. Then choose truth over what you would prefer.

And the Truth will set you free!



Monday, April 13, 2015

Ready For Hillary?

Well, it has started. Hillary Clinton has officially announced her presidential bid. Does she have my vote out of the gate? Probably.

I say "probably" only because there might actually be a Democrat who unhorses her in the primaries. I don't think that's likely, but you never know. Not Elizabeth Warren. She said no, and she meant it. And certainly not Joe Biden. But maybe HUD Secretary Julian Castro. Who knows?

Ah, but here come the naysayers, some of which were undoubtedly the same giddy fools who gleefully anointed her as Obama's successor before he was even sworn in for his second term. Now the buzz is somewhat negative, and Facebook is already humming with posts about how Hillary is the right hand of Satan. I would like to address some of the points such people bring up, as I feel it's important to do so. It's dirty work, but somebody's got to do it.

First, let's get the big stuff out of the way: Is she a liar? Ruthless? An insider? Someone who bends the rules whenever it suits her? Yes, she is. But let's get this straight: That's what I want! Sure she's a battle-hardened bitch, but we need that. We need someone who's willing to spank the crybabies of Congress until their bottoms are blue, and then send them to bed with no supper!

Gennifer Flowers? Monica Lewinsky? Whitewater? Travelgate? Vincent Foster? Sure, that's a lot of baggage. But it's Bill's baggage, and the last time I checked, he's not running.

Benghazi you say? Yeah, the Republican-led investigation into that cleared her. So, unless you are still under the delusion thatFox News is fair and balanced, there's no scandal, there.

Emails? Yeah, not so much, either. Unless an off-account email is found which is a clear breach of national security, I don't see much of a problem. Besides, we've all done personal stuff on company time or dime, haven't we?

We've had it good with Professor Obama. But while good ol' Prof was my first choice then, the Tough Ol' Bird is my preferred choice now. Make no mistake, the bitch is back! And I'm good with it.

Then again, I'd vote for Bill Cosby, if it meant keeping the crazies who pass for conservatives out of the White House.



Sunday, April 5, 2015

What Easter Means To Me

So it’s Easter weekend, and lots of people are doing their traditional things with baskets full of jellybeans, chocolate and what have you, and we unbelievers are doing our thing pointing out the various aspects of Easter which are Pagan in origin or which have their roots in other religions such as the cult of Attis or the Cybeline vestils. And all I can do in light of all this is reflect on the contrast of what I thought about Easter back when I was a Christian, and what Easter means to me now.  Back then, I thought Easter was an even bigger deal than Christmas, because, you know, this wasn’t the birth of Jesus, that was just the opening act.  This was Jesus coming back after kicking death in the ‘nads! This was IT! This was the whole point of the whole hullabaloo. 

And now?  The whole thing means less than nothing to me. I have no church service to attend, no kids to take on Easter egg hunts, the whole thing comes and goes and I scarcely notice.  And part of what has led to that shift in mentality is simply the realization of what Easter is supposed to mean, namely the sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus. The whole point of his death is blood atonement, which goes back to the sacrificial scapegoat ritual under the Jewish rite of Moses, where a goat takes on the sins of the people and is then sacrificed. So something innocent dies to pay for the wrongdoings of something guilty, essentially two wrongs making a right.  And nobody seems to figure this part out.

How amazing is that?

Not so amazing as this: I’ve been sick this week, which is very odd for me. I almost never get sick. But this week I came down with some killer thing which has given me the worst sore throat I’ve had since I came down with strep throat when I was a kid. The pain I’ve had to endure at the most inconvenient of times has been maddening. And for me, it just underscores the absurdity of the intelligent design argument, that this fine machine called the human body can be so easily fucked up by one little microorganism that just destroys even the ability to swallow, it’s just nuts. 

And yet, my little bout with pain is nothing compared to what some people go through for their religion.  In Iraq, Shi’ite pilgrims flagellate themselves with huge whips made of iron chains with hooks on the ends of them. In India, 200 men chopped off their balls because a guru said it would bring them closer to God. A recent HBO documentary showed the insane things some people were willing to do for scientology and the abuses they endured in that particular cult. In India again, certain people are having themselves be nailed to crosses to reenact what Jesus allegedly went through on the first Easter weekend. Now, let me just focus in on that last one.  People crucifying themselves.  Sure, they get taken down after a time, but not until they’ve hung there for a while with nails in their hands and feet!  And there’s nothing, absolutely nothing in Christianity which requires anybody to do this! It’s not expected, it’s not requested, it’s just done because some people want to better relate to what Jesus went through.  Now, my little bout with pain reinforced how absurd all that was.  But just imagine how unreachable these guys are, who actually crucify themselves to relate to Jesus – just imagine how impossible it is to touch people like that with logic and reason.  And how truly similar is that mindset to the ones which are held by suicide bombing terrorists, or followers of Jim Jones, or any number of other people who do the utterly absurd.

All the fun stuff about Easter is Pagan. The bunnies, the painted eggs, the baskets, the treats for kids.  All the nasty stuff is Christian, the blood and guts show followed by four gospel accounts of an empty tomb which disagree with each other. What does Easter mean to me now? In a way, it still means that it’s the central focus. But to me, at least this year, what it means is…

Some people are just plain gone! 

I’d be willing to be crucified to defend the truth. Others are actually willing to let themselves be crucified for the sake of mere faith. They are so unconcerned with challenging their assumptions that they will drive nails into their body rather than face one fairly asked critical question.

I can simply no longer relate to that line of thinking. That’s what Easter means to me. I celebrate the ability to question critically and commit myself fully to the truth. And I mourn the loss of those who willfully handicap themselves against doing this. I get to fly, and they choose not to. So my symbol for Easter is not a bunny, or a baby chick. 

My symbol for Easter is a bird that has clipped its own wings.