Monday, April 27, 2015

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!



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