Posts tagged ‘24/7 news’

Attention Deficit Disorder

Okay, I get it that I am almost 72 and may be behind the times, but sometimes there may just be a grain of wisdom in age.  This blog is about Trump and our fixation on him, but it starts with kids and mobile devices.  Let’s face it, everywhere you go kids (anyone under 35) have their noses stuck in their mobile device and it is not just them.

Texting while driving goes on continuously.  Just watch some erratic driver on the freeway and then pass them to get safely away and as you pass you see them holding their phone.  Walk down a city street and dodge all the people focused on their phone instead of where they are going.  Hell, who can shop at the grocery store without running into people with a phone glued to their ear. Being in the moment does not exist. Incessant video games, addicted to the ding announcing a new email, and movies that are one giant adrenaline rush (fight/crash/chase/flying etc.) where dialogue died.  Or said another way, have we hook ourselves on constant stimulation where the last rush has to be topped by the next one?

Enter the age of President DFF. First, just the act of electing him was a leap off a cliff.  There was no surprise that he is ignorant, racist, nativist, and xenophobic during the campaign.  But there was a justified unrest in the country, but it did not justify leaping off a cliff.  There were difficult problems and the choices were not good (except for Bernie), but we leapt anyway.  Chaos ensured as predicted.  Now some tried (and some are still trying) to claim this is shrewd calculated chaos, but we know the man is deranged.  This is just chaos for chaos’s sake.

We are now bombarded with bombastic tweets at about the twelve-year-old level.  Diplomacy by tweeting.  We have to see and hear him every day.  It is like a three-ring circus with his craziness, the investigation into his affairs, and Republicans trying to normalize this.  There are so many balls in the air, it is dizzying.

Insult Pakistan, North Korea, and try to tear down the one thing that is keeping Iran from getting nukes.  Withdraw from the world stage and let the Chinese run the Pacific Rim.  Appoint heads of major Departments who are dismantling government as we know it.  Pack the courts with Right wing ideologues.  Push a Tax Cut that will bankrupt the country, decimate agencies by pushing out the professionals, and play nice-nice with dictators.  Lie continually and no one cares.

And now we have the Bannon-Trump food fight at again the level of 12-year-olds.  No wait!  I defame 12-year-olds.  The Wolfe book raises an interesting prospect that Trump is suffering from dementia.  It is feeding the 24-7 news cycle like throwing chum into a school of sharks.  And maybe we are getting addicted to it.  Maybe we need the constant stimulation and soap opera.  Ever notice the soap operas that occur in the work place are usually created because the work is so hum-drum?

What happens if we return to sanity? Let’s just say for a moment that we actually had a sane president.  I remember one just before this one, but many Americans were frothing with hate because he was black.  So let’s just say, and no offense women, but those frothing at Obama also froth at women, we get a nice rational white guy who starts to really solve our problems.  And assume we get rid of the crazies in Congress (Republicans). The news would have nothing to discuss but actual policy.  Snore.  Where is the fire?  Where is the over heated rhetoric we are all used to?  Where are the outrageous claims.  Well, we will still have Fox News, but what are they going to do for 24/7, focus on car chases, close up shots of crash scenes? If it bleeds, it leads?

That’s my fear.  We are becoming so addicted to constant stimulation that the next person running for president should also be able to juggle four chain saws while he tweets.  Is that the new normal?  Think about it.

Afterword:  If you think this is far fetched, think about how the mainstream press covered the Donald 24/7 because he was so entertaining, failing to fact check him and normalizing him.  When he was elected, for a short moment they understood their culpability, but then quickly move along to the next 3-alarm fire.  Think about how we got into the Iraq war as again the mainstream press was chasing the sensational news about WMD being feed to them by Darth Vader, oh, I mean Dick Cheney, failing again to really fact check this stuff, and how many dead later.  Fact checking is boring.

Nancy Reagan

Since we got 24/7 coverage of her funeral yesterday (don’t they have a funeral channel they can put this on like Court TV?) and again absolutely no news of what is going on in the world because when the funeral was over, it was back to 24/7 interviews of pundits, campaign spokespersons, and live coverage of campaign rallies.  What the hell has happened to us?  Thank you Al Jazeera for being there.  I feel like a third world country who has to turn to foreign countries to broadcast the truth and real news each day.

Anyway, I think Nancy Reagan was a nice lady.  So was my mom and she did not get Sainthood.  I am sorry for her children because when your mother dies, there is always a hole that can probably never be filled.  But really?  A national funeral and grieving?  Oh she did wonderful things like champion stem cell research among the brain-dead (Republicans).  But typical to conservatives, that is only because her life was personally touched by Alzheimer’s when Ronnie succumbed to it.  Oh yes, there was that “just say no campaign”, which also was so typical of conservatives that showed how out of touch they were with real people’s problems and real solutions.

Then we have Hillary Clinton making stuff up when she lauded her for her “low-key” work with H.I.V./AIDs:

Yet Mrs. Clinton said Friday that she had appreciated Mrs. Reagan’s “low-key advocacy” on H.I.V./AIDS, saying “it penetrated the public conscience, and people began to say, ‘Hey, we have to do something about this.’”

She faced a swift and fierce backlash, and issued a contrite apology within hours.

“It’s almost tempting to interpret this as withering, devastating sarcasm,” Gawker wrote. “The Reagans ‘started a national conversation about AIDS’ in the same sense that George W. Bush ‘started a national conversation’ about Iraq.’”

“Marie Antoinette did some incredible LOW KEY ADVOCACY for the French Underclass,” Dan Fishback, a writer and performer, wrote on Twitter.

I am sure she was a nice lady and her worshipping looks at Ronnie are legend.  It is sad that her children are left without their mother, but she lived a long life and never worried about paying the bills.  I am just not sure why we have to make things up about her or make her more than she was.  Reinventing history so conservatives can have saints to worship could be dangerous territory.  Maybe someday they will all worship Donald Trump.  Then we have reached the bottom of the barrel.

Sunday is Step Back Day

I was at a family gathering last night and one of my fellow gatherers mention that he was just going to stop watching the news.  “It is just the same bad news, repeated over and over.”  That would be about it and I have a feeling his feelings on this are the norm.  So from one sense, it may be the death knell for 24/7 news.  We aren’t learning anything from it except we are all doomed.  Bummer.

I don’t really think we are all doomed just quite yet, the 24/7 news repackaged as entertainment is turning off their audience.  From my narrow perspective news should be like national service, not a profit center, but something that the giant media networks have to provide regardless of cost for the right to make the billions they make on other services using our airways.  But that distracts from the major point about news as entertainment that makes it worthless.  Here is an example:  If you drive by a wreck on the freeway, what do you learn as you pass by?  Nothing, but it does breakup the mundane.  So you slow down and stare. Same with our news coverage.  They are covering the wrecks on the freeway of life because it attracts rubber neckers, but does not inform.

I will give you two examples from last week.  What do you learn from the coverage of the building blowing up in New York?  That if you smell gas get the hell out?  It was a local story of little interest (in terms of informing us to make better decisions as citizens) but we got it 24/7.  Now let’s turn to the aircraft murder/suicide in France.  What did we learn?  Well basically when a nut job goes off the rails, it is very hard to prevent.  So the next time I fly do I interview the pilots?  Should they leave the cabin door open.  Oh wait!  Remember 9/11 and we wondered why it was so easy to get in there?  As someone who dealt with nuclear weapons and was part of a “human reliability program”, there is a limit to the one-off you can prevent.

My point is that news is not informing us about what we can control in our lives and presenting us with policy options.  It is simply chasing ambulances because this attracts a larger audience (that includes food fights with politicians) but teaches us nothing.  Let’s look at the Middle East.  It is blowing up and we are on various sides with different allies depending on the location and politics.  Does this make any sense whatsoever?  Yet the coverage is focused on the blowups without any context.  Real news, at least useful news would put all this into context of a narrative.  But this our media shys away from because they do not appear to be unfair and unbalanced.  But without the context it is all meaningless.

The Middle East is blowing up because ancient abuses have not been addressed in a religious, sectarian, tribal society. Tyrannical  governments in the age of global communications are being challenged. Some of those challenges are worse than the status quo.  So we are picking sides, I think, making matters worse.  We seem to be repeating our South American foreign policy which was to support bad regimes if they did not support the Russians.  It’s a disaster and we become part of the problem.  The Middle East is a cesspool of tyrannical regimes and radical religious strife.  Why should we take sides at all and become part of the problem?  Well it is justified on the basis of national security (Iraq), and humanitarian concerns (Libya).  Does this make any sense whatsoever if the governments we would have to support would have to be tyrannical and against most of our basic beliefs about liberty, tolerance, and justice?  See any of this discussed on the news?

So let’s step back and really think about what is and is not important.  And by that, let’s consider what we can really control and make a positive impact on.  Let’s just forget politics for a minute and focus on reality.  What are the biggest threats and what should we be doing about them?  You know, solutions not posturing.  So I will list them in what I think are our greatest threats/issues and the obvious way forward which we seem paralyzed to do:

  1. Global Warming – Here we have a direct attack on what we consider normal and our way of life.  California is now talking about shifting power sources because hydro-electric is going dry due to the drought.  The East is facing stronger and colder storms in the winter.  Along with sea level rise, we are having much larger tidal surges and flooding.  Global warming is not some made up threat, it is real, it is already having an impact, and could disrupt both water and food sources in the near future.  You think the wars over oil were a big deal, wait to you see the one over water and food. Those who deny it are immoral creatures pandering to the ignorant who hate government.  But we can do something about it that will greatly help item 2 below.  We can use the predictions to build infrastructure to ameliorate these effects in the future.  We can make adjustments in how and where we grow our food to take advantage of these changes.  It will take planning and proactive action.  All we have to do is do it.  Agree to the problem and start implementing strategies.  Do you see this as the leading story on the news while it is our biggest threat to our national security?  No those morons are still discussing competing scientific theories to avoid alienating their conservative audience.
  2. The Economy – We have a ton of data, from the Depression, the Lessor Depression, from Japan, and from Europe, and yet we can do nothing because politics, specifically conservative politics, holds on to an ideology about the economy that paralyzes us, that favors the wealthy class.  What do we really know?  Spending stimulates the economy.  Debt is normal and reasonable levels of debt are necessary to invest in our future.  Interest rates and inflation are not a function of debt if there is little demand.  Demand, not supply drives our economy.  Finally and most importantly, our policies of favoring the “job creators” over the last 50 years has brought upon the greatest transfer of wealth from the many to the few in the history of our world.  Conservatives would have us continue these policies only more focused and severe.  What in the world are we thinking?  We need to look at policies that reasonably redistribute this wealth and invest it in our future.  It is as simple as that.  See any debates about that?  You could eat the Republican candidates for lunch if you focused on the economic policies they favor and see how they have fared in our past.  But instead we get Ted Cruz claiming there is no global warming and no journalist challenges him.
  3. The Middle East – This one is a no-brainer.  It is not our future to determine, it is theirs.  For better or worse, we have to let the people decide their fate and then live with it.  ISIS is horrible, but once they institute a government and people have to live under it (they are letting themselves be conquered), they may be short-lived.  But our entry into picking a side just focuses the hate on infidels and distracts from the internal issues that have to be resolved by the people themselves.  We need to start walking our talk (and not John McCain’s) about freedom, liberty, and tolerance.  We only support those who support those principles.  We do not prop up (Saudi Arabia) governments who just keep the lid on unresolved issues.  Sooner or later it is going to blow off and we will be part of the problem.  In the near term, support humanitarian aid and get out of the bombing business.  Let the region sort it out while we press our principles.  It is as simple as that.  As long as we dabble in picking sides between worse and worser, we are the problem.
  4. Iran and Russia – Iran presents a problem and the negotiations are the right approach.  Again this is a no-brainer.  Tougher sanctions are meaningless without the support of the rest of our partners and they are not going to go for it unless Iran goes off the reservation.  So we continue down this path.  Iran with a nuclear weapon may force a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.  One might say we started it when we helped Israel get one.  Now we must do what we can to limit the damage peacefully.  A strike on Iran would probably open up Pandora’s box with a full-scale crusade type war in the Middle East with the West seen as the enemy.  As for Russia, be careful what you wish for.  Once you have acquired territory, you have to govern it, and the Berlin Wall fell because Russia and the communist  promise failed to deliver.  We want to contain them and violence as best as possible until they fail once again.

I guess what I am telling you is that the news is focused on the sensational, and the scary the better to attract rubber neckers to watch their commercials.  The reality is that almost all of our problems are solvable and we just are not talking about solutions, just being Chicken Little to maximize ratings.  We deserve better than that.

Note:  Think about this:  Back in the 80’s we helped arm and train the locals to throw the evil Russians out of Afghanistan. It was a wildly successful program.  It also created and armed the Taliban and created the world we live in today.  Be careful what you wish for.

Monday Morning and a 5-Week Respite

The sound of silence, Congress in recess. Whatever are the pundits to do without continuous invectives hurtled out and all they have to do is repeat them? Maybe they could do some reflection on the damage that they have done. My favorite this morning came from Washington State where the Democratic governor wants to take major steps forward in fighting climate change urged on by the die-off of oysters due to the rising acidity of the ocean caused by carbon. Their rural state representatives still don’t find climate science a problem reflected by this moron:

“I’m not a fan,” Mr. Tjoelker said. “What do you mean by climate change? I don’t recognize that as a serious problem.”

No he doesn’t because our news idiots have treated the issue as a political issue with two equivalent arguing sides instead of a scientific reality. It’s easier to cover it that way and you don’t have to do any research or background before you report what is spewing out of the mouths of politicians.

Without the Congress in session doing inane things, what is a 24/7 news media to do? They must be thanking their lucky stars for the carnage in Gaza, Ebola in Africa, and Russia reverting to the Cold War. Thank god for vainglorious leaders like Vladimir Putin, right? Maybe they could focus on the White House’s attempts to downplay and redact the Senate Intelligence Committees’ Report on Torture, and what the spooks might have on Obama to make him the torture and secrets president.

Of course the problem is the 24/7 focus of news as entertainment, and the need to generate revenue. There is no time for reflection, examination, or analysis, just a current stream of he said/she said, hoping it is extreme enough to punch up ratings. Money is the problem. My new favorite insightful purveyor of real news is John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

First, he has a whole week to look at the news and think about what it is really about. Second, he can do it uncensored and attack anything. Last night he had a wonderfully hilarious and deeply disturbing segment on how news and advertising are blending, It is call native advertising.  If you really want to be informed about the world, not just the shouting matches talking points, this is the one reliable source of real perspective. Sad isn’t it.

One last thought on where we are going and why. Sunday’s NYTs had an article about how Facebook was working with the purveyor of MegaRed (a krill oil substitute for fish oil) to provide advertising focusing on catching the attention of facebook users. Here sitting in a large conference room are all these young bright people brainstorming to come up with a catchphrase that will make advertising on Facebook effective for MegaRed. There were whiteboards and stickies everywhere with ideas. All I could think of as I saw this was why itsn’t that same group focused on the problems of our country brainingstorming new ideas to catch the imagination of a nation. Because that is not where the money is. Really sad isn’t it.