Is anyone out there?
How do you all begin your “news” day? Long gone are the days that began with noses buried in a newspaper with swirls of coffee steam whilst thumbing from cover to cover. Gone are the days of seeing them pulled out in trains or in break rooms permanently marred with the smell of burnt coffee. You are more likely to find the same stumbling masses staring into the glass-lidded altars of their various digital devices. Which shouldn’t change much. These devices now function as our digital newsboys, with giant, top-of-the-website print our town cryers. Be warned, this is not a cane-rattle of the dangers of technology or wistful and misty eyed dream of the perceived golden era. The information is flowing like never before. How are we using these Star Trek delivered Deus ex machina?
Glance over a shoulder and what are you most likely to see? Facebook, Amazon, Ebay, and Craigslist.
The digital era has been touted as the era of the “more informed.” Are we? The internet was at first a tool that began to bring a community together and spread information at an unimaginable rate, and now seems to have its vast vaults of knowledge packed away in favor of selfies and recipes.
But I am an informed individual, you say, I read the news every day!
Do you? The same sites are visited each day that present the flavor of truth the reader wants to believe and reinforces that which they already believe to be true without a single hint of challenge. Liberals go here. Conservatives go there. And then scan through sanctimonious headlines to find that which fellates their sense of how the world that spins so that it can be rushed off to print on Facebook.
I can count on one hand how many times I see someone share an article in a day that makes them think or challenges a previously held viewpoint. The primary purpose of posting an article on social media is to mount up the most bravado-laced “told you so” of ends. And now it sparks nary a hint of dissent. It used to be that writing something controversial led to a massive Waterloo-like battleground in the comments section, a (semi-informed) warfare of ideas. Yet now more and more people simply ignore anything that does not fit their world view. Like the skip button on internet radio, we can just pass over anything we don’t even wish to consider.
Lacking that kind of challenge – in pondering that which we do not agree with, we are becoming the most stagnant populace to have ever existed. The internet offers us the most diverse newspaper to ever exist, a wired-together super media capable of teaching us more knowledge per minute than any other civilization before us – and yet just like us, uses only a fraction of its brain power.
Headlines get more and more sensationalized. Anything that isn’t flashy is boring. The Weather Channel now has names for thunderstorms and breaks in for hours of up to the second marathons the first time a single bolt of lightning dares shatter our sunny skies.
Writing or publishing the news to inform is as nearly extinct as the Sumatran Tiger.
Newspapers run on subscriptions, and websites run on hits – the ever-more fleeting and elusive. And the only way to mine that goldmine of hits is to either shock or to pat on the back. On a conservative website you write that Obama sucks. On a liberal website you salivate over him. Anything in-between used to be argued violently among their respective parties, and instead is now just outright ignored. If you don’t click it, it doesn’t exist.
So if the primary point of the news is only to service our own egos, is there really any point to the news at all?
Much more terrifying, we as people are now quantified into such shallow categories as the news divisions of most websites themselves. You are either for or against Obama. Beatles or Stones. You can never be grey, just like internet text you are black and white, a source of one extreme or the other. Every writer gets his fair dose of harsh criticism. Writing a column that “Rainbows Are Nice” will inevitably lead to some comment by an irate reader that thinks you are stupid and rainbows suck. Yet as liberals the harsh reality is that the McCarthyism term we so violently and oft throw at the right with is just as cancerous and wide-spread in our own ranks. The “for us or against us” ideology is now the most defining feature of the American conscience across the spectrum.
I know that my writing often seems critical and harsh. But it is a labor of love, and we all need tougher mental- parenting. Why praise a people who always seem to find themselves on a big, comfy couch of moral superiority? Few are willing to call anyone out on their bullshit anymore. There is no point in writing nice little articles, because back-patting and encouragement is in gluttonous supply. And it all begins in our brave new world of school systems where everyone is a very special little star. Every life is special, but each person only becomes special when they put their foot out there and do something. After leaving school, our egos, thick with icing and sprinkles of what shiny little slices of heaven we are make us more apt to whine than ever accomplish anything.
For example, many don’t know that the movie industry screens films before they are released and are willing to completely re-cut the entire movie if an audience is not satisfied with the story as-is. The terrible film adaptation of the novel “I Am Legend” re-shot the entire ending because audiences simply did not like the original – one much more inline with the message of the book. They released a film that made the audience happy, rather than one that adhered to the brutal truth of the novel. God forbid we offend anyone.
Joining a Facebook group of those that agree with you accomplishes nothing. Reading news that comforts you into knowing you are right accomplishes nothing.
Challenge yourself. Fight and argue less with those that are already “your enemy” and more with those you call friend.
Try being like those movers and shakers so fondly posted in quotes and pictures of on Facebook and find your own damn voice.
If you enjoy this or any of my other articles, feel free to follow me on twitter @thenineofswords for additional political musings, thoughts, and article updates.