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convo with Ryan: on media & outrage porn

advice for America
Advice for America.

Go read this article and then come back.

Got it? Okay. When I first read this, I wondered why I didn’t remember any of the examples his uses in his paragraph about “this month’s latest scandals.” Then I looked at the date, and it was from last year. February of last year, to be precise.

This article was before the murder of Michael Brown, before the murder of Eric Garner. Before the summer of white people dumping ice on their heads for ALS research and people of color rioting in the streets in an attempt to stop being murdered by police.

It occurs to me now, several things: 

  1. Ryan Holiday is a fucking genius. I mean, we knew this, right? The whole Trust Me, I’m Lying manipulation of the media to accomplish certain goals (Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell being #1 on the NYT, yadda yadda). I think the word I’m looking for is prescient: he is able to predict the future and make money off of it.
  2. In the past year, the outrage porn has become, if anything, worse. It is a feeding frenzy, this outrage stuff.
  3. I seriously filter media that I ingest, for reasons of self and sanity preservation. I live with someone who watches a lot of tv news, and most of it is just noise. I read the local newspaper.  I trust certain news sources, neither of which is David Muir or Aaron Luna.  I trust The Atlantic, Mother Jones, and The Economist.

I believe that the media in this country, far more than the fourth pillar of the state, has become the kind of distraction that obfuscates all the malfeasance of the government.  I feel like the media is designed to produce a soporific, yet despairing effect to its watchers and listeners. The despair that you cannot do anything to displace the current power structure, induces a sleepy kind of powerlessness. Soon, the noise becomes background noise.

Part of the problem for me is that I don’t think it’s a conspiracy: it would certainly be easier to explain if I did. I don’t think there is one mustache-twirling devil behind the whole thing (Rupert Murdoch I’m looking at you), but it is almost as though there is a vanguard of news media whose only purpose is to distract, mollify, and obscure.

Forgive me  for closing with The Hunger Games. The name of the country where Katniss lives is, “Panem.” I’m sure Suzanne Collins is also brilliant, because the name of this country short for “panem et circenses.”

from Dictionary.com:

panem et circenses. Latin, literally “bread and circuses,” supposedly coined by Juvenal and describing the cynical formula of the Roman emperors for keeping the masses content with ample food and entertainment. –

from Wikipedia:

Bread and circuses” (or bread and games; from Latin: panem et circenses) is metonymic for a superficial means of appeasement. In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the generation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion; distraction; or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace,[1] as an offered “palliative.” Its originator, Juvenal, used the phrase to decry the selfishness of common people and their neglect of wider concerns.[2][3][4] The phrase also implies the erosion or ignorance of civic duty amongst the concerns of the commoner.

This is what I feel the media is doing: offering a “palliative,” a soother, so people won’t riot in the streets. I don’t think it’s working, though. With the advent of riots the American news media couldn’t ignore, #blacklivesmatter, and the coverage of American happenings from foreign news sources, (The Independent, The Guardian) I think some people in America are waking up.

The question, then becomes: wake up and do what? Revolution? We have an election coming up, don’t we?

That, detective, is the right question.

 

Some link-love:

The Counted: The Guardian UK is keeping track of how the people who have been murdered by US law enforcement. This is a community project, and you can contribute here.

Baltimore: how international media would cover the riots.

Ferguson: How international news media have covered Ferguson.

This happened to my mom as well:  I lost my dad to Fox News: How a generation was captured by thrashing hysteria.

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