Give the People What They Want

I don’t think this is an idea that is revolutionary by any stretch, but why do we publish the names and images of violent criminals all over the newspaper and television? I don’t profess to knowing or understanding why people commit crimes, but I think in some cases it has to do with a desperate need for attention, recognition and fame. I know that some people have a real interest in the macabre – look no further than the proliferation of true crime podcasts out there – but it just seems to me like it’s just all about sensationalism.

That is totally on brand, though, for the media. In an increasingly crowded world of TV, news, podcasts and social media, the key decision makers in the media are stuck between a rock and a hard place – either play the game or the other [media entity] gets the eyeballs and ratings. As with many things, it comes down to selling advertising and making money. I get it, I’m not dumb.

But there must be a happy medium somewhere. Why do we give criminals the attention they crave? And wouldn’t we at least chip away at crime rates just a little bit if we stopped the mass-exposure of violent criminals in the media? Or do you think it would just continue at the same rate, reagrdless of mass media exposure? I don’t know. If I had any semblance of lawmaking power, I’d at least try to push through some kind of regulation about what gets reported about the people who are performing violent acts of crime.

Seperate but related, the topic of Johnny Depp came up in the car today on a family ride. Depp’s been in the news again lately as there’s some talk of him reprising his role as Captain Jack Sparrow. What studio head would allow this? The Depp/Heard trial was infuriating to me, yet another example of sensationalism and money-grubbing by the media. Airing out the personal lives of these two – audio recordings, he said/she said, accusations, crying, all for the public to watch – was a bit much. What I got out of that trial is that Depp is an out-of-control loser with a horrific, scary temper and worse, he’s a physical abuser. And while the treatment on social media that Amber Heard received was as revolting as it gets, she doesn’t get a free pass either. By all accounts, she was also physically abusive.

Send both of them to moon, please. Just don’t broadcast it, give them roles, or show their faces in magazines or on TV anymore. Give them the thing that they would hate the most – a complete, utter lack of attention. That would probably be more painful for them than monetary fines or jail time.

Stay Sharp

I’ve seen enough shows on TV and read enough articles about dementia and Alzheimers to know that it is not something I want in my life, my family’s life or really anyone’s life. In short, it’s terrifying. This is not news.

When I was younger, I think I was more of a hypochondriac than I am now. I attribute part of that to life experience, of witnessing the maladies of myself and others and seeing that the overwhelming majority of them got through it ok. I’ve also tried to read a bit and learn over the years and I think that also helps to temper any thoughts I might have when I get a headache or whatnot. So it’s safe to say that I don’t feel doomed if I’m not feeling well and I certainly don’t “rabbit hole” it by doing copius Google searches if I show symptoms of something. That said, dementia freaks me out.

I recently had an MRI done. This was the first time in many years that I stopped for a moment and thought “oh gosh what if they find XXXX or YYYY and my life spirals down the drain?” It wasn’t too bad, but when a doctor tells you to get an MRI, you can’t help thinking about some scenarios! The MRI was ordered because the opthalmologist noticed an ever-so-slight difference in the movement between my right eye and my left eye and they thought it would be prudent to make sure all was ok.

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Rock of Ages

I realize that talking about age is an over-trodden path, with clever and well-worn commentary everywhere about things like forgetting why you walked into a room or how everything hurts in the morning. Bob Hope and George Burns made a living off that. Those are well-worn shoes, those musings. And I imagine all of them are true stories for the many of us who are getting up there in age. And by mentioning Bob Hope and George Burns, I realize I’m getting up there in age.

I’m 51. I still see a younger version of me every single day in the mirror. I can’t really see my own aging – the progression just isn’t as obvious when you see yourself multiple times per day. Also, if you have no hair like me then there’s also less of a barometer, other than the fact that you’ve lost all your hair. But when you see someone for the first time in 25 years, BAM! Someone who knew me and my long, black hair 25 years ago would get that BAM moment if they saw me for the first time since 1997.

1997 and 2022

That’s the physical, though. The front-end. There’s much more, of course.

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Both Ends Burning

I have so many topics I want to write about now that this site is re-kindled. And while I promise there won’t be much more political talk here because I find it all so exhausting, I do have another thing to express about how it feels like politics operates today.

Here’s my summary: It’s all so dumb. Summary complete.

I just want stop there, but if I did, then it’s just a lazy social media post. So off we go…

Let’s admit one thing – media entities with the largest readership and viewership tend to lean left, some harder left than others. To find out which media companies tend to favor, there are some good sources you can look at, one of which is AllSides. This morning I did a Google search of media outlets which reach the most people in the USA and then I input those into AllSides and here’s what it came back with:

NEWSPAPERS BY CIRCULATION VOLUME

  • The Wall Street Journal (leans toward center)
  • The New York Times (leans left)
  • USA Today (leans left)
  • The Washington Post (leans left)
  • Los Angeles Times (leans left)
  • New York Post (leans right)
  • Tampa Bay Times (leans toward center)
  • Chicago Tribune (leans toward center)

MOST WATCHED TV NETWORKS

  • CBS (leans left)
  • NBC (leans left)
  • ABC (leans left)
  • Fox News (leans right)
  • MSNBC (leans left)
  • CNN (leans left)

We often hear the more conservative right talking about unfair treatment from the press and they kinda do have a point, given that the media companies with the most readership/viewership do tend to lean left. And the only high-circulation newspaper in the top 8 can barely be called a newspaper.

I’m not here to comment on whether or not I think that’s fair, but I do find it mighty interesting that our last election was pretty evenly split. It shows, perhaps, that those media outlets above just don’t carry the weight that they used to. Hell, that’s an easy argument to make, actually, and supports my prior notion that social media is also playing a role by sucking you into the magic algo-spiral where you only see the content from the perspective that you support (which takes you further and further down the toilet).

But it does make me wonder why 2+ years later, there’s still SO much coverage of election deniers when back in 2016…..well….I’ll be quiet and just beg you at this point to watch this video about the 2016 election:

I do realize the one big wild card here is that nobody stormed the capital on January 6th after the 2016 election, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that both parties are just full of it.

It’s fair until it’s NOT fair. It’s not deplorable until *those people* do it. Give me a break.

It’s fair until it’s NOT fair. It’s not deplorable until *those people* do it. Give me a break.

One more thing – I’m pretty entrenched as someone who leans left, but very close to the center. As I mentioned in my prior post and above, the whole thing just exhausts me to no end and I’ve really had enough of both parties and their constant blathering, finger-pointing and moral superiority. Take all that energy and, um, just do your job maybe?

Things Fall Apart

Politics wasn’t a thing in my house when I was growing up. We weren’t one of those families that watched a lot of news or sat around the dinner table talking about politics or the day’s top stories. It’s not like these things were never discussed – it just came up way less than other stuff. And that’s pretty much the way politics was for me until the last few years. A non-issue. I never truly cared about who the president was or who my local representative was…and I found talking about politics boring.

I’ve always had left-leaning friends, right-leaning friends and party agnostic friends. The only important thing for me was that they were nice people and enjoyable to be around. And I think, perhaps naively, that a good amount of America was like that when I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s.

I wish life was still like that. It’s not.

America, to me, has turned into a borderline police-state country where there is far more hatred, dis-trust and vitriol than there used to be. I don’t think the genie is going back in the bottle.

Six or so years ago, I remember having a conversation with my dear friends Dave and Leo about the prospect of Donald Trump becoming president. Both of them are far more interested and knowledgeable in politics than I am (to the point where I believe they have a seperate text thread about it) and I distinctly remember asking them if any president in their lifetime had ever really, truly had any effect on their day-to-day lives. My point was that all three of us were so lucky to be born white and male and not oppressed by our race or gender as so many others are. We can be empathetic and sympathetic (and we are), but we will never truly know that feeling of oppression. Anyway, I sensed that point hit home with them.

And then came President Donald Trump – and my point about the president having an effect on our everyday lives became, well, wrong.

But let’s get back on track – how did we get here? I’ve always been a fan of Matt Taibbi, ever since he wrote for Rolling Stone. I like his tone and his almost frantic style of writing. I also like his content, so I pay for it. I especially love his approach to politicians and politics – he’s not afraid to call out anyone, anytime, anywhere, any party. So I fully subscribe to Taibbi’s notion that there is one bullseye we can place on why America has turned into what it has: the media and the wild west of the internet/social media.

Think about it:

  • Cable News: The advent of Fox News in the early ’90s wasn’t viewed at the time as anything groundbreaking or titanic. It was a greedy white-male capitalist who saw that CNN was having some success and he wanted a slice of that cake, too. It wasn’t until later in the decade when Fox, CNN and MSNBC started to become more outwardly and obnoxiously partisan. All three, and now countless others, are now cesspools and garbage disposals for partisan talking points. Worthless. Just feeding the narrative of what people want to hear, at the expense of truly balanced reporting, which is not easy to find on TV anymore. The national networks (CBS, NBC, etc) have 19 minutes per night and god forbid those broadcasts be too controversial because, well, ad dollars and access. These cable news networks have splintered us and turned us against each other.
  • Social Media: this is almost too easy a target. The first wave was impossibly fun: memes, cat videos and the real dopamine hit of connecting with old classmates and friends and also finding like-minded people who you would *never* otherwise meet. The world shrank immediately and boy, was that intoxicating! You mean somebody else in America likes listening to Southern Culture on the Skids as much as I do? Golly! Fast forward to today, and it has turned into a nasty, nasty place where “brave” people hide behind keyboards, feeling emboldened to toss bombs of verbosity at anyone who doesn’t think like they do. Algorhithms only show them the content that feeds only their political beliefs and it all just sucks them further into their netherworld. This is poison. It just pulls the left lefter and the right righter. And yet I can’t seem to fully tear myself away from social media, largely because…cat videos and windows into my friends lives.

Anyway, I agree with Taibbi that these two things have become poisonous and there’s really no going back. No political third party or revolutionary politician is going to lead us out of this as long as there’s partisan media and algorithims to tell us ONLY what we want to hear. If some third political party emerges and becomes a regular factor, it just means another cable news network will come up where that party line will be the exclusive message. The cat is out of the bag – and it’s an ugly hairless cat that pukes up a lot of hairballs. I don’t know the solution. Part of me wants more regulation of these things, but how?

All I can do for now is a) not watch or support cable news to the best of my ability, b) use social media less; Facebook and Twitter are off my phone and c) really, truly try to understand all sides to a story and respect people’s perspectives as much as I can.

What do you think?