Media Goo Goo, Media Ga Ga

Last week I wrote a couple of posts (which will not, for some arcane reason, be linked into this one- Moss Grows Fat… Parts 1 and 2, if you’re interested) that could, in part, be construed as a defence of media- in particular, investigative print (and online) journalism.  This week I honestly feel like rescinding even that tentative support.

Holy cows.

Yes.  A couple had a baby.  They are experiencing the joys of first-time parenthood and seem to be handling it all beautifully.  In this case ‘it all’ includes constant and invasive and ridiculous media presence.

Seriously.

I have absolutely nothing against William and Kate- or the British monarchy, for that matter.  I am Canadian, and I’m okay with our historical connection to Britain and its kings and queens.

My issue lies completely with the media (speaking in BROAD generalizations here)- and the way it is allowing itself to be used by our political establishments.  And since it’s not the first time- even very recently- that this has come up, I can’t not comment on what’s going on.

Even the venerable CBC has spent an inordinate amount of time discussing this child (it was a topic on Power and Politics with Evan last evening.  Sigh).  The morning show on CBC News Network (which is, admittedly, more about headlines than stories with any depth) was all about the Royals going home and the first visit of Her Majesty, Great-Grandma.

Jebus.

Enough already.

A friend of mine recently commented that the media is completely responsible for the fluff that dominates our airwaves these days.  While I would never consider myself a conspiracy theorist, I have to say that there is insidious behind-the-scenes governmental/social leadership culpability when you boil the phenomenon (this domination of non-news in our news feeds) down to its source.

The powers that be- Municipal, Provincial (or State), Federal and religious- ALL benefit from an ignorant populace.  The more that we are sedated by mind-numbingly terrible television shows and junky celebrity magazines, the less attention we tend to pay to issues of any import.

My personal beef is with the fact that no one seems to read anymore.  Granted, complaining about non-readers (and lack of reading comprehension) on a writing site seems counterintuitive at best.  Venting about such things in a forum that features writers -often writing about the great things that they’ve read- does amount to preaching to the choir.  But it is my hope that there are choristers among us who may be in positions to positively influence change in this regard.

Teachers, speakers, political leaders, pundits and writers with a larger readership than little ol’ me can (and should) speak out about the lack of critical reading skills- and, by extension, listening skills (for those who still refuse to look at anything in print format)- and encourage those closest to them to actually think about the stuff they are exposed to (in whichever forum that they prefer).

We have myriad means of communicating with one another.  I have spent most of a lifetime examining the ways in which we communicate with one another, and the ways in which those methods of communication are often controlled and manipulated.

Humanity’s myths are frequently propagandist.  Propagandist techniques include such things as scapegoating and demonizing the enemy (for a full list see that bastion of all knowledge, Wikipedia) Such myths are means of establishing and maintaining order and are designed to be intentional societal scripts.  Some of these stories are self-aware and clear in this intent.  Others are more insidious.  We have to remain vigilant in order that we not fall under the lulling spell of some of our imposed scripts- including the idea that mindlessly watching television programs about hillbillies and rich ‘celebutantes’ is a deserved reward for how hard we have to work each day to keep body and soul with roofs over our heads and food in our bellies.

There are people speaking out about this manipulation of the media as a means of continuing the imposition of willful ignorance that seems to be the norm these days.  Bill Moyers is among my favourite voices crying in the wilderness of this reality.  With Marty Kaplan (the founder and Director of the Norman Lear Centre which studies the impact of entertainment on society) he frequently discusses such topics as media and political systems as ‘Weapons of Mass Distraction’, and how the mainstream media purposely avoids discussions of important issues such as climate change, and the lack of general outcry as the distance and divide between the very wealthy and everyone else continues to grow at an alarming rate.

There are others.  Not all television or journalism is skewed toward the ridiculous or inconsequential in the grander scheme of things.  Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart (and lately, in his absence, John Oliver), Louis C.K., Lewis Black, Rick Mercer, the cast of This Hour Has 22 Minutes… all these good folks illustrate the folly of drinking the Kool-Aid our mainstream media is trying to force-feed us on a moment-by-moment basis.  Our comedians are providing us with more coverage of important local and world events than our news outlets.

We are being manipulated.

Of this there can be no doubt.

We have to pay closer, critical attention to the mythological scripts that are being presented to us, and make informed decisions about what we are willing to stand for from our media and our leaders.  We can’t sit in apathy and complacency while allowing the propaganda to distract us from taking stands and making changes when they are required.

An arguably important baby has been born.  Let’s react to this bit of news by ridding ourselves of the infantilizing effects of media and political propaganda.

Time to grow up.

(All that said, a very Happy Birthday to young Master ‘no name as yet’  (update: George Alexander Louis) of Cambridge.  May he grow up to become a leader worthy of his history and a positive force in the world he will inherit).

Holding out for a Hero

It hasn’t been a great week (using understatement as a rhetorical device there).  Daily- sometime it feels like hourly- it seems that the news is full of stories about corruption and/or just plain BAAAAAAAAD judgement in the hallways of power and alleged public representation and service.

I could add my voice to the din surrounding our now-internationally-infamous mayor, but I prefer to hope that his chickens have finally come home to roost and he will no longer be able to escape the just desserts (my outrage is leading to terrible mixing of metaphors) his actions and attitudes warrant.  Gotta give props to the American comedians’ take on the situation though- however embarrassing it might be for this City that I love- and those of us who sure as hell didn’t vote for the guy.  And then there’s the wonderful home-grown commentary by brilliant writers like Jude Klassen/Tasha James.

I have already made my feelings fairly clear about the PM and his actions and ‘Action Plan’, so his non-response to the scandalous goings on with his senate appointees and high-ranking staffers is, sadly, no surprise at all.

Then there are the tragedies making international headlines.  The senseless killing of a young father (seemingly) over a truck.  A tornado that destroyed a town and  too many lives.  And, just today, a British soldier hacked to death by frustrated alleged adherents of one of those faulty ideologies I have written about here.

The media has once again resorted to ‘tragedy porn’, ‘reporting’ unimportant or unsubstantiated details and filling time with mindless chatter when there is nothing new to actually report (although how wonderful was the footage of the woman finding her dog, unharmed, under the rubble of her house while being interviewed?  THAT was worth the camera time).

The scrums surrounding the mayor, however deserved, are stomach turning as far as I’m concerned.  The impulse to harangue and harass and get ‘answers to nothing’ while beating out other ‘reporters’ for market share is morally and ethically repugnant (but is more important than actually providing the public with information or insight, apparently).

These events, and the way in which they are covered by media outlets, are feeding that anomie that I discussed before.  And although I have started a number of posts about the apocalypticism that is generated by this disconnect between societal expectations and reality, right now I don’t feel like adding to the negativity.

Joseph Campbell’s focus on the symbolic role of the Hero in myth and symbol was one of the starting points of his body of work.  He defined a Hero as someone who gives his/her life to something larger than oneself.  Someone who performs physical or spiritual deeds leading to the discovery- or rediscovery- of something otherwise lacking in society.

A Hero is often the founder of something- leaving the old ways behind on a quest for the new.  The Hero’s journey begins with something having been taken from the society or with a serious absence- of justice, rationale, compassion and etc.- in the Hero’s world.  Following the example of the Hero places all of us on an ancient trajectory- or the branch of an ancient tree- linking us all together as part of something that started long before any of us were around and that will still be here long after we are all gone.

I have created a new category for this blog- ‘Hero Worship’- and I will be rolling out examples of humans who are fighting the anomie through their actions, writings or general ways of being.  I need that positivity right now.  I have to climb out of the mire of the reality of injustice and greed in this world of ours.  Despite more prevalent news to the contrary, we DO have people who are doing things worth celebrating and leading by examples worth following.

I am going to give THEM my time and attention for the next little while.