This morning I went to the gym and got on the treadmill (which is usually the first thing I do), and after a few minutes, I started scanning the row of TVs conveniently positioned (hanging a few feet down from the ceiling) for perfect viewing.
As I scanned the different programs, I kept thinking about science fiction writers; about whether any of them would have been able to accurately predict or imagine a media reality that could safely be considered stranger than fiction, by a long shot.
On the rightmost screen is the dreadful CNN, featuring good-looking anchors, with a strange affectation in their fake smiles, as they showed images and videos of the terrorist attack at the mall in Nairobi, Kenya, over, and over, and over. They kept showing the same videos of people running in panic, ducking down; the same images of terrorized people, of crying children... And in a strange cognitive dissonance, the good-looking smiling hosts with the strange affectation are shown in a little inset box on the left of the screen talking about the incident, while the horrific videos, and photos are shown over and over and over; the same video clips and images.
I was on the treadmill for exactly one hour, and this kept on for the entire time... And of course, by now I know the propaganda script; there comes the follow up report about, guess what? All the mass shooting at U.S. malls for the last few decades! And they go state by state, mall by mall... How many people were shot dead, who shot them, the date it happened. And then, as per the talking points, some expert is going to talk about how to "protect soft targets,", i.e., protect innocent civilians from murderous terrorists, i.e. you and your children and your family.
The whole thing is just so crass, so pathetic, so formulaic, that it really is hard to not think about "Nada" in the movie They Live.
I scan the other TV screens, and watch the truly bizarre commercials (most of them for pharmaceuticals), and the morning shows... In one the entire audience has all kinds of strange costumes, and they run down euphoric when their names are called; they start jumping up and down, running back and forth, raising their hands, "Oh my God!"
On the other screen is Kelly Ripa and her gigantic co-host, smiling, and she starts dancing. On the other screen is Cher singing at a stage on the street, at one of the morning shows; the camera spans the euphoric, happy, smiling crowd.
Another screen is showing some of the most bizarre videos you could ever see. There is this little old lady (she must be 75 or 80 years old), very, very angry, insulting her neighbor, while holding a cup, and making all manner of hand gestures, stomping her feet, totally enraged. The hosts of the show are laughing their asses off as they cut back and forth to the little old lady's meltdown...
By scanning all the multiple screens, there is a subliminal message... Everybody is smiling, everybody is happy (except the little old lady, of course), as the warnings for this or that medication are being displayed, telling you that on rare occasions the medication can actually kill you or cause internal bleeding, you see a beautiful and peaceful scenery, the lady in the commercial happy, swimming in crystal clear water.
Everything is perfect (except the infinite loops of carnage in Kenya), everybody is happy, smiling, enjoying music, eating, swimming, running back and forth, and jumping up and down when they are chosen to guess the price of the car or stove.
It's a capitalist orgy! The world is Disneyland! What the f#ck is wrong with YOU? What are you complaining about it? You see how happy these folks are, look at them! If you're feeling down, if you're stressed out, if you are worry about paying next moth's rent, or about your $50,000 medical bill, there most be something wrong with you; it's your own fault! Or something...
This stuff is poison to the mind! And the worst offenders are the "news" organizations. Here's my bottom line when it comes to news: if it depends on advertising revenue it is propaganda, in the final analysis, and if so, it "[decreases] the public’s ability to develop their own critical thoughts."
The more [concentrated] the media landscape becomes the greater risk of harm there is to the public interest. As powerful corporations grow increasingly wealthier, powerful, influential, and politically affiliated the greater risk there is to the political economy on a global scale. The risk inherent with affluential transcultural media corporations is the mass homogenization of content and, thus, propagandist reinforcement of corporate and political interests serving only the dominant elites and, in turn, harming and marginalizing non-elites. One would be grossly remiss of the tangible danger and malign effects to the public to simply abridge the issue examined in this study as a case of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer.The emphasis is mine
Without an awareness of the grave consequences involved with an increasingly concentrated media environment the public (i.e. non-elites) will continue to be systematically brainwashed by the propagandist arm of the government that is the mass media and will unknowingly acquiesce to the interests of the dominant elites.
-- Gonzaga University Master's Degree Thesis by Frank McCoy
Let me clarify something at this point... The issue is not necessarily that there is something inherently wrong with entertainment, with the need we all have for a little rest and relaxation. I love me some Game of Thrones, or True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, Madmen, Daily Show, Bill Maher, and occasionally So You Think You Can Dance (which my wife makes me watch); the problem is that the corporate media leaves out a big chunk of important topics that are very relevant to our lives, and this phenomenon is what creates the propaganda effect.
Propaganda is a form of communication aimed towards influencing the attitude of the community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument. Propaganda statements may be partly false and partly true. Propaganda is usually repeated and dispersed over a wide variety of media in order to create the chosen result in audience attitudes.The emphasis is mine
Here's how I deal with this situation... The most important thing is to recognize the propaganda aspects of the U.S. media conglomerate.
When it comes to news, I've determined that the truly poisonous, debased stuff are the mainstream news channels/programs, like MSNBC, FoxNews (of course), CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC. So I basically stopped watching that trash all together unless I'm doing my "amateur" research on propaganda after a sensational event (mass shooting, terrorist attack, etc.).
That right there has improved my life enormously. When I think that at one point I was watching three hours of MSNBC a day, I just don't know how anybody can function properly being exposed to that kind of pablum/trash on daily basis.
Next are outlets like NPR/PBS, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald... And others in that category. There is a mixed bag there; they are still at the service of the ruling class, but they do offer some real journalism as well, so the key is to learn to identify the good stuff (honest, straightforward journalism), or in many cases, the one or two paragraphs that contain the information nuggets about an important subject.
Then there is real stuff, the real journalism, like Democracy Now!, Alternet, truthdig, truthout, and The Real News Network, WikiLeaks, Bureau of Investigative Journalism Center For Public Integrity, MuckRock News, The National Security Archive, The UpTake, the Sunlight Foundation, ProPublica, MapLight, Moyers & Company, among others.
So, my advice, in case anybody is interested? Turn off the TV, especially when it comes to news. As you do that and detox your mind from its extremely harmful effects, you will start noticing a very positive change your life, and I argue that you will also start to get a better grasp about the important issues of the time. Yes, I'm saying that the more we watch, the less informed we'll be. Not only less informed, bu misinformed. And in addition there are many other harmful effects caused by the crass manipulation we are subjected to from TV programming, including fear-mongering and hyper-consumerism.
Tomorrow morning, if I make it to the gym, I'll take my Pablo Neruda book, Residencia en la tierra and by reading it will use it as a protection shield to keep my gaze from the trash being peddled by the U.S. media...
"He llegado otra vez a los dormitorios solitarios / (...) y otra vez / tiro al suelo los pantalones y las camisas, / no hay perchas en mi habitación ni retratos de nadie en las paredes. / Cuánta sombra de la que hay en mi alma daría por recobrarte."
UPDATE: TUE SEP 24, 2013 AT 12:05 PM PDT
As I told Bob Johnson, I ended up doing my exercise outdoors today! A nice an quiet three-mile walk in about one hour... It was much better; the chirping birds, the murmurations, are ten thousand times better than being stuck in front of TV monitors. Plus one has time to reflect, to think, to meditate. How can we get a strong social justice movement going! How can we bring thieves and crooks from the Wall Street criminal racketeering cartel to justice! Envision one day war criminals being charged. Thinking about the best way to expose the influence-peddling corruption that has engulfed our system of government... Peace and serenity helps you think about these important things. And as a bonus, two times these huge hawks flew very slowly, very close (within 10 feet or so) to me... So close I could hear the sound of their wings as they propel themselves away!