Friday, November 06, 2009

Worst Media Developments

The worst cultural developments over the last 20 years:

1.) 24 hour news. There is not enough interesting news to hold a normal persons attention during all waking hours, so the 24 hour news networks have to compensate by embellishing, speculating, and having people tell us what the news "means." There was a time when we could figure that out for ourselves. What is really corrosive about the twenty four hour news mentality however is the notion that a car chase in Biloxi, or a city councilman's use of a racial epithet in some rural backwater is something we absolutely must know, when in fact it is the immediate, mundane a crucial events in our own families and communities that should command our atention.

2.) Playing 911 calls after some tragedy. Emergency calls are not replayed because of the sharp detail they contain; on the contrary, they are played to exploit the alarm, emotion and fear of the caller. The hysteria and fear of stressed-out citizens is meant to provide "atmosphere," apparently on the theory that we could not figure out that fatal fires or horrific accidents are bad, without cues.

3.) Finding someone to blame for every misfortune. The theory behind this all too common media passtime is that life is all peace and bliss unless someone, usually for malign motives, screws it up for someone. This foolishness has progressed to the point where seemingly educated and reasonably intelligent people prove otherwise by hinting that someone is responsible for disease epidemics, natural disasters and the criminal behavior of others. You see, we all would live in an earthly paradise were we not constantly being screwed by the man...

4.) Having some commentator tell us that we will be "outraged by," "surprised by," or "will not believe" what we are about to hear or see. The media have largely abandoned relaying information that has intellectual merit and replaced it with that appealing to some base emotion. The underlying narrative is that all properly thinking persons will respond to the same emotional chords that move the media. Thus we must certainly be outraged that driver's manuals are not printed in braille, surprised that religious conservatives do not eat their young, and will not believe people sometimes make mistakes.

5.) The disregard of principle. There is a fashioable notion in teh media, as well as academia, and even our governing institutions that some things are too important to let principles stand in teh way. It is permissible, we are left to conclude, to allow a lapse in some scruple as ling as it serves some larger purpose. Thus we see the perversion of science in pursuit of ideological goals, mangling of legal process and order for political advantage, and jettisoning of journalistic ethics in favor of partisan interest. We need to recognize these affronts for what they are: corruption. We have no difficulty in recognizing corrution in some official who misuses his authority in exchange for money, and we should be no more accommodating of those who betray the principles of their profession in pursuit of ideological vanity.

1 comment:

Evil Red Scandi said...

1) I'm not sure 24/7 "news" will survive. Over the next 10 years we're going to go from the "You Watch What's On The Channel Now And You Like It" format to on-demand programming for 90+% of stuff and live programming for the rest (sports and other events being covered in "real time"). This will be a wonderful thing - the only news channel personality I like (or can even stomach) is Neil Cavuto.

2) Yup

3) This goes back way further than 20 years. It's an interesting thing - each generation seems to think that a lot of this stuff is new (my parents still do), but as you read more and more stuff written 50 years ago, 100 years, ago, 250 years ago, 2000 years ago you realize that human nature hasn't changed since people came out of caves. You have a lot of "holy #%!$ - they're just like us!" moments.

4) Not really new either (see above), but now we get it real-time so it's much more annoying.

5) See #3.