Friday Night at 8: Turn and Face the Strange … Changes

The world can be a crazy place.

(That, by the way, is a rare video of a 1976 rehearsal of the tune “Changes.”  It’s raw and groovalicious.)

                                                    . . .  . . .  . . .   . . .

Shortly after 9/11 I stopped watching television completely.  Sure, I watched it while the towers fell, and in the days that followed I remember being very impressed with the coverage.  My ex-husband and I, both avowed haters of Rudy Guiliani, liked him fine when he appeared on TV.  Rudy did his job when it came to communicating with us, he didn’t pull any punches, and we had a single moment of not hating him.  During that time people pulled together, it was a moment of awful grace after such a huge trauma.

Neither my ex-husband or I, or anyone else I encountered either at work or at play, had any regard for George W. Bush when he came to Ground Zero and shouted out meaningless slogans through a bullhorn.  We knew he didn’t care about New York and wouldn’t do anything except attack Iraq.  It was no big secret.  And we knew Schumer and Hillary would get NYC lots of federal dollars that wouldn’t heal us.  We still have a hole in the ground downtown.

The  New York Times had an awesome series of little vignettes and pictures of each of the victims who died that day.  It was a labor of love.  I read the New York Times then.

But within a very short time, it appeared to me our media simply went  insane.  No, not in some grand dramatic fashion, but just a matter of complete removal from reality.  Of course, all too many Americans, with sincere and honest desires to help our country were instead lured by the siren call of “go shopping!” — and also went similarly insane and became dysfunctional as citizens.

So I stopped watching TV, and for several years stopped reading the Times, and to this day I don’t read any of the magazines I used to enjoy (except my science fiction magazines, lol — Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog and Isaac Asimov’s).

Two things stood out for me during that time.  One was the eerie and kind of creepy popularity of the television show The West Wing.  I saw young intelligent lawyers at work speaking of the show in ways that made me realize their yearning for a different occupant of the White House as well as the momentary comfort it gave to escape into a fantasy of some kind of parallel universe in which George W. Bush had not stolen the 2000 election.  I also saw the rise of The Daily Show as an equal fantasy that the news could be real instead of the surreal fake garbage that was being shown.

Many good Americans turned to this televised parallel universe for sanctuary during those days.

The other thing that struck me was that even though I no longer watched television or read the newspapers and magazines, I still always knew what was going on in both popular culture and current events (and this was before I started blogging) by some kind of wierd osmosis.  I’m sure it was that I overheard folks talking, unconsciously read the headlines as I would walk by the city newsstands, etc., but it was a strange realization to me, a realization of how ubiquitous our dysfunctional media is, how hard to be independent of.

I still don’t have a television, but because I blog and surf the net, I see a lot of things on YouTube which keep me from being totally isolated from the medium.  And I have gone back to reading the New York Times because of my political blogging, though I still do not read any magazines except when articles are excerpted on the web.

We’ve had a good dialogue here about the lamestream media (h/t lasthorseman) and how we can break out and influence folks who are being fed such propaganda.  I think it’s instructive to realize just how powerful that media is and what we are up against.

It is amoral … the corporate bosses don’t mind showing, say, Keith Olberman, if he makes them money.  The pinheads upstairs are vulnerable that way, as their greed outweighs even their corrupt and rotten ideologies.  On the other hand, it is of limited value to show valuable insights within the very medium that is betraying us, and that media’s amorality will always do everything it can to coopt even the best shows, keeping us glued to those cathode rays.

We saw through ek hornbeck’s McCain / Iseman Open Thread the fascinating progression of a breaking news story that, in the face of the devastations of our times was no story at all, a real distraction which could never provide us with the true and substantive reasons McCain should not be President.  We saw how the media feeds upon itself like a dumb animal, and I think there is a vulnerability there as well which could be contemplated.

Barack Obama’s popularity, and conversely, Mister Bush’s 19% approval ratings, seems to me to show that Americans have been hit where they live by the excesses of this misAdministration.  Folks are losing their homes, their jobs, their hopes, and in that dash of cold reality are reassessing the false promises of neoconservatism.  They are hungry for a change, pretty much any change.  Some are more aware than others of what shape that change should take, but this desire for change also shows a vulnerability in our media, which is scrambling to stay profitable by pandering to the American people instead of doing their duty as watchdogs of the public weal.  (What is weal, anyway?  That’s the first time I’ve ever used that word!)

I think the monolithic power of the media has begun to show areas of vulnerability.  Reality can be kept at bay only for so long.  Although to our great shame many Americans have not resisted the immoral War in Iraq, the mess we’ve made in Afghanistan, the abandonment of New Orleans, the worldwide contempt in which America is held due to the gang of criminals and thieves in the White House, they now are experiencing real pain in their own pocketbooks, over their own health and that of their children.  Americans are ready for something new.

These are the things I’ve been thinking about during this blog-week.  And I offer my gratitude to all those both here at Docudharma and on the blogosphere’s other excellent websites who have been writing such interesting and provocative ideas about and analyses of our media in this crazy 2008 election season.


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  1. … which by the way (rock and roll that is) will never die.

    • Alma on February 23, 2008 at 02:07

    Do I win a prize for having a dictionary handy?

  2. but it was somehwere in the Reagan administration. I, too, have noticed the osmosis effect–I know as much as I need to know about the various sitcoms and other TV nonsense, plus so-called news.

    But I get my real news from reading the Web–commentary blogs as well as more wonky sites, a la Talking Points Memo.

    As for West Wing, best bumper sticker I’ve seen in years was last year:

    “My President is Jeb Bartlett”

  3. That 9/11 and Katrina showed what the Merde Stream Media was really good at….Live coverage of what was happening….but as so as the emotion of that was over, they went back to being so fucking dense.

    You would think that Anderson Coopers experience with the rats would have changed him. But it just goes to show how powerful rationalization, denial…..and the all mighty dollar and the comfort it buys really is.

    That is the real question to me…do they not understand the implications of what they report everyday? Or do they just ignore them?

    • documel on February 23, 2008 at 02:33

    I saw the towers go down from a classroom window in my Bronx school.  It took some parents a long time to trudge up to pick up their kids.  The school secretary was answering calls from nervous moms and dads non stop.  Most kids were picked up early.

    When school reopened, we learned who lost whom.  Some in our neighborhood died–and the students had many stories. The stories I most remember involved Rudy–the same Rudy you wrote about:–

    “Rudy did his job when it came to communicating with us, he didn’t pull any punches, and we had a single moment of not hating him.”

    Rudy was all lies.  The air was unhealthy–he knew it–we all knew the EPA was full of shit about air quality.  We could smell it, we knew that burned computers are bad–and there most have been thousands of computers burned that morning.

    A fireman’s wife told us about the radios that didn’t work.  An EMS wife told of the helicopter pilots that were denied permission to rescue people off the WTC roofs.  Both told of the command center that was misplaced by Rudy. I hated Rudy more than ever.  That hate grows with each cop/fireman I hear about now sick from their work after 9/11.  Rudy/Bush had two goals on 9/11–political profit and reopening the NYSE.  

  4. You put it out exactly the way it is.

    I think you have led us up to what has caused the “Obamamania” in this country.  People are “starved” for change.

    Nothing that Bush and Cheney has masterminded and executed has ever been for the “good” of anything, except for their own power and profits.  As much as we thought we went to Afghanistan to get rid of the Taliban and capture Osama bin Laden — nothing was further from the truth.  Afghanistan had long been in the picture, long before 9/11.  It was the intent of the American energy companies, Enron and Unocal Corps. — “the strategic pipeline route across Afghanistan to the Caspian Basin.”*  In other words, OIL, and occupation.  

    Bush promised Karzai all kinds of things — reconstruction, money and everything to help that country become a democracy.  Of course, you should know now that he lied to us and to them.  He has never followed through on his promises and any money given has been minimal.

    Just consider that Afghanistan and Iraq were a total lie by Bush, et al.  Their intent was NEVER what they had claimed via the Media, etc.

    Whatever they have had their hands in has and remains a shamble.

    *The Truth about the Wars Will Guarantee The Votes  

    • ANKOSS on February 23, 2008 at 02:50

    If you have a demanding consumer, the engineering standards for each product are high, but if you can engineer a low-standards consumer, all you need to make is crap. The American plutocracy has engineered a generation of zombie, low-information consumers who are conditioned to accept anything. They don’t even have to believe it or like it; they just have to accept it.

    The people active on the blogs are almost a different species from the engineered low-information consumers of “Generica.” How long can a society remain coherent when one tenth of the population is awake and the rest are sleepwalking?

    Unfortunately, much of the Obamamania is just a craving for a new salvation product by low-information consumers. It doesn’t matter what Obama does once in office (keep the war going through a slo-mo “withdrawal” or fatten the health insurers); they just want to change the channel from BushWorld.

    Historians will look back on our era as a complex struggle between high-tech propagandists manipulating a mindless consumer majority and Internet activists in a potent sentient minority. The outcome remains in doubt. The logic of the contest favors the sentient minority, but a nuclear winter can change a lot of things.

    • kj on February 23, 2008 at 02:56

    and have done that forever now, it seems. live tv? i refuse to let that crap have direct access into my brain. same with newspapers and i love newspapers… a headline scan is plenty. i gave up reading current non-fiction political books. and quit reading blogs, too. amazing, but as you said, Kitty, it all gets in via osmosis, anyway.

    this is the first political season since i can remember where i didn’t watch the debates, didn’t read, didn’t follow the stands on the issues. it’s all out of my hands, all of it.  except the little bit that isn’t out of my hands.

    don’t mean to be a downer, and i’m not advocating ignorance. i just found my limit with all of it.  i trust a couple of places for sources (um, that would mostly be here and The Guardian or The Independent) and do whatever there is to do that day.

    fuck ’em all.  🙂

    • kj on February 23, 2008 at 03:20

    we really have to talk about what happened on September 11, 2001.  others have said that, it’s nothing new, but i wonder if we ever will.  it’s like we took a bullet train away from that day while BushInc transformed it into something else.

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