Monday, September 7, 2015

The Mainstream Media and Me

Sue and I do our best to stay out of the mainstream. We both learned long ago we don't fit in to normal society. We think a little differently, act a little differently, live our lives a little differently. We don't try to be this way, we just are. Sometimes we view our lives, vis-à-vis society, as having a free, front-row seat at the circus.

We haven't owned a television for maybe ten years now. I don't think Sue had a television when we met; she was backpacking around the world and didn't have room in her pack for a television; I got rid of my television long before it became hip to jettison it. When we moved in together we decided that, for us, most of the programming was pure drek. It wasn't worth the exorbitant amount of money Comcast was asking, and we'd rather put all of that money toward travel. So much of popular culture--movies, celebrities, TV shows--we just don't know who or what they are. Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, the Patriots football team--mean absolutely nothing to us. And we're ok with this.

We're not Luddites, mind you. We get all of our info through the laptop and Sue's in her car a lot and listens to NPR. She comes home from work and mentions something she heard on the radio, and we Google it. We peruse the New York Times, the Globe, the Guardian, RT, Al Jazeera, and we have a subscription to Neflix, although we don't watch any of the popular television series. Frankly, even though I don't want to spend my time watching a television show, I have to say hardly any of the content interests me. I think I watched one episode of Madmen and was bored to tears. A friend of mine once spent about twenty minutes telling me about The Wire. I have to admit the concept intrigued me, but not enough that I even checked out some clips on YouTube. I don't want to spend my time on earth watching television. I'd rather be the one creating.

And more importantly, I sense that all of popular culture, and here I'm lumping in the mainstream media, is extraordinarily and even dangerously manipulative. It wants us all to be like it, so we'll spend money on the all of the trappings to be like it.

Still, we are interested in the world, and it can be so hard to keep up. As I said, we peruse sites, but we're not immersed in them, and so we often do feel behind in current events. Things in the world are moving fast. China and its affect on the world's economy. The migrant issue in Europe, that's connected to the Middle East and ISIS. Crazy as it sounds, we would watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to pick up on what stories in the news to follow. (Don't even get me started about how Comedy Central became a legitimate news source, and what that says about society.) Now both of them are off the air, we're both working hard at our jobs which makes it hard to work at keeping up with the world, which all coincided with us deciding to dip our toes back into the pond. Interestingly, we turned back to the MSM. I guess it's just because it's an easy move, like reaching for a bowl of cereal when you're too tired to cook.

We've been getting the New York Times Sunday paper for a couple of weeks now that gives us unlimited access to its web site, and not just the ten free stories per month that we were doing. We subscribe to the Boston Globe online edition. And we're getting The Atlantic, which used to be my favorite monthly magazine, way back when. I'll also pick up The New Yorker occasionally. So that's a pretty fair sampling of the liberal press right there.

And it's extraordinary now, when you've been away from the MSM for so long, to see that no doubt, the NYT, The Atlantic, The New Yorker all have an agenda (they probably call it an editorial slant) no different than Fox News has its agenda. Everyone in the world wants to tell you what to think and how to act, don't they? And they think they are so right about things. Not a lot of room for a differing opinion, is there? Yeah, Donald Trump is a clown, and a racist and a mysogynist, but he's right about taxing hedge fund managers and bringing business back within US shores to protect our economy. Or at least that's what I think, but according to the liberal press, I can't think like that. I also think that if you think like I do, and believe that the president has very limited power and that the country and especially foreign policy is run by the military, that the presidential election ceases to have the importance that the mainstream media gives it, and therefore mainstream America believes it has, and suddenly, Trump becomes something the press could never see: That he is a very entertaining diversion, that he is bringing to the forefront a lot of nasty things about American society that we need to face and are afraid to admit about ourselves, and that he would make a very good character in a play, which might tell us more about our electoral process than a year's subscription to the MSM. Let's put it this way: He makes for very good dramaturgical/anthropological/political research about the United States. Instead of simply reporting on the election, including I might add, reporting that once again a women is running for president of the United States, the MSM is upset because Trump is screwing up their scripted programming. Seriously, they would rather have Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker put us through a snoozefest than report on Trump?

I'm afraid if I keep reading a steady diet of this, I might actually lose my independence and ability to think independently.

Except for maybe the front section of the NYT that is actually reporting on news, the rest of the paper really is strongly opinionated, telling me how I'm supposed to feel and think about the likes of Stephen Colbert and the importance of him taking over a TV show from David Letterman. People's television shows are like a heroin addict's needle, aren't they? Or how a story about the AFC East is written in the same voice that the political writers take when talking about ISIS, that it is imperative for the the football teams in the AFC East to defeat the New England Patriots, as if the Patriots were forcing their opponents to play in burkas Just drumming up interest to keep that billion-dollar sports industry going, is all that seems that story is about. I read three pages about chambray shirts--a fancy name for blue collar shirts, according to the Times--and all that it means about people who wear them, when actually blue-collar people would never wear something called a chambray shirt. They would probably mistake it for cheese.

And finally, I don't know who Alton Brown is. As I said, celebs mean nothing to me. Mr. Brown could be sitting next to me on the subway tomorrow morning (doubtful) and I wouldn't know it. I would just hope, as always, that he would keep his elbows to himself. But I was reading the interview with him, where I'm supposed to pick up on what all new and trendy in the foodie world, and I found myself looking at his picture thinking, "Now, that's a nice suit. Oh, he's wearing a button-down white shirt with it--nice. Love the glasses. How does he keep his beard so neat? Probably a special electric razor. I could pull off this look--except for the shoes, of course." And that's what I'm talking about. Before I knew it I was sucked in. If I hadn't snapped out of it, I would have gone to Macy's and dropped a few hundred on a shiny suit and a beard trimmer.

There are always strings attached in society, and the strings are usually attached to your wallet.
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