58. Big Dumb Media

Time to dust off the cobwebs, kids. It feels like ages since I’ve paid heed to this blog.  Never fear. I won’t waste your precious attention spans talking about the various ups and downs I’ve experienced since moving to the Whitest City in America Fort Collins. I’ll just boil it down to this:

Fuck students loans, fuck the IRS, fuck the overall concept of money, and fuck this purgatory-ass period of development known as your 20’s. If anybody had warned me it was going to be like this, I probably would have arranged to drop off the grid, sink into a coma until I was 30, or become a pirate immediately after graduating from Santa Fail University of Farce and Denial.

My entry on SFUAD will be coming once I can assemble the proper legal team.

Now, let’s get down to business. Those of you who read my year in review will know that the world we inhabited at the beginning of 2015 wasn’t fantastic. Anarchy and mass murder in the Middle East, growing totalitarianism in Russia, ignorance on parade in the United States, not to mention the fact that climate change has made the entire world play musical chairs with their climate (or are we still pretending its normal for it to snow in April?).

I’m glad to report (for the sake of this blog’s longevity) that things are…generally the same. Probably worse because it’s about to become Mosquito Season.

Fuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyou.

As our world becomes increasingly more uncertain and chaotic, it’s important that we as a citizenry stay well informed. News media, and the concept of journalism in general, were created so that Joe Sixpack and Jane Bottleofwine would be able to keep up to date on the world’s current goings-on. The benefit to this is that Joe and Jane now better understand the world around them, and can plan their own lives accordingly. Want to wear your brand new suit today, Joe? The weather report said it’s probably going to rain, shortly followed by two days of snow. Better wear that parka, buddy. Planning that dream vacation to Egypt, Jane? Too bad, the news guy just reported there’s a wave of suicide bombings in Cairo. Might be a good idea to put off the trip if you value your limbs. Do you guys really like what that bright young Presidential candidate is saying? Too bad that story just broke about him and the family of half men/half-reptiles that he keeps in his basement to do all his dishes. Looks like you’re voting for the normal guy without the black market reptilian family. Unless of course you’re anti-reptilians. You racists.

Reptilians are people too.

A brief look back in national history will show us examples of journalism and media breaking stories and events that were directly responsible for the betterment of society through the education of its’ citizens. The Watergate Scandal, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, even pieces of media as recent as Blackfish or Food, Inc. are responsible for making ordinary people aware of the things going on just below the surface of our commonly accepted norms that cause us to think twice about the world around us.

A quick glance at the mainstream news media (as defined as CNN, MSNBC, or FOX News) will demonstrate exactly how far these so-called purveyors of news have missed this basic objective of their jobs. The people that work as reporters and hosts on these networks are many things: Entertainers, television personalities, fashion models, sound-byte generators, bootlickers, corporate shills, government propagandists, and whatever the hell Glenn Beck is. They are not journalists. Journalists provide a service to our country and society. The representatives of Big Media provide nothing to our national dialogue except for buzzwords, cliches, sensationalism, and great hair.

Real journalists wouldn’t waste several weeks of television time speculating about the location of a missing passenger plane. Real journalists wouldn’t be agonizing over the fashion choices or fast food preferences of presidential candidates. During times of social unrest and upheaval, you’ll find real journalists on the ground floor trying to capture the thoughts and emotions of the participants, not comfortably hidden behind a phalanx of policemen while explaining that a liquor store is on fire and camera-panning to said liquor store every two minutes in case we forgot what a fucking fire looks like.

To wit, here are the 9 Principles of Journalism, as defined by actual journalists. We will now navigate them, point by point, so we can understand how our mainstream media has failed completely and totally at their self-proclaimed jobs. It is important that we as a population acknowledge when a system is broken or no longer relevant so that we can actually advance and evolve. Luckily, we have our current fuckbasket in Baltimore to serve as a case study for their intentional bungling of the news. I’m glad that the people of Baltimore could come together and create this conflict so we can hold this master class together. It’s appreciated, really.

Also, capturing the government completely unprepared and yielding this classic deer-in-the-headlights shot. Watching two political careers die simultaneously on camera is great.

Let’s begin.

1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.

As a journalist, you are trained to answer six basic questions when prepping a story: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

By this first tenant of journalism, it is implied that the most important question that needs answering is WHY. Answering WHY gets to the root of the issue at hand and provides the viewer with a context to better understand the events that they are reading about or watching. WHY is the difference between real journalism and a Wikipedia entry.

When Big Media descended upon Baltimore like the ravenous sensation-seeking wolves that they are, they were not concerned with asking WHY. They were, and are most chiefly, concerned with answering WHAT. Specifically, WHAT is going on? Well, obviously there are riots going on. You could tell because we were treated to wave upon wave of footage of fires, looting, and people throwing rocks at cops. Whenever we came back from a commercial break, we were reminded that there were riots going on. This would be accompanied by the rolling of the same cycle of footage to further reinforce the point that riots were happening.

Basically how CNN handled the first night of the Baltimore Riots. And yes, I know pigeon is misspelled. Thanks, Wolf.

To which I ask a basic question: And?

Any random dude with a camera can tell me that a fucking riot is going on. I have two ears, two eyes, and have listened to Rage Against the Machine enough to know the difference between a polite protest and people burning shit. I feel like this is true of a majority of Americans. I can tell WHAT is going on in the space of ten seconds. It’s the question of WHY that is more important, and more complex to solve.

If I’m at a bar and some stranger comes up to me, stares me down, and spits on my shoes, do I need my best friend in Big Media to tell me that someone just spat on my shoes? HELL NO. I WANT TO KNOW WHY THE FUCK THAT GUY SPIT ON MY SHOES. I JUST BOUGHT THEM FROM ALDO AND THEY WERE FUCKING EXPENSIVE.

“But wait Corbin” you might be thinking, “weren’t the riots taking place because of the death of Freddie Gray?”

In the most simple, critical-thinking-free terms possible: Yes. The riots probably would not have taken place if Freddie Grey was not arrested and taken for a nickel ride in the back of a police van that directly resulted in his death. However, if that were the entire cause of the riots, then they would have happened immediately after Gray was declared dead.

Gray died roughly two and a half weeks ago. So there had to have been more at play. And there was. For starters, there’s the obvious systemic abuse of police officers being able to detain suspected criminals and treat them however the hell they want without any kind of judicial punishment because GASP…they are the judicial system. Also the fact that the police responsible for Gray’s death have not been identified or brought to justice. Also the past cases of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other black men that have died under shady circumstances as a result of police action. Also the tremendous economic pain of the Baltimore community. And, perhaps most damning, the fact that people were protesting the death for almost TWO FUCKING WEEKS WITHOUT ANY KIND OF MEDIA COVERAGE.

But taking the time to explain all these complex concepts to people require time, patience, and critical thought. When you’re a multi-billion dollar multimedia industry like CNN, you can’t bother with these things when you’ve got all these totally sick shots of fire, bro. Follow us on Twitter for even more pictures of fire! And explosions! And men in masks! It’s just like The Purge, kids! Stay tuned for more pictures and videos of fire!

firefirevx0
CNN’s Head of Marketing.

Just don’t expect anyone to give you an actually comprehensive reason WHY there’s fire. There’s no time for facts when there’s The Story to be told.

2. Its first loyalty is to citizens.

Anyone remember learning about Socratic Logic? Here’s a quick example if you forgot:

Statement #1: CNN and all the other major players in Big Media are businesses or subsidiaries of businesses.

Statement #2: Businesses exist to generate revenue and make money.

Conclusion: CNN and all other major players in Big Media exist to generate revenue and make money.

Here is a handy little page that will clue you in to the real owners of news media. CNN is owned by Time Warner, Inc. FOX is owned by Newscorp. MSNBC is owned by Comcast, also known as the shit-sticks that were doing everything in their power to destroy net neutrality. Fuck Comcast. These entities possess vast and almost immeasurable amounts of money. Enough money to send a man to the moon on a spaceship made of mithril with nothing to eat but a century’s worth of caviar. And these entities have their reptilian tentacles hands in a lot of cookie jars. Expensive cookie jars.

Mainstream news media’s loyalty does not lie with its citizens. They may not be intentionally making us dumber, but they sure as shit aren’t making us any smarter. Mainstream media’s loyalty is with viewer ratings, ad revenue, and click counts. At the end of the day, these are the only numbers that truly matter. That’s why CNN will air the same footage of a fire or explosion for literally days on end. Because fires are sexy. Violence is sexy. Missing planes are sexy. Disasters are unbelievably sexy. To a media executive, the thought of a plane crashing into a crowded population center would cause a boner so sudden and massive that it would rip a hole in the space-time continuum. Disasters, death, and devastation is heroin to Big Media. The only thing that registered more on the Richter scale during the earthquake in Nepal was the massive earth-rumbling orgasm that took place at CNN Headquarters as all of its’ employees realized their jobs were secure for another three months.

Guys, another plane just went down in Europe! BUST OUT THE HUNDRED POINT FONT AND CRYSTAL SKULL VODKA FOR EVERYONE!

The TRUTH, comparatively, is boring and not sexy. The truth is your sophomore year history professor who wears the same pair of slacks to every class since the 1970’s. He talks in a droning, basic monotone every day and his entire classroom is different shades of grey. You never paid attention in his class because you were always hungover or ogling the really cute redhead that always wears yoga pants to class.

Basically, the truth ain’t cool. And the last thing those media conglomerates want to be is Not Cool. Not Cool means no one’s watching. If no one’s watching, that means advertisers won’t want to pay for commercial space on your network. If advertisers don’t want to pay for commercial space, that means the end of all that sweet, sweet ad revenue cash. And without the sweet sweet ad revenue cash, HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO FUND OUR LAVISH COKE HOOKER YACHT BENEFIT PARTIES IN SPACE?!?! PRIORITIES, PEOPLE.

The major news corporations have absolutely no interest in ordinary people unless they are rioting, suffering, or dying in large numbers. Because, to them, people are just props and set dressing to the The Story. And unless these people play a key role in The Story that advances the pre-approved-straight-from-fictional-TV-corporate-narrative, then they will continually be dismissed, marginalized, or called thugs.

3. Its essence is a discipline of verification.

To dumb down: Make sure what you tell people is actually true and not just a crockpot of shit. Check your facts.

Of all the principles, it is probably this third rule that has been most ignored and defiled by Big Media and its various incubi and succubi. As we’ve previously established, Big Media has about as much regard for basic facts as a starving dog does for table manners. As long as a statement or event is incendiary or sensational enough, it becomes much less important for it to be actually, ya’know, accurate.

Before the riots broke out in Baltimore, a story started to make the rounds on Monday all about how Baltimore street gangs were banding together to “take out” police officers. If that doesn’t strike fear and resentment directly into the heart of Lily White America, I don’t know what will. Of course, the story was given out by the Baltimore Police Department with no further evidence or information to actually support the claim. It was immediately picked up and parroted by every major media outlet. It didn’t matter if these claims were totally bogus upon examination. In fact, the scary meeting that the police was referencing was actually a meeting to strategize how to protect the community from even more violence. Basically, the exact opposite of what the media was reporting as absolute fact.

But community cooperation and teamwork is boring. You know what isn’t boring? The idea of good, hard-working American cops  pitted against an evil chaotic Gangbanger Legion of Doom. That’s the kind of stuff that blockbuster movies are made of. Isn’t this shaping up to be a great Story? Channing Tatum and Bruce Willis can play the cops, and we’ll find some random rapper to play the head of the Crips! Everyone is comfortable in their own stereotypes and America can go back to bed without thinking too hard about stuff.

We’ll get DMX on work-release.

4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.

5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.

Hey look! It’s that page from earlier in fancy infographic form!

This is what “independent reporting” looks like in our country.

 6. It must provide a public forum for criticism and compromise.

Well, at least we’ve found a rule that they kind of follow. There’s plenty of criticism to be had in Big Media. Tune in to MSNBC, and you’ll hear all about the Evil Soul-less Republicans. Tune in to FOX News and you’ll hear all about those Ignorant Misguided Dumbocrats. Tune in to CNN and you’ll see them criticizing whoever has the worst polling numbers because that’s what passes for neutrality in this country. That’s also why they always put question marks in their headlines.

We’ll have an answer as soon as our pollster gets back to us!

It’s the compromise part of this rule that we always find a little lacking. The lines in the sand have been drawn in Big Media. Just like when George “Mission Accomplished” Bush infamously stated “You’re either with us, or with the terrorists”, it’s the same faulty logic that all of us belong to a certain team and it’s our ultimate goal as humans to make sure that other team doesn’t win. That’s because, like all good Stories, you need conflict between a hero and a villain. Good versus Bad. Republican versus Democrat. Black versus White. Poor versus Rich. Kanye versus Drake. Yankees versus Red Sox. Anything that further drives a schism between the population and keeps them tuning in to the Great Culture War of Our Time (Ongoing Since 1776). That’s why a complex race and economic conflict such as the one in Baltimore is thoroughly dumbed down into a street fight of White Officers versus Black Protestors. No middle ground to speak of.

Pretty much.

As we move out of the Racial Unrest period of our year and shift into the nuclear winter of Presidential Campaign Mode, these schisms and wedge issues will become even more prevalent as the conversation moves toward which candidate becomes the Worst Possible Choice For America. FOX will dedicate weeks of coverage to explaining why Hillary is a air-headed elitist that grills her caviar burgers with the ashes of Benghazi while starting World War 3. MSNBC will tell us, in no uncertain terms, that whoever ends up being the Republican nominee will plunge us into another Dark Ages while also starting World War 3. CNN will invite a team of experts to discuss for hours the burning question of “WHICH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IS MOST LIKELY TO START WORLD WAR 3?!?”

This, of course, sets a terrible atmosphere in which whoever wins will be privy to nothing but resentment from the “losing” side. Any chance of progress in our country will be impeded by the “losing” side trying to stick it to the “winner” because after months and months of this culture war, their egos are now attached to their “side” as much as they would be their own friends or family.

And that’s how World War 3 actually starts.

7. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.

8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.

We once again find a rule that the media recognizes and shamelessly does the opposite! Big Media’s entire M.O. revolves around micro-analyzing the most minute of details and blowing them up to mythic proportions. Remember that one time Hillary Clinton went to Chipotle and NO ONE RECOGNIZED HER!? CNN remembers.

Big Media will always take a human interest story that, ultimately, only affects a small amount of people over a more comprehensive story that is actually interesting and relevant. They instead harness all their resources to make what is insignificant interesting and relevant.

Case in point: Here is the person that has gotten the most screen-time and publicity from Baltimore. Not Freddie Gray. Not the officers involved. Not anyone directly involved with the case or Baltimore’s struggles.

This woman and her son. Think there might be something just a little fucked up about that?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not attacking the mother or the son. The mother was doing exactly what a mother is supposed to do in that situation. Stop her kid from doing dumb shit that could have gotten him arrested, hurt, or worse. So if the media chooses you to make you the mascot for an entire group of people, you just say yes and take the bookings on daytime television until you can parlay it into a book deal or maybe a guest spot on a network sitcom if you have a good agent.

But it gives me a lot of pause that the only video that gets more play than a burning car or CVS is a sassy black momma (YAY STEREOTYPES!) smacking her son for being a teenager and wanting to break shit. Big Media loves stuff like this because they can roll the video whenever they want to further reinforce the idea that these protestors are just a bunch of ignorant kids and they need a strong authority to reign them in and “act right”. That’s why you will see that clip played ad nauseum in the news or on social media whenever anyone talks about Baltimore now. Because that fits with The Story.

And furthermore, it wasn’t even the best video to come out of the protests.

This was:

9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.

This point is moot, mainly because anyone that has done the necessary shoe shining, boot licking, and rim-jobbing in order to actually get a significant position in Big Media sold their soul to the Devil a long time ago. They have no ethics and they have no conscience to speak of. Anyone that willfully participates in an industry that gives no regard for the needs of the common man (that journalism is supposed to inform and protect) and instead operates as the propaganda wing of our entertainment and telecommunications super-businesses is nothing more than a monkey in a suit regurgitating lines for the camera.

Watch this video of Geraldo Rivera, Big Media’s slimiest acolyte, being called out for his bullshit shortly before going live on FOX News. Watch that placid, empty smile on his face as he is confronted with his complete and utter failure in his job and profession. He doesn’t care. Because he works for Big Media and it’s easy to sleep at night when you rest on a bed made of all the money in the world.

Fuck these people. Let’s move on.

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