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News Used To Be Important - Now It's Just Entertainment

People talk about technology, mainly television, cellulat telephones and the internet having given us an unprecedented ability to communicate. But have they? OK, we can trade meaningless messages with strangers on the other side of the world, we can join the cacophony of social netwoks where everybody yells at once and nobody listens, or we can sit in isolation, shouting inmto the void. But none of those are communicating. Technology has actually inhibited communication.

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News Used To Be Important - Now It's Just Entertainment

by Ian R Thorpe
18 April 2012

At an early stage in my life I envisaged working in the news industry, following the footsteps of my Dad and Uncle Bob, and maybe even getting into the exciting and still fairly young news medium of television. In the 1960s news was an exciting place to be, fast moving, something different every day as opposed to the routine of other professions, bringing information to people on a scale and at a speed never before imagined. Once, when I was aged about 12 Dad was doing a piece for a feature in his paper about how the news was delivered. He took me with him to meet the mail train from Manchester where northern editions of the national newspapers were printed. It was an amazing operation with people from the wholesaler meeting the train, checking their order from each publisher as it was unloaded and right on the platform of the railway station sorting the papers into stacks for the individual shops, loading the vans and getting the news away to the small towns and villages. The news reports were factual, who,what, where, when, why; the features, comment and opinion pieces clearly separated. To mix news and opinion was a cardinal sin. Now Im not sure I even know what news is anymore. Or was it ever as it is now and Dad, who was rather snobbish about his profession simply in the business of filling holes in people's lives with salacious trivia to attract readers for advertisers? Theres an argument that what we call news has always been fairly banal. A dictionary I consulted said that news is information about recent and important events, but whos to say whats important? If the market is deciding, isnt there always going to be a race to the bottom, the lowest common denominator, a race to get eyes on pages by using sensational and emotional stories rather than any in-depth discussion of things that matter? In Walden, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of being concerned that our inventions were giving us a technological ability to communicate on a previously unheard of scale while people didnt have things to say to each other that really mattered: Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at; as railroads lead to Boston or New York. We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate. What if our whiz-bang technology is ultimately empty in many ways? What if our incredible satellites and TV production facilities and complicated infrastructure give us the means to communicate with one another, but what if the things we have to say are banal and empty? What if our gigabit speed microwave and fibre optic communications links can shift. infinite quantities of data around the globe but nobody wants or needs to look at that data. What if the soaps really are more real to most people than reality? As technology in the workplace moves ever closer to making humans redundant and jobs obsolete, television and the internet, both streaming constant banality at us, are invading almost every space we occupy. Last time I was at the dentist, as the chair reclined and the dentist examined his array of medieval torture implements, I saw above me the latest addition to the "customer experience", an overhead television I could watch daytime TV while having my teeth scraped and polished. Daytime television programmes are likely to induce projectile vomiting in me so the dentist was taking a big risk. Do I want to see an endless parade of sick animals, dysfunctional people, sick people with dysfunctional animals, whiners, self pity wallowers, amazingly inept transvestites who are convinced they should have been born a woman despite visual evidence of the contrary? A lot of people do apparently because in doctors' waiting rooms, hospitals, car maintenance depots, municipal offices where you wait to pay your property tax and even in law courts, in the area where the accused wait for their case to be called, there are televisions churning out the same brain - rot content.. If it was satire, something like The Truman Show, it would be funny. But it isn'tt satire. It's real. Its bad enough that so much content caters to peoples basest instincts and most idiotic thoughts, but shouldnt news shows be held to a higher standard? Technically, they are. Theyre dressed more smartly than the chavs on the Jeremy Kyle show and always look as if they have washed recently even when reporting from a battle zone. Strip away the nice graphics and pseudo-serious demeanour however and you find its just entertainment. Theyre just telling banal, surface-level stories with no context and no meaning in the larger picture, playing on the emotions, milking the sentimentality of the audience. We can believe news used to be important, at least some of the time. Our fathers and grandfathers were much better informed than our children, for all the modern technology they young have at their disposal, and what is more our grandfathers cared about what was going on. Now we have a lot of people, the "look at me" generation who care about being seen to care, who want to be seen wringing their hands over the lack of democracy in Syria for example, but are not interested to know that most Syrians support the tyrant Assad not because they love him but because they fear him less than they fear what will inevitably replace him. Assad will fall because the western powers have decreed it, western leaders, with the limp wristed wimp Obama playing the hero, will proclaim a victory for democracy and Syria will be forgotten as an Islamic theocracy quietly replaces the secular tyranny. And when the stonings and beheadings of women suspected of adultery or leaving home without their husband's permission being, the silence of strident western feminists will be deafening. Islam is this years fashionable cause for the politically correct pseudo - liberal, crypto - fascists who control the media. News? Its entertainment, story-telling designed to grab peoples emotions. The presenters are highly skilled entertainers, but the product put in front of us doesnt mean anything. Its just Hello magazine with a veneer of gravitas. It doesnt tell us anything about the big picture of life and it doesnt help us understand our decaying society. Its not what I regard as news. Neil Postman in his his classic book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. (If you havent read it, please do.) argues that broadcast news and television in particular isnt capable of giving us anything complex and important. Its not capable of giving us ideas. It may be even worse than that, Emersons insight has become even more scary than he intended it to be. What if we have all of this amazing technology,including the Internet today, and very few of us have anything of substance to say to each other? A few of us crave a connection with others to learn things that weve been missing, but the direction of the world is exactly the opposite of that. We are moving toward an Idiocracy. Maybe it is time to give up on news. Spend your time on ideas instead. The trivia of the world thats fading away has little to offer to you. Concern yourself with the ideas youre going to need to build a new life instead. I have a feeling were all going to need those insights soon, because this society which has evolved gradually from the ancient culture of the Greeks and Romans from the a is in danger of distracting itself to its collective death. A classic Steve Coogan sketch, featuring his drunken thug character Paul Calf deals with rolling news. "The fist time you see a story about an air crash with hundreds dead," says Calf, "You think, My God, what a terrible tragedy, all those people having their lives snuffed out without warning. How will their families cope with the news? It's devastating." A few hours later you hear the story for the tenth time, "you think; "Two hundred dead, that's sad but these things happen, life goes on." By the time you've heard it fifty times, you think, "Plane crash, two hundred dead, who gives a fuck." There's a lot of truth in that. Saturation coverage trivialises even the most serious story. RELATED POSTS:
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