Monday, March 19, 2018

Week of 03/19/2018

Sorry Fox, But You Are Still A Propaganda Mill
There was a time, two decades ago, when this commentator was just starting his column, and an upstart cable news service came into being just six months into his own column.  This upstart cable news service was called Fox News.  And while their commentary programs were deplorable even back then, they still provided news with a supposedly neutral outlook to them.  There were some stories that the other news services didn’t touch because they didn’t involve the antics of Washington D.C. that this upstart news service would provide.
But then a few years into it, I noticed a different slant coming out.  A subtle and manipulative undertone started to emerge, one that set off warning flags for me as a never-ending student of history, especially when it came to Orwellian warning signs. 
I saw Fox News becoming a propaganda mill for conservatives, and, by extension, the GOP.
While the network claims to be focused on news, you can’t help but notice that their biggest selling point was not news, but on opinion-based personalities.  Instead of touting news anchors, Fox would tout commentators, who would give their carefully-guided view of the world to the masses.  They would each spread the same message... that liberals – and, by extension, the Democratic Party – are evil, that only conservatives – and, by extension, the GOP – know how to govern, that Iraq under Saddam Hussein is the source of all evil in the world, that Islam in any stripe is inherently evil, that 9/11 justifies everything the US can do, that Christianity itself is under attack, that capitalists are always right, and that we are all going to die unless we surrender ourselves to the conservative “saviors”.  These messages, given in small doses, would keep the masses afraid and glued to their channel, and it would also convince them to vote blindly for the GOP.
This is not speculation, folks.  I’ve seen, with my own eyes, old people going into voting booths and, when told the candidates, utter either “conservative” or “liberal”, with the latter in a disgusting tone like a dog defecated in front of them.  That is how extensive the propaganda has become, people.  It is downright scary to see how George Orwell’s deepest fears of society have manifested themselves here in the United States of America.
Anyway, fast-forward to today, with an orange-skinned narcissist in the White House, with a bible-thumper as Vice-President, with sociopaths controlling both houses of Congress, and with a judicial system that is slowly becoming the enablers of all these aforementioned groups.  This is the dream of Fox News made real.  They have everything they wanted in place.
And yet all is not well with the Ministry of Manipulation owned by an Australian billionaire and originally founded by a sexual predator.  There is discord among the masters of message.
Shepherd Smith, one of the few actual news anchors in Fox News, recently told Time Magazine that he’s not particularly happy with the commentary part of the network and how they conduct themselves.  You know, the big-name personalities that provide most of the propaganda.  Smith said that the “opinion people”, as he calls them, don’t have any rules to follow and can say pretty much whatever they want.
That apparently didn’t fly so well with said “opinion people”, specifically Sean Hannity, a well-known colon parasite and loyal propagandist for conservatives going all the way back to his days with Atlanta’s talk radio.  Newly-hired Laura Ingram then joined in on Hannity’s side saying that she “liked” Smith but didn’t care for his criticism of the network that employs them.  Both of them are claiming that they are “reporters” just like Smith and they supposedly “deserve” the same respect as “reporters”.
It should be pointed out that both Hannity and Smith are the few remaining media personalities from the original days under the late sexual predator Roger Ailes.  And unfortunately for Hannity, their mutual employer just extended Smith’s contract, so Shep is not going away anytime soon.
As you can probably tell from the tone of this article, I’m siding with Shep on this.  He has always been known as someone who tells it like it is, not as some political script demands it to be, and he’s not afraid to call “BS” on anyone, no matter what political party or faction they adhere to.  I may not agree with everything he says, but he earned my respect as a news anchor, and that is not something given blindly.
Let’s get brutally honest here... Sean Hannity is many things, and none of them kind, but one of the things he is clearly not is a journalist.  To regard him as such is an outright insult to those legitimate reporters that bust their butts to provide news and not be slurred by Hannity’s fans, especially from the orange-skinned narcissist in the White House.
Sean Hannity and Laura Ingram are media personalities and commentators, the same field that I’ve been in for almost twenty-two years as of this column’s posting.  I’ve been a reporter for small publications and Internet radio, and I know the difference between being a journalist and being a commentator.  I’ve walked that line.  Those two have not.  It’s more than just surrounding yourselves with the trappings of a news program and giving interviews, because anyone can do that.  Stephen Colbert got famous for doing that and nobody in their right mind would ever consider him to be a journalist.  Hell, Kermit the Frog did that and he’s a Muppet!
Hannity himself has said clearly in the past that he is not a journalist and even boasted about that when it came to his discussions about his “best friend” who is the said orange-skinned narcissist in the White House.  So now that a sour eye is glancing at the profession he has enjoyed for decades, he expects to be treated like he’s Edward R. Murrow? 
No.  Hell no!
To do so would be the true embodiment of “fake news”, from a fake “reporter” in a fake setting for a fake news service.  It would be an outright insult to legitimate news services large and small that are struggling to not only stay in business in the age of online information, but also to weather the slur of “fake news” coming from Hannity’s “best friend” in the White House and their red-hat-wearing MAGA cultists.
Sean Hannity is the Joseph Goebbels and “Baghdad Bob” of the modern age, in a cable news service that has picked up where Pravda left off.  This is not something that has happened overnight.  Hannity has spent decades getting to where he is now.  He needs to be recognized for what he really is, not for what he wants us to pretend he is.  I salute Shepard Smith for having the courage for calling Hannity out on that truth.  We need more people like Shepard Smith and far fewer people like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingram.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Week of 03/12/2018

Pretense Is Not Progress
In our messed-up self-absorbed online-entitled society, we hear the word “fake” a lot.  Red-hat-wearing MAGA cult followers of President Trump love to use the word “fake news” for anything that they don’t like.  Social media is full of fake profiles and fake personalities and Russian trolls that pretend to be Americans so they can cause chaos and spread propaganda for Trump and the GOP.
Our lives are so full of prepared script from the media and social networks and just ordinary conversation regurgitating the same script from media and social networks.  It’s a never-ending cycle of reinforced ignorance and outright stupidity that is simply mind-blowing.  Worse yet, a good percentage of them vote!  And there’s more of them than there are of the ones who do know better.
But there is nothing more fake in our world than pretentiousness.  Especially when it is done to supposedly “show” that something has changed for the better.
The liberal and progressive community have been doing it a lot recently in the entertainment world.  Following the takedown of several sexual predators in positions of power, the entertainment world has supposedly undergone a “change of heart” and highlighted all sorts of women who say “time’s up”.  (Including a certain someone who couldn’t get it spelled right on her fake tattoo.)
Right, except this year’s Academy Awards committed a serious snub against a critically-acclaimed female-directed female-led motion picture.  So only one female director who was not Patti Jenkins was up for contention for “Best Director”, and that lone female director lost out to a movie directed by a man about a lonely woman that has sex with a fish creature.  And did you notice that nobody said anything about the director and star of that certain movie getting snubbed?  Not one word.  Not one mention in this supposed “time of change” that there wasn’t any where it mattered.  Not exactly a sign of progress, is it?
But, hey, it’s not about actual results, right?  It’s all about appearances!  Wear that ribbon or wear a certain color but don’t forget to make sure “who” the ladies “are wearing”.  It’s all about making a “statement”, as if that alone was going to solve everything.
Pretenses are all over the place.  We get in a huff if someone doesn’t wear a flag pin, or if they don’t sing the National Anthem.  It’s all about pretense.  It’s not about love of country or respect for the troops.  We treat our veterans like crap when they try to get the help they need.  Where is that “love of country” or “respect for the troops” then?  All we’re showing “love” and “respect” for is pretentiousness.
We’ve been inundated with tragedies involving guns and violence, and what do we do?  We offer “thoughts and prayers”.  Talk about the lamest, cheapest, most inane thing to do!  Because that is what it is!  We are simply throwing our hands up in surrender and saying: “we can’t fix this ourselves and we want a higher power to do that for us!”  That is precisely what “thoughts and prayers” are.  They are not a show of compassion or solidarity, but a show of surrender!
And, oh, do you the unwashed masses take that personally when you get called on that!  I’ve seen people I’ve known for years get in a huff when I say that “thoughts and prayers” are meaningless.  How “dare” I call what they do “meaningless” when that is the truth!
Unfortunately, the alternatives are not any better.  Yes, march, protest, scream for change, demand that change!  Fight the National Rifle Association and their legislative whores and somehow get a specific type of weapon outlawed.  Guess what will happen then?  The gun makers will simply reconfigure that same weapon under a new name and it will be legal again.  They’ve done it before and they will do it again.  Make a certain cheater device illegal, and another one will take its place.  Ban it from being sold legitimately and it’ll be sold on the dark web.  Or the instructions on how to make one will suddenly be available for free online.  Change the age to buy guns, but that won’t stop the ones that steal the guns or get them from their parents.
Think about it for a moment.  How many specific assault rifles were outlawed, only to have them reconfigured and re-sold?  How many school shootings were done by kids who got their weapons from their parents?  Putting up signs that say “Gun-Free Zone” doesn’t stop shootings, even by hardened criminals.  All it does is it adds another criminal charge for prosecutors when they do charge criminals after the carnage is done, if they are still alive to face charges.
Or how about the empty gestures that simply impose religion into schools?  Like that prevented the churches from being attacked! Or are you going to start posting empty Facebook memes about how God’s not allowed in the churches too?
And then we have my biggest peeve… the “we want a third party” lie!  Look, there have been third political parties.  There have been third parties for centuries.  There are third parties today.  There will continue to be third parties.  The problem is not the “lack” of alternatives.  The problem is that you – the very people that call out for them – consciously refuse to actually vote for them!  You continue to buy into the propaganda of the two dominant, co-dependent, mutual-enabling dysfunctional political parties that they and only they can somehow “fix” things.  And that’s entirely on each and every one of you who don’t vote for the very other options you claim to want.
Let’s get brutally honest here… all of these are pretenses and empty gestures.  They are our way of lying to ourselves and to other people that somehow we can “do something” when we really aren’t.
I came across a rather interesting post in Facebook recently regarding a planned “walk out” to demand action after the latest mass killings.  The post suggests that rather than having a “walk out”, that young people instead use the day to “walk up” to those that have been the kind that people that would shoot up a school and talk to them and get to know them.
That actually would be a good thing.  However, as someone who has long suffered from social problems, not to mention someone who has studied psychology and sociology and crisis intervention as part of my college degree, I also know that there are flaws with that idea.  First, spending just one day reaching out to people who would need it is not enough.  I know this from personal experience.  One day, or two, or even a week is not enough to counter systemic socialized isolation.  They can’t be “cured” with just one act of kindness.  That’s just “charity”, and that is another form of pretentiousness.  And second, well, that requires people to actually do something, and more than just for one day.  A one-day walkout is a cheap and pointless show.  Spending your time walking up to people who could use a new friend requires effort and compassion and it takes longer to show results.
Pretense is not progress, folks.  It is pompous and ultimately lazy and does nothing to truly solve the problems we face.  And we need to truly address these issues rather than put up big displays that do nothing, because they will not go away on their own, and we sure as hell cannot count on some divine intervention to do the work for us.  That is the only way we can stop being “fake” to ourselves and others.