Note: No show today as I am traveling this week. I will be posting travel logs behind the green door for those interested. Here is the first installment. I also have a lengthy book review ready to go and once that is posted, I’ll update this with a link.
One of the funny things you experience when traveling to another English-speaking country is their version of your news. I first experienced this in Dublin half a dozen years ago when I popped on the BBC in the hotel. When I travel, I never turn on the television, as the room is just a place to sleep and shower. It was pouring rain so I decided to check out Irish television for the first time. I was greeted by two actors confidently spewing out laughable nonsense about the news.
One guy was talking about Trump as if he had grown up with the man and knew him like a family member. The trouble was, the things he was saying were so absurd that it felt like satire of a crazy MSNBC talking head, but it was serious. The person on the other side of this was an over-the-top version of the pompous news anchor. He was an English version of Ron Burgundy from the movie Anchorman. I was sitting there cackling like Kamala Harris while watching it.
I clicked around the many versions of the BBC and then found Sky News. I had never consumed this product, but my understanding was that it was the Fox News Channel for the rest of the English-speaking world. In reality, it was just another version of the BBC, without the same level of smugness. They had a different actor pretending to know the mind of Donald Trump, telling the audience for this stuff what they needed to hear to get through the trauma of the election.
After I recovered from the hysterical fits of laughter, I realized I was watching the modern version of the freak show. The difference is the freak show never tried to normalize the freaks. The modern freak show seeks to normalize the weirdness in order to open the mind of the viewer to the messaging. Then I realized that like all Americans, I had grown up in the same freak show, with different freaks. In other words, American mass media was worse than I noticed.
This week I have been busy with a million things and I am on the road in Orlando, so I have not been following the news very much. I caught some bits about the war in Europe, but I have not had time to look at the inevitable commentary or watch the chattering skulls on television. What I know about what is happening comes from what I know about the history of the area, prior analysis and the many e-mails I have been getting from readers in Eastern Europe.
At the airport, they had CNN on and it was all war news, but I saw no one watching is so I followed the mob and ignored it too. I’ve been in a lot of airports during tranquil times and turbulent times and the airport crowd is always a good gauge of whether something is resonating with people. In the 2016 election cycle, people stopped to watch Trump news at the airport. Even people busy living their lives knew it was a big deal so they stopped and watched the man.
Putting the news out of my head meant I missed all the talk and analysis until I arrived in Orlando Thursday evening. The Uber driver asked me about it, but it turned out his reason had nothing to do with the news. He is just a huge Putin fans so this is like seeing his favorite sports team in the championship. He wanted to talk about it because it makes him feel good to talk about it. That said, his analysis would turn out to be the most sensible I’d hear that day.
After checking into the hotel, I decide to see what the news was saying about the great Slavic invasion of Europe. War is good television and the pioneer in modern war television was CNN. They are down on their luck these days and this is the sort of thing to boost their ratings, so I hit CNN first. Memories of the freak show from Dublin rushed into my mind as one lunatic after another came on to make sure they said “Keev” several times, rather than “kee-ev” like a normal person.
Luckily, MSNBC seemed to be in a commercial loop, so I broke free and went over to Fox News, which has fallen into an alternative reality. In this new reality, it is the year 2000 and the chicken hawks are at their zenith. Instead of Saddam Hussein as the next Hitler, it is Putin. They are all saying “Keev” now too. The amusing thing is that when these simpletons say it, they stumble, because they have not had enough time to practice saying this weird new word in front of the mirror.
Like the goofy English pundits on the BBC claiming to know the mind of Trump, the current pundits all claim to know the mind of Vladimir Putin. Of course, they tell us that he is the evil monster they need to justify the warmongering. You see, if Americans do not accept ten-dollar gasoline and breadlines, Putin will march all the way to Paris, just like you know who, in what always feels like yesterday for these people. You must sacrifice for their principles.
It really is a freak show. The one exception is Tucker Carlson, which is the great irony in all of this. The people trying to understand what is happening and maintaining healthy skepticism and objectivity are cast as mindless puppets of evil. The people suddenly saying “Keev” like they have contracted a new form of Tourette’s are the deep thinking, worldly servants of all that is holy. This is not propaganda. It is an alternative reality used to impose mass psychosis.
What is amazing about the Fox News coverage is it all sounds like the stuff you see on CNN and MSNBC. It is just various ways of repeating whatever the White House is saying, but with a hint of Biden criticism. They try to compare him to Neville Chamberlain when the opportunity arises. In other words, they are following the lead of the ratings losers, instead of the most popular man in the mass media. It just shows the real face behind those masks they wear.
One final observation about Fox News. Sean Hannity was never a guy working math problems in his free time, but he seems to have gotten dumber. He always looks like he is going to snap and fly into a Chris Farley-like tantrum. His show is angry stupid man interviews stupid people pretending to be smart. You have to wonder about the audience for such content. You can excuse people for wanting to see the Siamese twins or wolf-boy, but what is the excuse for watching Hannity?
There are many theories of the mass media. They usually revolve around the Orwellian propaganda angle. When you can look at it from the proper distance, you get the sense that maybe the real point is to fill the air with the sounds of weirdos and lunatics, so the sober voices cannot be heard. A guy like Tucker lives like a serious lecturer employed by the traveling circus. Even if you like his content, it is hard to appreciate it over the sound of freaks and carnies.
It is not entirely spontaneous, of course. You see that with the vapid repetition of the word “Keev” from these airheads. There are people behind the curtain injecting phrases and opinions into the system for the freaks to repeat. On the other hand, it is a system that operates by the logic of people who think the purpose of life is to win the catchphrase contest each day. The mass media is the freak show populated with credentialed members of the managerial elite.
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