Thursday, December 09, 2004

Pimpin' The Party Line

I wonder when journalism will, if ever, recover some of its integrity or how many people actually realize how pathetic it is?

I listen to public radio, unless it’s pledge week, then I listen to Stern. Listening to Howard Stern is like…eating fast food. You feel kind of sick and greasy after you eat it but for some weird reason, once in a while you want to feel sick and greasy. I talked to someone today who finds Stern embarrassing. I agree, but then, I find most mainstream entertainment embarrassing. But sometimes, it’s somewhat enlightening to listen to the absolute opposite of NPR and I can't stand commericals so T.V. is out of the question.

I rarely speak to people that could be considered part of the mainstream. Now that sounds elitist, but it isn't because I think that my cultural perspective is loftier than anyone else's. I just have a difficult time communicating with people who believe everything that they hear on CNN, Fox, etc. I’m truly amazed at how easy it is to get a person to obey just by feeding them bullshit, which is exactly what network and print journalism has become. Obedience to the rules fascinates me because most of the time, if I think the rule is stupid, I refuse to go along with it unless someone gives me a good reason why I should. The funny thing is that when you argue the rules with rule mongers, it inevitably ends with "Because I said so, that's why!" Oh, yeah that'll make me submit, you stupid fuck.

I’ve said before that Jon Stewart was a tremendous breath of fresh air during the pre-election months. You can look at his videos on the net, by the way. Anyway, he sat down with Crossfire’s Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala and he literally begged them to hold open and honest debate on their show instead of doing what they normally do, which is engage in a lot of bell ringing and dancing bear political rhetoric instead of debating much of anything. Actually my theory is that they liked to get each other worked up so they can bump uglies later in the CNN mail room. There’s a lot of sexual tension there. But back to the much less interesting point, what did they do when Mr. Stewart came on their show? First, they ridiculed him for not asking Bob Kerry more serious questions on his comedy show and they sat there like the twits that they are and let a comedian annihilate them and did absolutely nothing to refute the claims that Stewart made about their shilling and hackery. They just interrupted him a lot and shouted and basically looked like spineless twerps. I had to go and research their history after that, to see why my sweet little Jon Stewart would do such at thing. I read some transcripts and this is what I came up with:

Crossfire is basically Springer with suits and extensive vocabularies, but not too extensive, we want the public to feel slightly inferior but at the same time, we don’t want to alienate them. They are like the supermodels of politics, polished enough to scare people a little but homogenous enough to appeal to like, everyone who is vapid enough to be taken in by their bullshit. Robert fucking Novak appears regularly on their show. And people watch it anyway!

So now I wonder how out of hand we’re going to get before things change. There is a fascinating theory that I have been reading about that has to do with a side effect of Groupthink. It is called "Group Polarization". Basically what that means is that individually, people tend to be fairly rational. However, get them in groups and things change. I’m sure that most people know that part already. The creepy part comes next. If the group party line tends toward the conservative (either politically or otherwise, the rule applies no matter what the collective goal or outlook), then the people in the group will be more conservative within the group than they would be individually. The same goes for people taking risks. They’re more likely to risk everything when they’re part of a group of risk takers. Once they’ve established themselves within a group, they check out how everyone else feels. In order to be liked, people take a position that is similar to everyone else’s, but a little more extreme. That way, the individual supports the group’s values but also presents himself or herself in a as a person in the vanguard; a true individualist.

On one hand, lots of people are being manipulated into believing a bullshit ethic and the ones who don’t believe it are going along with it, but in order to convince the group that they’re really loyal, they’re one-upping one another, vying for a nice place in the general structure of things. Then the other side reacts to the first side, and you have your similar types of folk, one-upping to claw their way into their own illusory niche of the pie. And the biggest joke upon which all of this is based is that the original “ideals” that were espoused and tossed around were basically the Nerf footballs of the body politic.

Sometimes, the absurdity is almost enough sugar to take the bitter taste out of my mouth.