The Pentagong Show

The Pentagong Show
United State of Terror: Is Drone War Fair?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Is the News Reel: Actual Footage vs. Talking Heads.


 “The junk merchant doesn't sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client.”
William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch


 Perhaps it was 9/11 with those endless replay of the same footage over and over and over again. Or maybe it had started earlier and it only became apparent in retrospect, but somewhere along the way (as a result, I suspect, of the CNN-ization of what we still call news) whether it is breaking/broken, news became propagandized. The latter always being the case in time of War, and we are currently always at war. Yet the corollary, that we are constantly fed propaganda, has been (like may things that no one likes to admit, is a result of He who must be obeyed, The Reality TV star Donald Duck Trump, or Baby Huey and The (Fake) News), completely ignored for fifteen years, except by programs on Comedy Central, such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, who proudly boasted that his show propagated Fake News, when it in fact was the only source, for a while, of a different view than the Completely Corporate-owned MSM's pasteurized product, one that went right past your eyes without any of the discernment citizens in a Democracy needs to exercise if it is to remain one.

One of the none too subtle ways they did this was via the replacement of footage with talking heads who explained the news to you and exactly what you should think about it, rather than presenting it and allowing the viewers to form their own opinion from the displayed facts. Now, there's nothing that comes closer to being pure propaganda than those pre-movie News Reels that were played during WW2, yet they now stand out for one important attribute: while the narrator voiced over all the footage of what we now like to call "events on the ground", those events were actually being simultaneously displayed. Now the only thing we have going on simultaneously is the ticker tape at the bottom of the screen that has nothing whatsoever to do with what's being proffered by a photogenic infotainer posing as a journalist.

Also, being as it was a time of war, the milieu of what was reported was often outside the US, but now, unless it is War, sports, or a climate-change-charged weather event, there is no longer any foreign news, sports apparently being that much more important to expanding our understanding of the dynamics of how our world is faring than footage of what is going on in the world outside our borders.

Yet, on just one of the blogs I like to peruse everyday, Yves Smith's Naked Capitalism,  there are references, in stories that are not just tangentially important, to China, Russia, Syria, France, Britain, Korea, and India, just to name those I remember from today's post off the top of my head. That even two of these would get airtime on a TV news show would invariably mean that there is a conflict brewing or that one has already started.

I'm sure you've seen those interview shows where the reporter goes out on the street and asks passersby where such-and-such a country is and we all laugh in derision at the profound ignorance of the GP (that being the General Public) to the world around them, and the blame is always laid on the educational system. I disagree. I received the dubious honor of being granted Harvard's Tortoise Award, for taking 32 years to finish my Bachelor's Degree; what taking that long taught me was that there are things we learn in school, which we finish around age 18/22, that we never revisit again, and without continuing education for everyone, the only resource to refresh our learning is the News, which at one time wasn't just an arm of the Military/Corporate/(Here I was going to put government as the third member of this triumvirate, but that is all it's devolved into, a military/corporate entity that no longer has any function separate from these two conglomerations) power, but helped elucidate and enlighten, but now more often is involved in deliberate obfuscation and sowing seeds of confusion in its viewers' heads. Geography is therefore never a subject until or unless it's to explain the military's newly formed necessity to deploy troops there (well, not troops exactly, our armed personnel have been reduced to being referred to as footwear, so they are only "boots on the ground", deployed to foreign climes where they invariably leave empty, bloody booties on the ground) or a hurricane has ripped through, an avalanche has mowed down, or hail the size of baseballs has pummeled it to a pulp. Otherwise anything New that has happened anywhere else is not newsworthy.

That is why the GP, whose ignorance we like to chuckle about and shake our heads at, is so clueless about the state of the world around them, the fourth estate no longer goes forth to state what they've witnessed, but stays in its cubicles and relies on newsfeed from CNN. But not having their own correspondents to have to pay has resulted in a paucity of footage, which is why no matter what news outlet you tune in, it has not only identical footage as all the other outlets, but shows that same footage over and over an over and over, while its "News" correspondents and Senior analysts, and other high-falutin'- monickered monkeys, with titles that The DAily Show used to mock (but which apparently doesn't stop them from using) argue ad nauseum on subjects barely tangential to the actual issue at hand. It's reminiscent of  Catholic high school Theology class where students debate a trivial piece of Church dogma while the real questions of God's existence, free will, and other metaphysical enigmas that burn in the hearts and minds of adolescents are left unanswered: ignorance by design, topics chosen for their similarity to cheap magician tricks of distraction and deflection to deliberately misdirect attention from matters that are important, and instead debating with a pseudo-sober mien of concern and erudition, go traipsing through a maze of  trivial pursuits and entertaining but insignificant ephemera.

Like magicians, news anchors have become masters of legerdemain, using sleight of hand to exploit nuances of human perception, attention, and awareness while relying heavily on the use of cognitive illusions, manipulating people’s attention, trains of logic and even memory. Although magicians probably haven’t studied these phenomena via the scientific method, the networks, drawing heavily on the expertise of their advertisers, have, and make full use of the techniques and gimmicks that mAdmen have tested over time, perfected by practice, and performed under conditions of high scrutiny by skeptical audiences looking to spot an inconsistency.

This is why we all of a sudden have this debate about fake/alt news, because, someone, and the inconvenient truth is that that someone is again Donald Trump, has finally had the temerity to point out that there is a slant to the news that at times amounts to its being so biased as to render it, if not exactly fake, more than a little suspect. And whereas the media has raised alarming warnings of the perils to our freedom the specter of a president calling the main news outlets purveyors of fake news represents, it seems contrarily that a healthy dose of skepticism about the view of the world we're spoonfed by septicemic talking heads for whom truth is what they say it is, seems instead to be precisely what's warranted.








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