2016.09.19 all the news that’s not

Wednesday 2016.09.21

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”

-Harlan Ellison

 

“People think of education as something they can finish.”

-Isaac Asimov

It just happens by coincidence that I start off this note with a couple of quotes that are both from well known science fiction writers. I don’t know if I would read a ton of significance into that particular fact, it happened to be, as I said, by somewhat random chance in encountering these two quotes very recently. At the same time, maybe there is a little food for thought in this, in terms of considering the general view of people who do that sort of work. I think I would be fair to say that people in that general group tend to be inherently a little better than most at backing up and taking a broad and open view of things, whatever they might be considering at a given moment. It’s sort of a basic part of the job.

I came across the Asimov quote online just this morning, and among the assortment of things I happened to encounter in a bit of web browsing was another item quoting somebody talking about whether “things are getting better” or “things are getting worse”. The broad point that seemed to be intended was to suggest that you can get an impression that things are getting worse simply because we’re in a time when more is revealed. Accompanying this was an added comment saying that things are getting better.

Stick all that together and ponder, and it naturally leads to some thoughts about the idea that we now live in “the information age”. The question is, what information might we be talking about in that massively large idea?

Personally, I find it interesting, and a little troublesome, to just regard the idea of people trying to reduce things down to a simplified question like “are things getting better, or are things getting worse?”. Alright, then, what are the “things”? How can you even seriously begin to address a question like this? It kind of goes right along with something that seems to make a regular appearance in the public realm, where some public survey asks people a question like “is the country headed in the right direction?“.

Seriously, what the fuck does that mean?

It gets even better (or worse, depending on how you look at it… irony noted) when you can easily find people getting into raging arguments about such questions.

Are things getting better, or worse?

Is the country headed in the right direction?

At some point, then, if anything like that gets tossed out there, it is almost inevitable that, at some point, we encounter the running epidemic of bipolar political disorder, as one way of people trying to oversimplify the complex. That isn’t the only factor that comes into play, of course, as you can also find people putting a subject into terms like “are you optimistic, or pessimistic?”, to name one simplistic reduction into a neat pair of dual opposites.

Here in “the information age”, evidently I managed to somehow miss the fact that the big TV entertainment over the weekend included the TV show about TV shows, the Emmy awards show presenting a series of trophies for TV entertainment, presented as TV entertainment. I noticed this earlier today, among the WWW noise and chatter, including an item about TV entertainer Jimmy Kimmel delivering a bit about the responsibility borne by whatever involved party took a character like Donald Trump and turned him into a “Reality TV star”.

Sitting back for a moment and reflecting on just this little item brings a thought about just how much there is to digest in this bit of television entertainment.

On one hand, Kimmel, who I regard as one of the brighter and more sensible people in the TV entertainment world, makes a solid and important serious point in the comedy mockery. Who made a farce like Trump a hugely famous character by making him a featured star in a medium where vapid entertainment for idiots gets much more attention and prominence than actual important information?

With this, though, does come some immeasurable level of irony, in a television entertainer, in a television entertainment program, whose entire programming content is about other television entertainment, offers up commentary on the responsibility of people in television entertainment for taking a loathsome character and bringing him into widespread public attention as television entertainment, who then became, incredibly, a national political figure who could be elected President of the United States, with the added layer of absurdity that arguably a large factor in the success so far of that campaign has been the level of attention focused on Trump by television “news”, a different form of television entertainment pretending to be “journalism”, making Trump as presidential candidate a different kind of televised freakshow entertainment.

It makes my head hurt just thinking about it.

I’m veering awfully close into getting sucked into the whirling vortex of insanity that is the “Trump v Hillary” farce. The newest installment of James Howard Kunstler’s Clusterfuck Nation regular Monday blog essay points out, again, the tragic absurdity of the way that what is being presented as our choice as the next President of the United States not only ignores anyone not in the Brand R and Brand D cabal, and also presents two of the most wretched and loathsome characters to be presented as candidates, ever, but ignores situations staring us in the face, which are also ignored almost completely by most of the public. That problem, of course, can be mostly explained by the horrible failure of what we’re presented as “news” here in the US, circa 2016, in actually doing a proper job of being a functional and honest Free Press.

Speaking of the Free Press, one of the more absurd stories to come down the pike amid an endless stream of absurdity is the story about the Washington Post stating that Edward Snowden should be prosecuted by the US government for his supposedly evil misdeeds of revealing material showing people that the US government does, and has been, subjecting the entire populace to a police state existence here in the USA (you know, that land of the free), after having happily received a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on that very issue, based on the information provided by… Edward Snowden.

You just can’t make this stuff up. Then again, having said that, for some people, in their minds they think maybe you can. With the WWW in action, in the endless variety of material at hand for people with an internet connection on hand, there exists some pretty good parody and satire, but I keep noticing that there are a few sites on the web that might be considered “news parody” sites, with the problem being that it might not be readily apparent that they are parody or satire. The humor is not always apparent, and the stuff offered up is just simply fake news, just false, fooling people who take it seriously, often because the “news story” they see might actually seem plausible. That might be something to examine a little bit, considering the possible explanation for at least some of this kind of situation as being not so much that some people are getting dumber, more gullible, but more a case of things being so truly odd that sometimes even fairly bizarre fake stories seem likely to be true. I haven’t been keeping a count, but it does seem like there have been quite a few instances over the last few years where I see some online flurry of people being fooled by some fake news story that they then pass along to everyone before somebody points out that it is fake, a ruse, somebody’s idea of a joke. In some cases, I can’t imagine what the joke might be in the minds of some people who put these things out, and it seems as if the only point is to see how many people believe it.

It actually turned out to be a perfect little bit of coincidence that I took a few minutes to peek at some things online and found somebody passing along a link to a news parody video piece from the satirical fake TV news of the Onion News Network that captured the vacuous nature of TV news these days almost perfectly

One running issue is something that has been coming up here for a while. With the incredible dysfunction of what have been considered serious news sources, and the expansion of what people can access as information and news sources, we have a fairly complicated situation on our hands. Among other things we could talk about in this, there is something to consider in noticing how often the phrase “conspiracy theory” comes up now. It has gotten pretty ridiculous. Even saying that, that last sentence, is probably a problematic thing, as various people might take their own varied meanings from what I just said.

Even the origins of that phrase is a tricky subject, and it has been said in a variety of places that this phrase came from some plan of public manipulation from the CIA to get a general public consensus going to mock and ridicule and dismiss people seeing and telling the truth about some subjects by labeling the information involved as “conspiracy theory”, meant as being some kind of paranoid and irrational nonsensical delusions of people with some degree of mental illness and/or sheer idiocy. Cue comments about tinfoil hats and so on.

A twist to this is that over time, people find that more than a couple “conspiracy theories” turned out to be exactly true.

Anything that does not fit some standard official narrative (propaganda, in a word) is labeled “conspiracy theory”. As more people catch on to the problem that what has been considered “legit” news (or the already overused and abused term “mainstream media”) is often vacuous, missing a great deal, or even grossly misleading and sometimes completely false, more people seek out alternative sources of news, that then often get labeled “conspiracy theory” from “conspiracy theorists”. Complicating it all much more, once you enter the realm of, shall we say, outside the mainstream (whatever that is now), other people have the opposite problem. Instead of dismissing vast domains of stuff as “conspiracy theory” silliness, they accept virtually any bit of complete nonsensical garbage as fact.

This is, clearly, a profound problem. It’s a hell of a mess. I’ve been talking about this for a long time. Many people are getting more of a better view of the truth in various events and circumstances, and at the same time, a great many people are lost in what at this stage is becoming complete delusion, with the twisted irony added on of dismissing actual fact as nonsense.

This has become a long running and tiresome topic, but it keeps going, and it can’t just be dismissed as an old, stale, and boring topic. This is really fundamental. It’s a massive problem. Obviously, at this point, a lot of it revolves, as I have been saying, around the political madness and the affliction of bipolar political disorder. That is becoming more acute and is being demonstrated by people getting sucked in more and more to arguing for either Trump or Clinton as a choice to become President.

I keep reading online comments from someone I know, somebody I have mentioned in this kind of context before a few times now, who seems completely lost in the kind of problem I’m talking about. One web note in recent days was generally a historical post about the history of World War II, and the massive scale of confrontation of great evil, immediately followed by comments about Trump (not flattering) and comments saying that “HRC will not be shy about dealing with Putin… she won’t make deals”.

It should be interesting to notice that I see items online reporting (albeit from the Daily Mail in the UK, whatever weight you might give that as a source) that former President George H. W. Bush has said that he would vote for Hillary Clinton as President. This should catch the attention of many people by virtue of the fact that aside from this coming specifically from Bush the elder, a Republican former president, but that he certainly would qualify as part of the neocon bunch, and if you look around, you would, I hope, notice a not so subtle fact, which is that it is becoming almost universal for people in the neocon club to declare their support for Hillary Clinton!

There’s a clue.

This is something that stares people in the face, and yet somehow manages to appear to escape the notice of astonishing numbers of people who have themselves firmly nailed to the support of Hillary Clinton. The monumental irony is that this obviously includes loads of people who revile the neocons as exemplified in the Bush/Cheney administration for eight years, and yet prove to be completely blind to neocons if they stick a “D” next to their name, suffering from the delusion that the neocon cult is completely and exclusively “a Republican thing”.

One of the neocon actors in Washington now is the representative of the United States in the United Nations, Samantha Power, and her latest appearance in the news relates to her performance, which is probably the most appropriate word, in a meeting of the UN Security Council regarding another major bit of news. That news, in case you had not heard, was that US military aircraft had attacked the Syrian army, in Syria. That has appeared in the news here in the US as a story of a mistake, with chatter about the idea that this is a problem as an error, an “intelligence failure”, that is a subject to focus on in terms of questioning malfunctions in military intelligence, and how they could make such an error. Oopsie!

Somehow, we seem to fail to get much of reporting the obvious facts, that for years now, there has been a stream of statements from Washington about how “Assad must go!”, taking seemingly every possible opportunity to overtly declare that the neocon bunch in Washington demand the overthrow of the leader of another nation, and that US military forces have been operating, inside Syria, obviously against the wishes of the government of Syria, but, of course, this is all about that “War on Terror”, with regular proclamations that without this, the evil ISIS (or whatever name is used at the moment) will be coming to behead you or blow you up at the local shopping mall.


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