I think it is interesting to go back and read things written by people such as Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman about media and society, with a bit of thinking about the differences in “media” between the time they were writing, and now. The world of “media” has expanded sort of exponentially (an often misused word) since those people were writing. Just focus on Postman and his writing on television, and ponder the fact that in his time, we basically had three commercial television networks plus the public non-commercial PBS, a scattering of independent TV stations that mostly ran old syndicated TV series re-runs and movies, and broadcast stations that often went off the air around 1:00 AM.
Those two wrote before the era of cable and home satellite receiver television systems with 500 channels running around the clock every day, and well before the entire array of media conveyed via the internet.
A great bit of video turned up a few days ago, with a monologue from a slightly different TV talking head, a guy called Lee Camp.
This guy has a regular show on the RT network, also known as Russia Today. The name of his show is Redacted Tonight, which has a certain kind of resonance to it, considering the state of American TV news in general now, which is a main theme of the monologue.
There is a great quote I see occasionally, attributed to the late Frank Zappa.
“Politics is the entertainment division of the military-industrial complex.”
That really sums up an awful lot very well, and nails the essence of the matter square on the head, at least in national level American politics today, and as it has been for some time now.
The show goes on, and now, of course, we have had the passage of the healthy and positive American holiday of Thanksgiving Day, which has been fouled horribly by what has become the bizarre dark ritual ubiquitously known as “Black Friday” the day after, which, in a stranger twist, is now also evidently “a thing” now in the UK, on that very same day, apart from the fact that the American traditional holiday is not celebrated there.
On top of everything else, the daily spectacle of strange diversions and distractions is now including what was nicely summed up by the title of an article on the Counterpunch website as The Great American Sex Panic of 2017.
This last one is getting especially strange. In one day, there were two new items of “Breaking News” showbiz sex drama. First, I saw the news that suddenly the NBC television network had fired NBC talking head “news” entertainment personality Matt Lauer for accusations of sexual misbehavior, with a barrage of noise following that which suggested that Lauer had indulged in being a very naughty boy for some time. What slid by in all that was something mentioning that Lauer’s annual salary from NBC was over 20 million dollars a year, and later in the day, in a podcast conversation I was listening to, where the current sex dramas were a topic of conversation for a few minutes, someone claimed that the actual figure was 25 million.
Within the very same day, more news hit the whirlwind, as Minnesota Public Radio announced that Garrison Keillor had been fired from association with their network because of an accusation of vaguely unspecified “inappropriate behavior”. Really? I wonder what 75 year old married Keillor was up to. Did he put his arm around a woman or something? (Actually, one bit of the endless commentary I caught on radio was that he placed his hand on a woman’s bare back.)
Apparently, in the new frenzy, these two guys are regarded and treated as the same basic thing, even as, aside from any rumors and allegations and hearsay, video footage is around showing Matt Lauer being what most people would assess as being pretty creepy.
Ironically, one of the items in the pile brings in another professional humorist from Minnesota, Al Franken, with the added component being that he left the world of being a humor writer and performer to enter politics and become a US senator. The added thing in common with Garrison Keillor is that the “allegations of misbehavior” seem very questionable. In Franken’s case, this revolves around a photo that was obviously a joke goofing around with a camera, with Franken staring right into the camera with a sort of goofy smirking grin as he holds his hands out flat over the breasts of a woman who appears to be sleeping, as she is wearing a military armored vest.
In a much different story that sort of encompasses an intersection of showbiz and politics, involving CBS news and PBS TV talking head Charlie Rose, stories emerged about his alleged behavior around women in working situations that sound extremely creepy, stories that, if true, make a guy think “dude, how would you actually think that this is alright?“. Some of the stories around sound as if the 75 year old Rose acted like he thought he was Hugh Hefner hanging around the Playboy Mansion.
All this obviously got rolling in earnest as somebody publicly aired their story of the horrendous misbehavior of Hollywood mogul character Harvey Weinstein. That suddenly burst forth, and it quickly became a widespread subject as, suddenly, masses of people in the general culture of the southern California based movie business collectively known as “Hollywood” were falling over each other to talk publicly about the chronic misbehavior of this guy, who, it appears, has spent years acting as some living definition of what people mean by the term “sexual predator”. From all that it seems to be a case of everybody who suddenly spoke about it openly saying that this was a situation that “everybody knew about Harvey”, yet everybody was just fine, for years, with it being everybody’s little secret.
It has been interesting to occasionally see bits of that spectacle, not that I have even tried to keep tabs on it, as all sorts of showbiz personalities are making various interview statements of noble principle about that whole situation, bravely speaking out, after it was all out in the open.
The entire frenzy is more than a little strange considering that it reflects something that is not new at all, that being the ugly matter of men in some sort of position of power and importance, or at least believing themselves to be so, imposing themselves and causing great harm, misery, and stress in satisfying whatever sexual urges are rattling around inside them, and whatever sort of twisted urges they have to simply control other people, women in particular.
This is suddenly just now an issue?
As it turns into something of a PR bandwagon to hop on, we are all witnessing a lot of what has become known as “virtue signalling”. There is a lot of, shall we say, showmanship, as some people are suddenly very “aware” and enlightened as indicators show that their public relations policy must demonstrate how they really care a lot. That gets us right into an ugly kind of psychological territory that you find in a particular bit of weirdness I have mentioned before, this idea you hear occasionally that “perception is reality“, rather than reality being, you know, what is real. That way lies madness.
You probably know all the stories, unless you completely ignore what we have as news now, and to even tick them off ends up becoming like some stupid showbiz gossip festival. The parade rolls along down the street, with one of the earlier spectacles being about famous Hollywood movie star turned streaming video series actor Kevin Spacey. In that one the twist was that the sexual misconduct did not involve being an ogre pushing himself on women and making them miserable and frightened, because the story was of pushing himself on males. That one broke loose with the story of a male actor telling a story of being 14 years old at a showbiz type party with Spacey there and being alone in a bedroom at the party when Spacey ended up laying on top of him on a bed trying to initiate a sexual encounter.
Adding an extra layer to that one was the PR move of Spacey then making some statement about “living as a gay man”. At some point in the swirl of noisy soap opera melodrama, I read some web article where there were some comments about that, which added a strange twist.
The basic gist of it was that someone was talking about this as Spacey attempting to cover this, somehow, or divert from the main tale, by “coming out as a gay man”. I remember looking at this and being, well, I don’t know if “puzzled” is exactly the right word. I had to sit there and read it again to try to parse everything, and in essence, the suggestion being made seemed to be that Spacey was trying to do an end run strategy diverting attention away from allegedly trying to possibly ass-rape a 14 year old male actor by “coming out as a gay man” with a notion that this was a righteous and noble and “brave” positive posture of virtue, to counteract the “negatives” of a narrative that had him viewed something like “hi, I’m a famous big-time Hollywood star, and I like to fuck 14 year old boys in the ass”. The apparent implication was of an assumption that it was a PR “positive” to declare himself publicly homosexual- “good for you, Kevin Spacey, congratulations”.
That gets into a whole area of its own. God knows, when you get into the whole weird and wonderful and mysterious area of human beings and sex, it gets into all sorts of strange and mysterious territory, and I have been around long enough to realize that when you get into the subject, it turns out that people can be wired up inside in all kinds of ways in terms of what flips their switch, and that includes people who are homosexual or bisexual, who just have urges involving people of the same sex. The way I look at it, I don’t understand it, other than understanding what I just said, I want no part of it, but as long as nobody is trying to drag me into something when I want to part of it, and they keep their sexual activities to themselves, I don’t care. I don’t approve or disapprove. Somebody’s personal private matters are their own.
Where it gets a little weird for me is that in general societal terms things have changed a bit so that, at least in some settings, people are a lot less likely to find themselves under attack from angry mobs because their sexual desires and activities involve the same sex, but in some social contexts, it has gone a little weird in the sense that it seems like some people regard that as being some sort of advanced and enlightened virtue. It is probably a step better that a lot of people have moved beyond a kind of state where people might have once thought “oh my god I just found out my son’s a goddamned faggot and now I have to kill him and then kill myself from the shame!” to at least accepting, well, alright, that’s just how some people are, it’s somehow wired into their being, but I personally think it’s a bit weird that for some people now, there is some weird expectation of social conformity where they are supposed to think “oh, your child is gay? congratulations! I wish I had a gay offspring so I could show how enlightened and advanced I am, too!“.
Inevitably, and inexplicably, all that kind of subject matter ends up being more idiotic political squabbling revolving around the Bipolar Political Disorder and the endless lists of presumptions all that involves. That could probably be a whole book.
In the continuing parade, there was another story, this time involving another web-streaming show where the lead character actor ran into trouble and was publicly removed, even though they play the central character, because, we are told, of “lewd comments”. That gets just funny, as I find it hard to believe that anybody in any form of the entertainment business can have a day pass without “lewd comments”. It gets off into a weird tangent of more “sexual politics” as the whole theme of the show is the main character being “transgender”, played by the male actor finding himself in fresh trouble. I came across some web article about this tempest in a teapot melodrama where the “troubled” actor was yammering on about the part and being an actual male actor and it ended up coming to the term “cisgendered”.
That was one I just recently heard, spoken, in a podcast, and I had to go look it up, with the slight problem of needing to guess how it might be spelled. A definition I found went like: “Cisgender is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth”.
There is now a special term of lingo to specify a person who is identified as the sex they actually are?
Entering the realm of the showbiz known as politics and sexual behavior is cracking open an industrial sized can of worms. One classic characteristic is the running theme of political creatures identifying themselves as “Conservative” and “Family Values” characters identifying themselves with an R after their name, often making a grand show of opposing anything labeled as “Gay Rights”, as opposition to other political showbiz actors making a grand show of being all for anything labeled as “Gay Rights”, who end up being revealed as being involved in some sort of sexual misbehavior that happens to sometimes be of the homosexual variety.
One of the recent sexual misbehavior scandal stories revolves around a Brand R character of the general “morals Conservative” type and a story that he had been pushing for some sexual fun with a 14 year old girl at a time when he was in his early thirties. That actually raises another item of sexual confusion that can get all kinds of raging squabbling going. There is a social taboo about grown men getting sexually involved with teenage girls, and there are reasons for that. The thing here is that if something like the story just mentioned arises, people start raging about somebody being a pedophile. A grown man getting involved with a teenage girl is not a pedophile. Pedophilia is getting involved in sexual behavior with children, pre-pubescent young people, which is actually different from young people in teenaged adolescence who are not considered old enough to manage themselves as adults but have actually reached sexual maturity. But good luck even raising that point without somebody going nuts and howling “oh, so you’re arguing in favor of pedophiles, then, are you?”.
That’s stepping into a minefield, despite the issue of the fact that, aside from the issues of grown men having sex with teenaged young girls, there really does need to be a distinction made here, because otherwise things can get confused. There seems to be this kind of thing where somebody in a sexual relationship with, say, a 16 year old girl, is labeled “a child rapist”, that confuses the kind of issue that arises with some adult getting sexually involved with a young person who is literally a child, prepubescent, not yet a sexually mature person, which is getting into seriously pathological psychological territory. That gets into horrendous territory, and it is not a helpful thing to confuse that kind of abomination with somebody being considered too young to be a proper adult relationship.
All that really does get into messy territory, that people are likely to steer away from lest they find themselves with people raging at them that they’re arguing in favor of sex with teenagers, no, child molestation and rape! That gets into all sorts of topics about human society and mores and sex. Consider the Jewish traditions of the Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah, where there is an official “coming of age” ceremony for young males and females marking their entry into adulthood at the age of 13 (or 12, apparently, in parts of Judaism). Of course, that seems a little odd now, and I recall a joke about this from a Jewish host of a humorous radio show about the Bar Mitzvah, with the line parodying the Bar Mitzvah ritual, “today I am a man, Monday I return to the seventh grade”.
Consider something else, where so many American politicians strut proudly about morality and values, especially regarding sex, yet they seem all in favor of full support and friendship with Saudi Arabia, where it seems to apparently be perfectly acceptable for some creepy old bastard to take a 10 year old girl, truly and literally a child, not just young, as his wife, and regardless of what she might think about it all.
That comes up in the various stories of allegations that has become known as “pizzagate”.
That particular matter seems to be dismissed out of hand by many people as sheer nonsense coming from “crazy alt-right Right Wing conspiracy theorists”, but this does not seem to be entirely clear and simple, and there is an awful lot flying around that seems awfully suspicious, and, if some or all of the things alleged are true, this gets into deeply twisted territory, with people claiming that we’re looking at not just the mental and moral aberrations of pedophilia, but even darker areas.
The weirdness continues with an array of stories floating around (here is one from Newsweek, since many sources might get people rejecting a lot of things as “Fake News”, but Newsweek is considered “legit news”), involving a mysteriously wealthy man called Jeffrey Epstein, with a private plane nicknamed the “Lolita Express” because it was said to be used to fly various people among the wealthy, famous, and in positions of power and importance, to a private Caribbean island owned by Epstein with a collection of young teenage girls living there for purposes of sexual activities with the guests. It all sounds a lot like stories about men traveling to Bangkok for purposes that are entirely about it being a place where anything goes in sexual activity.
There are some issues there. One obvious item is that you can put aside any possible arguments about whether it is reasonable to accept that a young teenage girl can choose to participate in sexual activity even while legally a juvenile, in a case where you have to question a situation where they are on a private island where they can only get there or leave by the transportation provided by their “host”. More than that, there is quite a subject to consider about people of wealth/power/influence and whether they can just live by their own special set of rules, essentially not bound by rules.
Will this kind of horror be exposed and dealt with, or will we just get episodes like Garrison Keillor being purged from existence, past and present, like some Soviet Union or communist China purge, because he touched a woman’s back or something? It was a little concerning when I heard in passing part of some radio report about the “sexual misbehavior” subject, and I caught something about whatever organization was involved declaring something about a “zero tolerance policy”. Unfortunately, that kind of proclamation seems to be generally about more “virtue signalling” public relations calculation than a genuine concern about doing the right thing and correcting problems, and the character of these kinds of “zero tolerance” ideas makes it unlikely that any sensible assessment and judgment of whatever is involved will happen… like, for a hypothetical example related to some of what I was talking about earlier, some 20 year old young man and his 17 year old girlfriend engage in a mutual enthusiastic sexual relationship, and suddenly one day he finds that he is officially a child rapist. The unfortunate likely reality is that “zero tolerance policy” is probably going to only mean people being stomped into the ground for something trivial and harmless, while real live monsters do not find this kind of trouble because they’re above that sort of thing.
This could go on and on, but it might be sufficient to say that when it comes to the worlds of big time showbiz and the big time faction of showbiz of politics, any time we start hearing noisy chattering about sexual morality, there is inevitably a vast amount of sheer unadulterated bullshit, even while actual honest to god sexual predators just do whatever they like.
It feels like being ridiculously obvious to state that politics is showbiz, a show. I almost wrote “pure theater” just now to describe it, but somehow “pure” seems to be completely the wrong word to use, possibly even antithetical.
In that circus as things are going right now, the main ring features “THE RUSSIA INVESTIGATION!” or, to use the stupid suffix convention of everything, “Russiagate”. If we beat on the metaphor of politics (and the “news media” operating hand in hand) as a circus, it becomes almost impossible to watch the acts obscured by the mountains of dung generated by the animals. This farce is arguably the worst example going of people operating on the insanity of the “perception is reality” idea.
The most prominent circus act of the moment is the latest scandal melodrama, with the Breaking News continuous cycle about a former Trump minion confessing misdeeds of, brace yourself, talking to Russians! Oh my god! He talked to Russians! Look at the Russian Collusion! Do you see the RUSSIAN COLLUSION?
In the vast array of problems with Donald Trump and the bizarre farce of the Trump presidency, the histrionics triggered by all that somehow have managed to circle into orbit around arguably one of the very few potential proper good things that could have happened as a result of Trump, of actually having better relations between the governments of the United States of America and the Russian Federation, winding back down the hostile lunacy that has been generated for some years now by the whole neocon/neoliberal axis of malevolence.
Oh my god the traitor Trump has been colluding with the enemy Russia and doing the bidding of his evil master Putin!
On it goes.