Dancing in the Dark

dancingBy The David

We seem to dance in ever widening circles. We are diverted constantly from being witness to what is important. Rather we are steered toward that which is sensational, here for the moment and profoundly mundane. We are distracted by a cacophony of words that are merely sound and have little or no depth, little or no meaning to us in the long term. We just seem to be dancing at a much faster,  more frenetic pace. The louder the music, the more we are taken away from the important things that should be our focus.

The band is made up of those who label themselves as reporters, journalists, information specialists and pundits. All of these people have abdicated their responsibility to those of us who are the consumers of their drivel. Those of us who buy their product, who read the newspaper, watch the news programs or listen to the so-called experts share in a kind of collective guilt for where we find ourselves.

I have come to believe that one of the greatest jokes ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public was the birth of the twenty-four hour cable television networks. In the early days, when CNN stood alone, it did seem to attempt to cover the news in a responsible manner. But then, along came MSNBC to provide competition. Then lastly (and I shudder to think about it) along came FOX. The trio then had to compete. Fox chose the conservative news-line and has hired a group of snipers who either espoused the line of the ultra-right, or were willing to sell themselves to that political idiom. CNN seems to have sold it’s soul for ratings, and vacillates between hard news and celebrity coverage, as though they have resident journalists, but also have their own stable of paparazzi and muck rakers. MSNBC sleeps in that very same bed.

If we measure it by the number of television hours and newspaper column inches , then the major story of the year has been the death of a pop star. The passing of Michael Jackson has generated more talk than just about any other single event this year. The cable news networks devoted ’round the clock coverage of the events surrounding the death, family and estate of the late Mr. Jackson. It became a wallow. It was like being witness to an orgy of fantasy, with very few facts interspersed within all the words vomited out of the reportorial mouths during this so called news presentation. Ratings and cold hard cash seem to be the primary motivators, with relevancy being sacrificed on the altar of expediency in the pursuit of these two goals.

I do not denigrate Mr. Jackson’s contributions as an entertainer. He was a masterful singer, dancer, composer and lyricist. He was also a father, son, and brother. He was a human being and did not have to be sent-off in the midst of sensationalism, hyperbole and the crocodile tears of the press and of some of the people who came to “mourn.” Michael Jackson was indeed a great and charismatic performer, but was he really the greatest that ever lived? Should there be a national holiday declared so that we could annually celebrate his memory? Hyperbole!

The coverage that 24 hour cable news brings about has also had an effect on government processes, and not for their betterment. For example, the coverage of the so-called confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayer was little more than a chance for the Republican minority to posture and grandstand. The news took a statement out of the context of a speech made several years ago that compared and contrasted the ability of an Hispanic woman to that of a white male in terms of judging certain cases. Cable ran with this statement and produced days of meaningless drivel. Instead of the Judiciary Committee focusing on this nominee’s judicial record, we were given this exercise in political arrogance by the committee members and by cable news. The only real case they presented that Judge Sotomayer helped decide was that involving the testing for promotion of the New Haven, CT firemen wherein her decision sided with minority candidates and was later reversed by the Supreme Court. Much was made of this reversal, yet it was neither a surprise nor was it even newsworthy. It was a foregone conclusion coming from what is now a conservative court capped off by the appointees of and now the living and enduring legacy of George W. Bush.

I have pretty much withdrawn from watching the twenty-four hour cable news coverage, preferring instead to get my news from BBC America, and the sound bites generated by the major networks. (In saying this, I am not holding the major networks blameless. The tenor and the quality of network news has also degenerated. perhaps beyond recovery.)

I also read at least one newspaper a day. For the most part, that local rag presents little or no hard news. It becomes more and more yellow every day, and does not even seem to know it has lost its way. It’s crusade at present seems to be against a local politician who was stopped for driving after having had “two drinks.” Over the past several weeks the paper has devoted countless columns to this infraction. It seems to me that after it has been said, it has been said. This newspaper also offers almost daily letters attacking the current administration, and not over issues. The letters are more apt to be of the ilk that attack the president as having been born outside of the U.S., and of having a secret agenda that if allowed to be fulfilled will bring thousands of Muslim terrorists to live as our neighbors and at taxpayers’ expense. It would be laughable if it was not so disheartening. Then, why should a person continue to read that paper? Well, I’m a movie fan, and as such I need to know what is playing and the schedule. How sad is it when that is the most important page in a newspaper that is short on real news and long on gossip, sensationalism and “sound-bytes.

I don’t necessarily fault the journalists who are presently coming up. They have to eat, so they adjust their product to what the traffic will bear. Yet we have recently been reminded of the respect we were once able to have had for the news and for the people who delivered it to us. So, we need to ask if Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Chet Huntley or David Brinkley would have chosen expediency over integrity. I think not.

The news as it is? We’ve received what we have bought, and it seems as though we have welcomed it hook, line and sinker. We have become, for the most part, a generation that prefers tabloid reporting to real news. We prefer to receive our “information” in short sentences and in the sound bytes that do not tax our short attention spans. So many are now content to simply buy drivel, and we therefore only receive drivel.

Imagine the quiet that could result if we would simply tune-out cable news, tune-out the political muck-rakers who pollute the radio airwaves each day. Imagine how wonderful it would be to have the ability to read and think for ourselves, to have our own opinions and ultimately vote our own minds. If we were able to show that we will no longer buy the product, that it is time to stop the dance, perhaps a message would be received by the powers that be, and the news could once again become….. well, news!

About karlsie

Some great perversity of nature decided to give me a tune completely out of keeping with the general symphony; possibly from the moment of conception. I learned to read and speak almost simultaneously. The blurred and muffled world I heard through my first five years of random nerve loss deafness suddenly came alive with the clarity of how those words sounded on paper. I had been liberated for communications. I decided there was nothing more wonderful than writing. It was easier to write than carefully modulate my speech for correct pronunciation, and it was easier to read than patiently follow the movements of people’s lips to learn what they were saying. It was during that dawning time period, while I slowly made the connection that there weren’t that many other people who heard the way I did, halfway between sound and music, half in deafness, that I began to understand that the tune I was following wasn’t quite the same as that of my classmates. I was just a little different. General education taught me not only was I just a little isolated from my classmates, my home was just a little isolated from the outside world. I was born in Alaska, making me part of one of the smallest, quietest minorities on earth. I decided I could live with this. What I couldn’t live with was discovering a few years later, in the opening up of the pipeline, which coincided with my first year of junior college, that there were entire communities of people; more than I could possibly imagine; living impossibly one on top of another in vast cities. It wasn’t even the magnitude of this vision that inspired me so much as the visitors who came from these populous regions and seemed to possess a knowledge so great and secretive I could never learn it in any book. I became at once, very conscious of how rural I was and how little I knew beyond the scope of my environment. I decided it was time to travel. The rest is history; or at least, the content of my stories. I traveled... often to college campuses, dropping in and out of school until one fine day by chance I’d fashioned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. I’ve worked a couple of newspapers, had a few poems and stories tossed around in various small presses, never receiving a great deal of money, which I’m assured is the norm for a writer. I spent ten years in Mexico, watching the peso crash. There is some obscure reason why I did this, tightening up my belt and facing hunger, but I believe at the time I said it was for love. Here I am, back home, in my beloved Alaska. I’ve learned somewhat of a worldly viewpoint; at least I like to flatter myself that way. I’ve also learned my rural roots aren’t so bad after all. I work in a small, country store. Every day I greet the same group of local customers, but make no mistake. My store isn’t a scene out of Andy Griffith. The people who enter the establishment, which also includes showers, laundry and movie rentals, are miners, oil workers, truck drivers, construction engineers, dog sled racers and carpenters. Sometimes, on the liquor side, the conversations became adult only in vocabulary. It’s a good thing, on the opposite side of the store is a candy aisle filled with the most astonishing collection, it will keep a kid occupied with just wishing for hours. If you tell your kids they can have just one, you have an instant baby sitter; better than television; as they agonize over their choice while you catch up on the gossip with your neighbor. We also receive a lot of tourists, a lot of foreign visitors. They are usually amazed at this first sign of Alaskan rural life style beyond the insulating hub of the Anchorage bowl. Many of them like to hang around and chat. They gawk at our thieves wanted posters. They laugh at our jokes and camaraderie with our customers. I’ve learned another lesson while working there. You don’t have to go out and find the world. If you wait long enough, it comes to you.

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3 Comments on “Dancing in the Dark”

  1. Differining in opinion a little I don’t think 24hour news a “joke” perputrated on any of us but rather a calculated terrorist act on the human race. I blame the network “Cabal” for this (I had to say “Cabal” because some dumb-ass twittered about it being only used in conjunction with Jewish people…not to offend jewish people, Cabals or dumb-asses in general)
    Anyway the Michael Jackson thing really made me sick and is continuing to do so..how many people are taking a vacation at VH1 right now causing them to run “The Jackson Family…an American Tale” on a loop?
    It’s pissing me off because I am missing out on new episodes of Daisy of Herpes and “Foxx, Super Wise Love Machine” (I am pitching that one to VH1 right now.)
    The news is what we the public pay for and I think we should just stop…or let Ted Kazinsky out of jail or something constructive.
    On the bright side. My locally publicised war against a vulgar editor of a “free” “alternative” News publicaction has finally paid off and He has given up or whatever and for the first time in 5 years our “alternative” paper produced not one but two original, good journalstic articles, one on homelessness and one on the budjet.
    So that’s good news right?

  2. Yesterday I read an article in which the author referred to Obama as “our newest reality-show judge and President.” That summed up my feelings about the so-called “rock star” perfectly. And it goes hand-in-hand with your opening paragraph: we love –(apparently)– empty words, good-sounding, sparkly platitudes, and a killer profile.

    What flabbergasted me about Michael Jackson’s death was the fact that three weeks later there were full-length books on the bookshelves. Now, if you know anything at all about writing, it takes more than three weeks to write a book, not to mention more than three weeks to get an agent, more than three weeks to get a publisher, and way more than three weeks for said publisher to get item into print.

    What happened here?

    It’s a mystery, and it always will be, but it’s part of the bizarre entertainment industry. Dead celebrities, live celebrities, we love them all, pruriently.

  3. My stomach is still trying to digest the unpalatable conclusion of Sotomayer’s close examination of her qualifications. She was mainstream enough for the job. This is as much to say, she was unimaginative enough, non-controversial enough, apathetic enough not to rock the boat.

    There is a system in place, one made up of authorities whose decision making processes are not questioned. The circles of power aren’t shaken by corruption in ethics and policies, only in voyeuristic treatments of their private lives. The fate of the homeless, the poisons leaking into our planetary system, global food shortages, are secondary to our glorious pursuit of drugs, rape, murder and scandal. Instead of a greater society, we seek the flawless human. Yet, should we find such a mythical anomaly, we would then chip away the features beyond recognition. We have lost our nobility in our race to be delicious, to be the latest rave, to grab an hour in the sunlight of fame.

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