There are way too many screaming heads filling our TV screens, shouting inflammatory nonsense and predicting iminent disaster on all fronts. Once common decency and rationality no longer earn sufficient advertising dollars, network ratings strategy becomes a no-holds-barred marathon of “who can scare more people into watching our programming.” Check Fox News for the best example of how that works (MSNBC runs a close second). Because let’s face it: more people will keep their frightened eyes glued to an incessant Emergency Broadcast Message than to sober talk from calm, rational, boring folks.
Example: the shrill “clean energy” debate rages on, with much bombast on both sides about “clean coal” (which should actually be called “slightly-less-horrifyingly-filthy coal”). Though oil, as we currently use it, certainly isn’t as evil as pundits claim. It’s cleaner and more efficient than either coal or wood, for instance. Fuel taxes (though annoying) offset the cost of numerous government services. Corporations in the oil business want to pay less taxes to increase their profit margin… but that’s true of all corporations, most of which have only two items on their wish lists: spend less money to earn more money, and avoid any external regulation that might stop them from doing it. The real danger of our dependence on oil is that it isn’t replenishible, and the way we use it can be (and usually is) messy and environmentally damaging. But the oil itself isn’t the problem— it’s the way certain sociopathic assholes cheat our safeguards to misuse it, greedily building financial fuel monopolies by bypassing (or corrupting) legal controls. As fuel sources go, we can definitely do better (and eventually we’ll be forced to). But probably not until the oil barons have squeezed every last cent out of the world supply and left a huge mess in their smirking wake.
That same tradition of monopolism even pollutes our art. There’s always been an incredible range in quality, frequency, and mode of art since the dawn of recorded history… but the corporate quest to own and focus it into a money-making venture (strictly controlled and rationed for financial gain) gave rise to great media monopolies, narrowing the artistic focus even as the means of broadcasting and disseminating such art grew more rich and varied. What has changed lately is distribution: great artists starved and died undiscovered for centuries, but modern info tech has shrunk the world, allowing art to be seen and appreciated by more potential patrons than ever before. Info tech gives innovative artists the ability to circumvent traditional corporate distribution and break out along the edges… yet the corporations still sit atop it, trying to contractually re-assimilate it as fast as it manifests. Still, the digital frontier remains the best place these days to get a glimpse of some raw, unvarnished truth, unsullied by the pernicious taint of media spin.
If you manage to snatch a glimpse behind the facile TV pantomime (staged by our greed-addled media at the behest of our corporate-sponsored government) take care not to look directly at it, lest you be struck blind by the raw, soul-killing ignorance that apparently plagues every level of our supposedly-enlightened modern society.
All of which was contracted to the lowest bidder and built for the absolute smallest cost imaginable. Because in a junk-fueled society, whoever ends up with the biggest pile of the cheapest junk apparently wins. Corporate America wants us all to know how sorry they are for that.
And by “sorry” they mean “you’re welcome.”
(originally appeared on 10/23/2012)