Monday, October 19, 2009

Sphere of public illusion – what you see is what you get?

I don’t watch the news on TV much anymore. I haven’t for a long time now, maybe five or ten years. I just stopped. I still pay for the newspaper but mostly just out of habit or just for what it represented – a sweet memory of my dad sitting in his easy chair reading after a long day at work.

I rarely read it. What the newspaper means to me today is an opportunity to doze on the couch for short moments of time each Sunday, while my husband edits the high points for me, relaying snips of this and snips of that.

I admit, I use to be one of the few who indulged in the guilty pleasures of the Quick, before the target age range shifted to the 20-30 year old mentality.

What has replaced the news is fluff, disasters, or hoaxes…I guess someone has decided, through surveys or public opinion, that this is what the public wants to hear, not the real, controversial, cutting edge news. I shy away from the news because I no longer trust the content. It typically represents some concocted tale, some half baked truth or a full-fledged lie. It appears that we the public wait to be fed from the media who

“systematically creating or exploiting news events that attract attention …engineering of consent…which leads to staged public opinion” Pieter Boeder

Yes, people want to hear about what Paris Hilton’s latest escapades are, or Jessica Simpson’s little murdered dog, or the balloon boy hoax. We put cameras inside homes to see what happens in the (fake) real world…then we have 8 babies by artificial insemination, just to get that coveted slot on TV. We give talk shows about topics that will sway the masses…like Oprah newest religious craze, fad diet, or even weep with her when she has gives a huge donation to support some meaningful cause.

Meanwhile, we talk among ourselves in our cubicles at work, discussing these events, as if they occurred in own families. We are equally enthralled and equally disgusted with it all.

I remember 9/11 and the impact it made on my opinion of the enemy. Then I was later told the enemy is within. I saw the war as the answer, and shamefully watched as thousands died …again. Although I was very young, I was around during Viet Nam. Why did I fall for it again?

Media is powerful. It is controlled by political, economical, social and cultural organizations, who wield power using force, fame, farce, money, or by presenting an illusion of all that is good and grand. Look, Barbie is the female model of perfection. (check out my social commentary using betty on this cultural issue -

Every detail of the rich and famous’ lives are scrutinized in every form of media, in hopes that the public can be like them or publically tear them to shreds for not succeeded in their illusionary picture-perfect life constructed by the media. Crazies even feed off them and stalk them to the point of madness, assault, and even death. (Yes John is dead)

Oh some forms of media are great. We can text, chat, and blog easily to others at great distances and receive instant feedback. We don’t have to brush our hair, bath, or even brush our teeth. Our avatar represents us well. And we can dream up some perfect personae of the person we are corresponding with on the other end of virtual world.

We can create music, without an actual instrument. We can form a relationship without experiencing human touch. We can vote on the latest dancer’s ability to dance the Tango in Dancing with the Star’s, or judge a singer’s ability to sing, or a chef’s ability to cook. We can select a new piece of clothing from eBay, or buy an electronic book from Amazon without leaving our dwelling. All of these things are examples of how the media has changed culture, public opinion and is commercially driven by the consumer. It is downright constitutional…created for the people by the people.

Oh how I long to sit by a fire with dozens of friends, and share a tale of long ago. Oh to sing along with others, jamming with old fashion instruments, like guitars, drums, and harmonicas. Or to share a meal with others while debating politics, the economy, religion, or just discuss the weather conditions. That is where I will be in several weeks. I will shoot some film images of the desert with my Rolleiflex, eat some chili, and listen to music around a campfire. I will hug old friends, talk about this last year, and make a toast to another year that has brought exciting new changes. And later, I will lie under the sky, watching my favorite media of choice – the stars, without my iPhone, my computer, or a GPS. For a few days I will be lost in the great outdoors, without public opinion… Oh how sweet it will be.


KEHS said...

Can I come with you to the great outdoors? Sounds absolutely wonderful. By the large, mainstream media does have an agenda - to make money. I feel it must be said, however, that the majority of journalists are not in it for this. They actually believe that their role in society is to watch out for the common folk (ie. us) by reporting hard-hitting news. The problem is the bean-counters who control the news and decide what will receive prominent play. You see, in order to provide space for hard-hitting news, you have to have subscribers/viewers and many subscribers/viewers don't want more than a cursory glance of real news. It's sad, but the old adage that sex sells has never been more true.

kristalbrook said...

Can I bring s'mores? I understand your distaste for the news, but I do think there is hope. While television news seems to center on fluff, I find sites like Slate, the Dallas Observer Blog, and the Advocate Blog relevant. I believe there is a good chunk of the population that cares about more than just Paris Hilton, and some media is responding.

Anonymous said...

I just wish we did not have that much traffic on the streets, then I would not mind going to local video store or, I don't know...
Or if Cowboys were not greedy with their parking prices....

Amy Pickup said...

It definitely seems like we've trapped ourselves in the role of the consumer and it's going to be very hard to get out. Although you could argue that some are catching on to this scheme and as they use Google AdSense or reference other work they've done to promote themselves - are using the consumers as they should be used and are elevating their reputation in the process.