mind your business

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Mainstream Media is Useless

Could the mainstream media be any more useless?

This week the rampant protests that have shaken many of the world's governments to their foundations reached a new fever pitch in Spain where they spread last month, more details emerged of the systematic sexual assault of female protesters by the military in Egypt using so-called "virginity tests," the U.S. Congress debated enforcing the War Powers Resolution and the U.S. Constitution itself against Obama's illegal war in Libya, which has lasted longer than the 60 day deadline after which the President requires Congressional approval, and another debate raged over the U.S. debt ceiling.

Yet for an entire maddening week, all the mainstream media seemed to care about was Anthony Weiner's wiener and Sarah Palin riding a motorcycle.

Never mind true world-historical events that are shaping the future for generations to come, all the mainstream media obviously wanted you to think about this week was the former (half)-governor of Alaska riding a motorcycle, which looked about as genuine and natural for Sarah Palin as talking about Revolutionary War history does for Michele Bachmann (or for Sarah Palin -h/t Memeorandum).

And don't forget! She also had lunch with Donald Trump! That's right, Sarah Palin had lunch. When Congressman Ron Paul raises a million dollars online in a single day in mostly small donations, that's worth a little bit of media attention, but hey guys-- you'll never believe this-- Sarah Palin had pizza today! Put that on the front page!

It's like for an entire week, all the major news media (other than Shep Smith) became Sarah Palin's personal Twitter feed, letting us all know when Sarah Palin rode a motorcycle, ate lunch, or sneezed. I don't read tabloids because I'm uninterested in filling my mind with drivel, but I do understand that they are a source of entertainment for some people and I'm willing to admit that some of my entertainment choices for the point of relaxing diversion are hardly more enlightened.

But it should concern us deeply when news companies that purport to be serious sources of information to enlighten and inform the public are in reality peddlers of tabloid journalism and shallow entertainment. Their coveted reputations should be challenged relentlessly until they change or admit what they really are.

What's especially dangerous about tabloid journalism disguised as legitimate news is the way it obfuscates real political issues and reduces them to this or that politician's most recent sexual scandal, conflating that politician's ideology and policy stances with his or her private sexual behavior. I do not agree with Anthony Weiner on a lot of issues, but dragging him through the mud because of his private sex life and making him the object of public ridicule for his personal choices and his admittedly humorously unfortunate last name is not an argument-- it's a smear, and it's not very nice.

For whatever talk of sexual liberation we may have in this country, this last week in news shows the media establishment is hardly enlightened or tolerant, nor is it liberated from past centuries' association of guilt and sin with our sexual choices, nor from a willingness to stamp a scarlet letter on the reputation of any public figure for its own judgmental amusement, political agenda, and certainly for financial profit.

The mainstream media is clearly financially invested in your ignorance. While wars, protests, and economic crises rage the world over, the media spent an entire excruciating week pouring over the minutiae of a politician-turned-celebrity's dining and transportation choices and a single congressman's sex scandal. Neither of these events will be in the history books, but if future generations of students are lucky, there will be a lesson on America's rampant 21st century problem with Yellow Journalism, and the efforts of a few small voices swimming against the current.