Drowning 2016 in the Bathtub

Events good and bad happen all the time and follow no particular cosmic order, but the calendar allows us to group them into convenient clusters around which we can allow narrative to congeal. A great many influential artists of all genres passed away during 2016. They were perhaps particularly influential for people my age because the artists were at the height of their power when we fans were at our most receptive ages. I became a fan of David Bowie, Prince, Umberto Eco, Jim Harrison, Elie Wiesel, Carrie Fisher, Harper Lee and Leonard Cohen all in about a ten year period.

This is a small sampling of the “notable deaths” of 2016. These were the ones who had the greatest emotion impact for me. Though the circumstances of their deaths varied, none of them were young, and none of them died in any unusual fashion. The world was better for their contributions, and though I never met any of them–though Jim Harrison glared at me briefly at a book signing in 2009–I miss their presence in the world.

That being said:

2016 sucked, and I am glad it is over. Politically it marked a gigantic step backward as bigots and bullies and dominionists convinced foolish people to vote for a fool. And the fool will be president for the next four years, or until he is impeached or otherwise loses his office. I would cheer wholeheartedly at the prospect of Trump losing the office before his term is up, were it not for the fact that Pence is markedly worse. All possible forms of Christian dominionist rule of this country are no different from fascism.

It is pure coincidence that all of these notable people died in the same year that Donald Trump was elected. But they did all happen in a single calendar year, and the narrative that has built around 2016 is that it sucked. Hardcore. If our calendar went from, say, November 1 to October 31, we could say that 2016 sucked and then 2017 got worse in its first week. It would not change the level of suckage. And since one of the first notable planned events for 2017 is Trump’s inauguration, we can safely assume that 2017 is going to totally blow chunks.

Pinning the bad mojo on 2016 is voodoo of a sort. When 2016 recedes into the past it will take its load of shit with it, and leave the slate clear for a fresh start in 2017. We are human beings. Going with the flow of narrative is what gives us meaning in our day to day lives. If 2016 ending means things will get better, then so be it. There’s a reason placebos work so well. That they are placebos does not diminish their importance or their potency.

With about six hours remaining in 2016 (EST) and the positive feedback loop of zeitgeist in full effect, now would be an excellent time to make some New Year’s resolutions. For me, it will be a pledge–to the best of my ability I will protect those who are being punched down upon. And if you are on the side of hegemony on any particular issue, and are punching down on those not, I will do my level best to make sure you have a very bad time of it.

Selah.

Drowning 2016 in the Bathtub

Issues: Introduction and Apologia

Rather than constrain myself to snarky memes on Facebook and the (regrettably) unmoderated comments sections of the various news websites, I will post my position on the Various Issues which make up the Frankenstein’s beast that is a “political position”. These will be wide-ranging and subject to updates as I clarify my views based on new information. I will contemplate things like gun rights, empire, capitalism, politics, religion, energy, sundry current events, technology and so forth. I make no pretense that this is objective work. I also make no pretense that this is scholarly work. These are my views based on my life experiences.

  1. Preamble
Issues: Introduction and Apologia

All Media is Mainstream Media

The title of this post sums up everything which is to follow.

All media sources which have internet access are mainstream. Full stop. Any story which appears virally on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or Instagram or any of the other click-bait aggregators, even if the original outlet was created only an hour earlier, is at that moment mainstream.

Post 2016 election, much hay has been made of “fake news” and how to distinguish the real from the unreal. Without falling into the rabbit hole of implicit vs. explicit bias–which is about as useful in this context as debating free will vs. determinism–let us agree that there is news which is deliberately false in its entirety, and news which is true from a certain point of view.

The news which is deliberately false is that in which the headline serves as click-bait, ESPECIALLY when the headline in question imparts no information about the content of the story. These are headlines which are in the form of a question, or are followed by a listicle. These are headlines meant to drive traffic rather than impart information. With this filter in place approximately 75% of all social media noise can immediately be ignored. For the rest, the next filter requires a little more thought.

Deliberately false news also includes everything which falls under the category of “opinion” or “editorial”. Here we can safely dismiss everything from Fox News and Breitbart, and all right-wing hatriot hives like World Net Daily, InfoWars, The Blaze, Focus on the Family, StormFront, Red State, and so forth.

This is not to say the left-leaning news and information sites don’t have similar problems, but “the liberal media”, to the extent that it ever existed, is responsible for only a tiny fraction of all noise generated by American outlets.

Oh: Fair warning–my political sensibilities fall fairly far to the left by American standards, which by rational world standards would make me ever so slightly to the left of center on most issues.

The entirety of mainstream American political though is skewed severely to the right side of the global political spectrum. Our Democrats are, in the main, to the right of where Reagan stood when we were engaged in nuclear brinkmanship with the USSR. Our Republicans are somewhere far down a slope along which lies plutocracy, corporatocracy, neo-feudalism, Dominionism and straight up reactionary sensibilities. And the Democrats are fast on their heels. Thus the center of American political conversation is substantially to the right of center. And thus any “compromise” between political parties moves the entire local spectrum farther to the right.

All of which is to say, any American media outlet which deliberately brands itself as “conservative” can be dismissed out of hand. The output of these outlets can be ignored for the same reason that fish have no words for “water.”

With these filters in place, recognize that whatever news media remains is driven first and foremost by the profit motive, and (distantly) second by journalistic integrity. This is a subtle form of regulatory capture which has always existed, but came to prominence when the Fairness Doctrine was revoked during the Reagan presidency.

So when someone on social media posts a story which includes a headline hinting of some grand conspiracy of silence, it can be safely assumed that the originator of the underlying story or meme is simply looking for attention. Or a quick buck. Not that there is much difference between the two.

Sometime soon, I’ll discuss the difference between “media” and “journalism.”

All Media is Mainstream Media