"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?"
― Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
It's official: We are now completely upside down as a society.
I’m listening to talk radio (which I do because it allows me to multitask) and I’m hearing three different news items, all of which have been playing so long over the last couple of weeks that I’m starting to think I’ve awakened in GROUNDHOG DAY II. And I would find them even more boring than normal were it not for the fact that these seemingly disparate series of events tie together in a chain of connection that is both prophetic and depictive of what’s being fed us by a media that panders to the public proclivity for mindless sensation and dropping the bar for what passes for journalism down so low that a cockroach could hop over it and not miss a stroke.
The first ongoing blather is over the trial of George Zimmermann in Florida brought to a boil by the major News Networks who just won’t leave it alone — mainly because they’re now trapped in their own manipulations.
On the surface, it has clearly become a cause celébre for both the Right and the Left. From the outset the prosecution has been offering an endless paean to a sweet, docile black teenage lad of 17, Trayvon Martin, who is innocently minding his own business, wearing his “hoodie,” eating his Skittles and texting his girlfriend when he is tracked down and shot in cold blood at point blank range by “Cracker Stalker” and self-appointed neighborhood vigilante George Zimmermann, without so much as a hint of threat.
The defense is claiming that George Zimmermann, a diligent designated neighborhood watch chairman was on his routine rounds and, coming upon the surly, hooded, uncommunicative Martin, found him suspicious and, upon confronting him, was set upon by the teenager and beaten nearly senseless. So he did the only thing he could do — draw out his pistol and fire to defend his life.
The truth to this Rashomonesque paradox is the Critical Mass confrontation of two immature, contentious young men with the collective IQ of a socket wrench, both of whom were so caught up in the alternate realities of their personal electronic media—Martin’s texting and Zimmermann’s constant calling in to report this suspicious character to 911 — that neither ever bothered to communicate directly with the other until it was too late. So, they ended up getting into a territorial piss-up that ended tragically because Zimmermann was “packing heat.” (And what was he doing carrying a weapon anyway, unless he was a cop or a security guard?)
What no one really wants to admit is that the media jumped all over this in the beginning because they thought the shooting was a white-on-black event (Zimmermann being a nice Aryan name). Later, when they found out that George Zimmermann was mostly Hispanic and that their villain was of mixed race, they realized that the air had gone out of their propaganda balloon, and they were just kind of stuck with it. So now, for a seeming eternity, have we been.
Then, if you really want to talk about being stuck with something, one only has to look to story two: the copious quantities of egg on the face of our current Administration in view of the ouster in Egypt of “America’s Man in the Muslim Brotherhood,” Mohammed Moursi, after just one year of declaring the US and Israel as “the real enemies” of Egypt…all of which goes rather synchronistically with America’s general mismanagement of the entire Middle-east beginning with Benghazi and ending with its recent support of the Al Qaeda connected, Christian beheading, disemboweling Syrian rebels.
Now, since the Egyptian Military’s appointment of (this week’s Zeitgeist) General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as interim president until Egypt holds the “free and fair elections” promised to them in the next thirty days, there are street riots and conflict breaking out on both pro and anti-Moursi factions, followed by the US Secretary John Kerry’s insistence that the Muslim Brotherhood be included in the conversation of all future government’s going forward. Meanwhile, we continue to try to bring Democracy to the Middle East — a part of the world that is sociologically incapable of grasping its full meaning and probably never will.
Finally, the real issue at hand in this mélange of mediocre events — the latest “dish” on the fact that second rate Food Channel cluster-cook maven Paula Deen is having her deep-fried vittles and media “empire” dismembered over some racial comments she made several years ago. This is tantalizingly TMZ-rated, given a fresh set of apples and oranges comparisons to serial gender bully, race baiter and gay basher Alec Baldwin who got an almost immediate free pass from GLAAD (The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in the wake of Baldwin’s anti-gay slurs against reporter George Stark at James Gandolfini’s memorial…because, as everyone knows, Alec supports gay and lesbian causes. Besides, Baldwin was defending his girlfriend, Hilaria Thomas, who was Tweeting during the memorial. (After all everybody does it all the time, and Narcissism in the world of entertainment just comes with the territory.)
Of course there’s more to all this than meets the eye. There always is. It turns out that Paula Deen has been dismissive of, and abusive to, blacks in her employ for years, if not decades. So, as they say in modern parlance, Karma is a bitch! And in that regard, she quite probably deserved the dismissal, post revelation tearful apologies notwithstanding.
But what about Baldwin? He has been, almost monthly it seems, the eye of the storm for one sexist, gay bashing, race-baiting abusive scandal after another, and he just keeps on rolling along ...
On the surface, the bias is simple and unequivocal: Paula Deen represents everything the new paradigm detests — an overly made-up, slightly plump, Southern white-chick who listens to country music and is probably a card-carrying member of the Tea Party. Thus, Paula Deen is identified with the Political Right. Conservative Republicans always claim the moral high ground when it comes to social issues. So they are always the first to kick their own quickly to the curb when something goes sideways (as it invariably does).
Baldwin, on the other hand, is considered “cool” by the minions of mainstream-media and the tech zombies that still find it credible. First of all, he’s an extraordinarily gifted actor, one of the best of his generation, and very much in demand. So, he’s kind of given a pass by being compartmentalized into the “Crazy Uncle” category — a garrulous Boston Irish Democrat who has political aspirations and what seems to be a very good heart. He just “flies off the handle once in a while.” Besides, Baldwin is an actor and all actors are a bit mad, which is O.K. as long as they’re not politically conservative (and therefore as rare as a snow leopard). So, Alec gets a pass.
In reality, there are any number of reasons for this strange juxtaposition of moral values, and political ideology is just one. Of equal importance are the economic considerations. Paula Deen is a cottage industry, but she is still about fourth-string on the Food Channel behind The Chew, Master Chef, and a half-dozen different Gordon Ramsey shows.
Technically, Alec Baldwin still has a high BOQ (Box Office Quotient.) That means if you took all his movies together, he would be a billion dollar industry and one of the most durable character actors of his time. Baldwin, at this point, has the right political and social pedigree, and he is still bankable. So don’t think for a minute that movie moguls don’t cover their own, especially when big bucks and “members of the club” as bankable as Baldwin are involved.
(And if you don’t think virtually all executive decisions determining the fate of entertainers are dictated by economics, ask former Grey’s Anatomy star Isaiah Washington at which Cheesecake Factory he is now serving up Cobb salads after being bounced from the series for two offhanded anti-gay slurs made in a private conversation back in 2009.)
In truth, no one escapes the Electronic Posse these days.
What still confounds and confuses me is that it has its own set of standards triggered by a number of noospheric codes that very few modern media analysts can accurately decipher, try though they may. So it is often bewildering to note how often they line up their gallery of heroes and villains in ways that defy logic.
It explains, but doesn’t explain, why the majority still find Kobe Bryant, (alleged) sexual predator and team backstabber, who ratted on Shaquille O’Neal to try to get off the hook with the Colorado police, to be a cool guy and a basketball icon. At the same time they generally loathe and detest the Miami Heat’s LeBron James — a model citizen extremely popular inside his own club — who committed the unforgivable sin of leaving a DOA Cleveland Cavalier franchise (where his mother was “dating” two of his tomato-can teammates) to seize a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity in South Beach. The Result: Two NBA Championships. Two MVPs. And a bushel-barrel of hate mail.
It explains but doesn’t explain why the same politically infatuated posse lionize the perennial poster child for moral relativism, ex-president Jimmy Carter, who was apparently separated at birth from the Sharia Academy’s number one mole, PBS’s Tavis Smiley, even as both continue to bash Christians and denounce America for its disregard for women’s rights. The horrible truth is that there is apparently not one Network News anchor or host anywhere with the moral sand to challenge either of these “Useful Idiots” while they continue to make their apples to hand-grenades comparisons of treatment of Christian women to the wholesale public stonings, rapings, disfigurement and clitoral amputations of Muslim women that go on weekly in Middle Eastern nations where Wahhabi and Shia Islam are practiced. I guess, as an ex-President who builds a few Habitats for Humanity and writes a book of bad poetry you can get by with being colossally stupid and even get a Nobel Prize in 2002, for which you just nosed out that other paragon of statesmanship, Hamid Karzai. Yes, that Hamid Karzi — the President of Afghanistan who has since kited more than $2 Billion in unaccounted for US Aid, who is noted for his backroom dealings with the Taliban, and who has personally seen to it that his nation’s number one industry continues to be the exportation of opium poppies.
Meanwhile, ex-president George W. Bush remains in disfavor with the public at large, despite the fact that he has had the class never to once criticize his successor, Barack Obama; and in total disregard for his reputation in the Third World as having done more than all his predecessors combined in halting the spread of HIV in Africa and in bringing health and education to tens of thousands of African Children.
All this and more are difficult elements to define but fairly easy to specify, mainly because the new electronic posse doesn’t like anything that used to be the Establishment standard. So, if you are a success-driven, articulate, mercenary Christian Caucasian omnivore — if you are prosperous patriotic and driven to tradition and respect for institutions, you are definitely straining at a tight leash. The posse may accept you ... conditionally. But they will cut you very little slack.
If, however, you are a person of color, liberal, “spiritual but not religious,” young, hip, vegetarian, mediagenic, believe in global warming and make appearances at all the chic cause-driven fundraisers — from PETA to Best Friends to anything to do with Al Gore — you are embraced as one of the New Paradigm. If you are environmentally progressive, support same-sex marriage and do anything you can to heighten AIDS awareness, you will enjoy a great deal of leeway, that is unless you drop off the deep-end and do something really stupid ... like praise Rand Paul, carry a firearm or find Jesus.
In truth, the media zombies of the New Paradigm don’t care about anything else you do, as long as you fit their Cool framework: whatever form it may take.
I’m sure by now it sounds as if I’m dissing this demographic. I’m not. It’s just that there is very little that holds their attention, because they’ve had all the passion for living sucked out of them by what I have to believe is a very deliberate ritual of desensitization by the media — not by any Left Wing political conspiracy but by something far more sinister: the endless loop of news, entertainment and gaming that generates massive media addictions and megabillions in revenues for those monstrous media megaliths that are churning it out at almost manic rates.
The rest is the unintended omnipresence of technology and the kind of zombified moral relativism it creates. All I know is that they are absolutely driven by latter day Gen X and Gen Y who have a system for judgment that relies almost entirely upon instinct ... and often defies logic.
Gen Y gets the rap for most of this. Lost in their smart phones, iPads, laptops, texting, Tweeting and gaming, they wander through our troubled environment virtually unaware of their surroundings and operating with a kind of frenzied focus upon the only reality they still trust — their electronic gear.
If I seem to be railing a bit too much about this new cult of indifference, permit me to cite two examples that, I think, typify the ways the virtual world of electronics has subsumed our own.
Example One: A Field Test in Sherman Oaks. I’m walking through the Galleria to business meeting I had scheduled there. I’m interacting with my environment, trying to appreciate the brush and flowers and feel the spray from the fountain that I pass upon my left — when I realize that I am utterly alone in my pursuits — that everyone around me, though there in the flesh, are actually someplace else. So, I run an ad hoc field test. I count the activities of the next 40 people who cross my path: 22 are texting; 8 are talking on their cell phones; 2 have pre-school children and so have to be on their toes; 3 are in conversations with their friends; 6 actually interact with me — one security guard, a couple in their eighties (the woman, surprised to see me smile, returns it), two nice forty-something women who are apparently from either Europe or Mars, and one store clerk who is actually trying to get me to come into her shop and buy something. Final score: Tech Zombies 41, Sentient Beings 9. A four to one ratio: fairly depictive; highly accurate.
How does one get used to the lack of humanity except to note that this is the world we live in? And the new Tech Zombie only honors one point of leverage that will pry him or her away from their electronic reality: even then, not for long.
Example Two: At my health club in Malibu across from the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean and overlooking Highway U.S. 1 (a.k.a. one of the five most dangerous thoroughfares in America). As I’m lost in an echelon of people churning away on their Precors, I look out the window to see a forty-something woman scooting across the PCH talking on her smart phone and otherwise oblivious to the high-rider Dodge RAM pickup that, unable to stop in time, flips her up in the air like a wing of pizza and back down onto the highway in a crumpled bloody heap.
The two staff members in our Malibu Health Club had NATA certifications and quickly rushed to tend the woman while a couple of us dialed 911. Hovering from a polite distance several people, concerned about the woman’s wellbeing looked on anxiously when a twenty-something executive emerged from the building to get into her bright new BMW M-3 convertible. She was dressed to the nines in high-fashion haute couture and texting on her iPhone when she stopped to acknowledge the fallen woman’s plight…for an utterly disengaged two-count. Then, still texting, she broke to the driver’s side of her Beamer and drove away … but not before impatiently signaling the medevac crew to stop blocking her way.
Just as she did I realized that, on the beach side of the street, a young man holding up his Blackberry had suddenly dashed across the highway, appearing to be (as I might have hoped) on something of a mission. He stopped only long enough to snap a pair of photos, then continued on his way, obviously uploading his pics for the Internet.
I cite these examples for a very good reason. Not everyone was indifferent to the plight of this woman ... just those who have locked onto another reality — their own private network — their own electronic embrace.
And, to be sure, that electronic universe is entirely their own, often at the expense of trusting no one else.
Given their social, political and global exposure over the years, they just assume that modern media couldn’t find the Truth North of journalistic integrity with a GPS and an astrolabe. So they collectively have to go with what works for them; their own circadian clock and their own gut-check self-referential peer groups — blogs, editorials, online “news” centers of misinformation that seem to churn out new incarnations weekly and especially on-site photos and videos that come screaming in every 45 seconds over the Internet. They are skewed toward some philosophical bias more often than not, as fact checking so often reveals, but it doesn’t seem to matter because, by Gen Y’s own calculations, they’re right at least half the time. And 50% correct is Hall-of-Fame in any statistician’s Manual of Major Decisions.
The New Conservatism likes to claim that this orgy of misinformation is a recent phenomenon promulgated by the agenda-driven liberal mainstream media, one that has become a factory of lies. They may be right, but they’re a little late to the party — about 160 years or so.
In truth, modern history is rife with fabrications in the press that can be tracked as far back as the fictions that were spun-out daily in British periodicals to pump up its foray into the Crimean War in 1854.
Historians now acknowledge that the journalistic histrionics of World War I, graphically depicting the atrocities of the “Huns” (Germans) raping and murdering women and children and nailing cats to cathedral doors spawned so much of the skepticism surrounding wholesale Nazi pogroms of World War II.
Anyone who was around during the witch-hunts of the McCarthy era (1950-52) has to point to broad-spectrum press complicity as they joined in a feeding frenzy promoted by everyone from radio commentator Walter Winchell to Hollywood Reporter Publisher Billy Wilkerson who went on a one man crusade to “tag” alleged communists in the film industry. And it is a matter of record that gossip-columnist Hedda Hopper was a direct pipeline to J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI.
Since the time of Andrew Jackson, the press has tried to influence every US presidential election, and even succeeded a time or two — notably the 1960 campaign when all the major networks, projected a “John F. Kennedy victory” a good three hours before the polls closed on the West Coast. And yet it was only twelve years earlier that same Fifth Estate hated Democrat President Harry Truman and dogged his every misstep because they thought him to be an unworthy successor to the divine legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some newspapers even jumped the shark on Truman’s reelection attempt in 1948 with headlines announcing that, “DEWEY WINS,” (referring to Republican Candidate Thomas E. Dewey) only to have to eat their words later in the day.
The major media’s most egregious sins of omission over the past century, however, involved an almost complete evacuation of social conscience where issues of race were concerned, especially in the first half of the 20th Century. It was the press of the 1940s that permitted entire communities of Japanese Americans to be interned without so much as a single note of dissent. And it was the same Fifth Estate, now filled with manufactured moral outrage over the Trayvon Martin incident, that permitted nearly 4,800 lynchings of American Citizens between 1900 and 1950 (78% of them white on black) to go virtually unreported without so much as a breath of public outrage. *
Now, the worm has turned, especially in the last twenty years. As if to compensate with equal and opposite rushes of moral compunction to level the playing fields of informational history, the media now claims a conscience baptized in political correctness and determined to take a liberal point of view that is embraced by Generation Y almost by rote.
Adopting the Laws of Manifestation with the algebraic logic that two wrongs actually do make a right, modern mainstream media now carefully avoids any clarion outcries of black on white crime in America — a considerable cause of consternation among many conservative causes.
Conservatives complain, and rightly so, that black on white hate crimes, or any hate crimes that involve ethnic minorities as perpetrators get little or no media mention these days. It is difficult to deny and unsettling to contemplate, especially when the news takes on an international tone.
Recently, in a vain attempt to countervail the national flap over the martyrdom of Trayvon Martin and subsequent trial of George Zimmermann, some conservative blogs dredged up the retrial of the four black slayers of a sweet white, Christian couple — Channon Christian and her boyfriend Christopher Newsom near Knoxville, Tennessee. Upon examination, it’s a ghoulish affair during which the two young lovers were carjacked, kidnapped, brutally tortured, raped and dismembered, their bodies set on fire.
Now, two of their four slayers (monsters no matter what their race) are being retried on a technicality, and there is much outrage in the South and elsewhere that this story has received virtually no national press coverage. In fact, The Christian/Newsome murders were buried in the press when the trial originally took place back in 2009. And one cannot find any national recounting of it without a strong Google search that will take you to a couple minor blogs and a FOX News hotlink.
Even more recently, in April, there was a beheading of two Coptic Christians by a Muslim man in Trenton, New Jersey that was mentioned once on KABC TV and quickly buried (despite the fact that wholesale executions of Coptic Christians in Egypt have become a fatwa ... and a possible act of pogrom).
It is a classic case of double standards in the vernacular of modern mainstream media. It does go on with alarming frequency. And yet, it is an oversimplification to make this correlation. The disturbing truth is that there are more than 16,000 murders every year in the United States, and nearly 500,000 worldwide.
And it just so happened that this gruesome beheading in Trenton, along with the religious-political implications it carried with it, was swamped in the deluge of another more high-profile murder in South Africa that happened on the same day—that of Olympian Oscar Pistorious’s “accidental” shooting of his girlfriend.
So, ultimately, the truth of it stings. It is no longer what is important that gets reported. It is whatever sells. In fact, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to nasty news, and yet it is the media who decides which depressing tale of murder, mayhem, abuse, torture, scandal, corruption, sedition, extortion and disgusting behavior we get to see, read and hear—and about which we may offer opinion. And to the degree that the networks, the news services and some unspoken code of censorship dictate, we are now being spoonfed sensation only if it comes from a particular point of view.
Generally speaking, it is not only political bias but also moral cowardice that sets the course of the news that we get bombarded with every day. Rather than having a core of integrity that braves the controversial and adheres to the demands of social conscience, we now have a standard of reportage that is undergoing a kind of soft censorship to a PG-13, based almost entirely on ratings and replete with safe subjects and fat targets.
Essentially it is "Dish" with a dose of pabulum.
As such, it needs to tantalize but not horrify. It needs to rip but not demolish. It needs to float along the top of a topic without ever brooking an open conflict between the press and the citadels of power that characterized the 1960s and 1970s—periods where causes and moral outrage actually had social significance.
If you are a celebrity, a large corporation, a major American political figure, or a scandal involving finance, embezzlement and a lot of middle-aged white guys, you are — in every sense of the word — a milk cow for the public hunger. News organizations in America will only publish what we respond to—and what we respond to is our own Narcissistic myopia— the new Universe of Self-Importance that we have helped create. As such, it is not so much trying to tell us a truth as it is vying for our attention.
It is an attention span that has diminished exponentially even as I write this. And, as usual, Truth is a casualty — as are such antiquated notions as knowledge, awareness and informed judgment.
And God forbid if the news happens to be about truly disturbing events that take place around us with alarming frequency but are buried either because they are not politic or because our mainstream media is terrified of offending certain elements—especially those that might fight back or even react violently. This is particularly true of minorities.
In truth minorities in America are now the majority. And yet they react with swift intention and rush to protest when their interests are at stake, often using it as a kind social blackmail (such as the threatened impending riots should George Zimmermann be acquitted in Florida).
On topics of morality, religion, and social issues in general, traditional beliefs are considered indefensible, archaic, reactionary, at times medieval—and certainly now a minority position taken almost entirely by people in the 45+ age range.
Enforcing the laws of the land such as immigration laws, whose violations are punished with ruthless efficiency in every other nation in the world, is considered to be a purely conservative stance that is both inflexible and unrealistic. (None of this is terribly significant to the new media zombies, by the way, because most of them have already hardened their opinions and slanted them toward the left, so that they may swiftly return to their fixations with gear, gaming and Netflix movies.)
In the international arena, world media has finally committed the most blatant and prophetically self-destructive sin of omission—especially when it comes to exposing the violence created by Radical Islam.
In fact, riots, violence, atrocities and murders by Islamists in France, England and Scandia have come to critical mass…as they have in Indonesia, Eastern Europe and all through the Middle East. The international press continues to bury most reports of them for two very important reasons. One is the fact that media is terribly shy when it comes to challenging freedom of religion anywhere; anytime you butt up against someone’s faith, it is a tinderbox. The second is a simple fear of reprisal. It is a characteristic of radical jihad everywhere to react violently whenever challenged and to do so with swift and vicious resolution. And many major news services simply no longer have the courage to do that; so the atrocities go virtually unreported…except in the murky communication quagmires of the blogosphere.
Of course, the Electronic Posse is aware of them. They catch them out of the corner of their eyes and have already adjudged them to be too far removed from us to be of any danger. So they proceed with their obsessions with their nonstop Sensurround entertainment and their patented cult of indifference. And that is the most dangerous dance of all.
Author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once observed that, “It is not hate but indifference that tis the opposite of love.”
This wonderfully soft society, incubated from reality by an orgy of sensation, has become aware of, but indifferent to, just about anything else but that tiny galaxy of sensation that rewards them for their focus. Until it’s too late…
Until 9-11 ... until the Boston Marathon ... until Fort Hood ... until Benghazi.
Even then — even in spite of the outrages performed against our journalists our citizens, our Embassies, and our retired military personnel — it is noted with a turn of the head followed by a quick snap-back to the game at hand.
Next week, another trial will take place in Massachusetts, one that is sure to replace the George Zimmermann/Trayvon Martin saga with a tsunami of headlines and soundbites in the media mélange.
That is the trial of surviving Boston Marathon bomber and alleged Muslim mass-murderer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev—who showed up at his arraignment in a shiny four car motorcade that included a van, a Hummer, and two police cars—and followed up to the front doors of the courthouse by a cheering throng of “fan-girls,” all of whom seem to think the 19 year-old Tsarnaev is both innocent and “hot.”
Welcome to the surrealism of the electronic world and the celebritization of Evil.
As a parting shot to the Zimmermann trial as it moves toward closing arguments, I respectfully submit that we go to a couple of pieces of missing evidence that, if removed at the proper time, could have prevented this tragedy from ever taking place.
First, is Zimmermann’s sidearm. Memo to George: at no time, cowboy, was your life ever in danger! You may have gotten the crap beaten out of you because you stalked the kid instead of going up to him like a man and asking him what he might be doing. So your use of deadly force was unwarranted. End of Story.
The second is Trayvon’s “hoodie.” I know it’s very au currant to wear hoods these days, but it is clearly a fashion metaphor and, as such, the ultimate statement of social withdrawal. It is tantamount to telling the rest of the world, “I’m wearing this because I’m doing my own thing. So f--- off and leave me alone.” Trayvon, God rest your soul, son. If you’d taken it off for a minute or two and shown your sunny face and become a human being again, even to a dolt like George Zimmermann, you might have won him over, and you might have even made a friend.
Unfortunately, you had already caught the most pernicious disease of the 21st century: the social isolation of Self-absorption. And it cost you. It cost both of you.
*As an historical note, the U.S. Congress has carefully avoided officially declaring “lynching” a crime in the United States, and no one has ever been prosecuted or even tried for it.