Friday, February 22, 2013

Here is the News




Sometimes I wonder if we are living in a hallucinogenic dream state, or that perhaps this is all some ghastly Truman Show style experiment complete with hidden cameras and false scenery. It certainly feels that way looking at the media. I’m not talking about the ‘bonkers and proud of it’ type of media epitomised by the likes of Fox News, the British tabloids or the Times, but the kind of ‘should know better’ media.

I have to admit it, I’m hopelessly addicted to following the news. Call me a nerd but I just can’t help wanting to know what is going on in the wider world, even if that ‘reality’ is distorted through a million media kaleidoscopes. I realise it’s a bad habit and that my addiction is enabled by having to sit behind a computer for the best part of each day, but there you have it.

But it turns out that it’s getting harder and harder to look into this distorted fractal and actually discern anything important. Take this past week, for example. Every major news outlet in the world has been breathlessly following the case of a man I’ve never heard of who shot his girlfriend, who similarly I’d never heard of.  When I asked a friend who he was she was incredulous and asked me if I was prejudiced against disabled people. “Why should I be?” I asked. “Because he’s got no legs,” was her reply. “And what does he do?” I asked. “He’s a runner.” Oh.

I turned on the BBC world news and was told by the stern anchor that the case had ‘shocked the world’. Really? Of course, it’s sad when someone dies, but we can pick any number of senseless massacres that have happened in recent weeks – have they too ‘shocked the world’? I doubt it.

Perhaps I’m just stating the obvious. In any case, as if to prove my point further, The Guardian (which likes to think of itself as a paragon of the fourth estate) asked us ‘Why are we obsessed with red carpet fashion?’ We are? Nobody told me. To be fair The Guardian does more reporting of so-called serious issues than most other outlets, but these are often relegated to their own little free speech zones in the back pages or down the bottom of webpages.

And then take the Daily Telegraph – a bastion of so-called conservatism and idealistic bombast.  Reading the DT is like passing a car crash on a motorway: you know you shouldn’t look but you just can’t help it. It has long been threatening, like the Times, to go behind a paywall – and I wish it would hurry up and do so. In the meantime I can’t help looking at it because the business analysis seems to be more penetrating than The Guardian’s measly effort – even if it is dripping in nastiness. 

But what is really amusing, if you take The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph and compare them, you can get a glimpse of the dynamics of how modern printed or online news media works. Between the two they divide up the market share of middle class educated news consumers. Select prejudices are pandered to, political parties are catered for and divisive ideologies are indulged. Various middle-ground issues are either traded across platforms or shared in a kind of journalism no-mans-land, and given that the readerships of both have a lot more in common than they care to admit, there are plenty of these. But apart from these common shared themes (latest adoring Apple editorial anyone?) the meat and bones of the publication makes sure that readership knows what to expect when they pick up a copy of their preferred organ. 

It’s always fun to make lists, and here is one I made of what the Daily Telegraph HATES (and when it hates it really hates …). No article that mentions any of the following can ever be published without lashings of dripping invective, mockery and proxy gunshots across the bows of the ‘liberals’ i.e. Guardian readers.

Telegraph Hates
Climate change ‘alarmists’ (i.e scientists)
Wind turbines
Witches
The French
Wild animals (especially foxes)
Immigration
Benefits ‘scroungers’
Gays
Atheists
Environmentalists
Argentina
The BBC 
Taxation

Of course, when I had made that list, I just had to make some more ...

Telegraph Loves
The royal family
Luxury cars
Wars
People who live in the countryside
Horses (for racing or eating)
Nuclear power and oil
Austerity measures
Power

Guardian Hates
Religion
Bigots
Religious bigots
The Daily Mail
The Pope
The Archbishop of Canterbury
Austerity measures
George Bush
People who live in the countryside

Guardian Loves
Technology
Barrack Obama
Steve Jobs
Atheism
Government spending
Denmark
Immigration
Twitter
Green technology

Daily Mail Hates
Foreigners
The world

Daily Mail Loves
Naked breasts
Fried eggs and bacon

As you can see, the Daily Telegraph has a longer hate list than the Guardian, which primarily defines itself by what it likes (the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner would probably have defined them as variously Luciferic and Ahrimanic, but that's for a different post). It goes without saying that there is a huge amount of common ground between the two that might include the following: expensive holidays, gourmet restaurants, fashion, sport, how to make lots of money without doing anything, cars, designer goods, property investment etc. Let’s not forget, after all, that the two cater for the middle classes, who tend to have high disposable incomes whatever their prejudices. 

Anyway, here’s some little titbits of news you may have missed in the last week buried under all those column miles about the rich man with no legs who allegedly shot a blonde TV ‘reality’ star.

With the ongoing collapse of bee colonies across the world the RSBP is pushing for the ban of neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been linked to bee colony decimation. Without the bees, not to put too fine a point on it, we are even further up shit creek without a paddle than we are at the moment.

Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall is organising a march on Parliament with thousands of others to protest the government’s refusal to protect the seas around Britain. Scientists have singled out 127 areas that urgently need to be turned into marine conservation zones where the wholesale destruction by dredgers is not allowed. The government says only a handful are needed, preferring instead to allow a few fishing companies to trash the sea beds indiscriminately. His campaign is being slammed as ‘unrealistic’ and ‘an insult to hard-working fishermen’. Most marine life forms disagree.

Britain is facing blackouts within a couple of years as old generating plant comes offline before new facilities are built.  Various howls of anguish are starting to rise above the white noise of celebrity gossip, with ‘conservatives’ demanding a free for all of nuclear and fracking, greens demanding a massive rollout of wind turbines and solar panels, and liberals not really giving a damn as long as their espresso machines still work. All very predictable.

Speaking of dirty energy, thousands of climate campaigners in the US marched to the White House to demand a stoppage to the proposed Keystone pipeline, which would transport dirty tarry oil southwards to oil refineries. Their reasoning was that, given that many serious scientists now predict that we may be facing an existential threat to civilization and perhaps even of all human life within several decades it is time to stop building new oil infrastructure. Was Mr Obama there to receive them? No, he was busy playing golf with oil executives in Florida.

That concludes the news. You may now go back to your dream-like state of consuming celebrity titillation and televised sports to ward off any feelings of tooth-gnashing angst you may have about the future.

25 comments:

  1. Guess this is catabolism in action

    And the logical option of reducing electricity use is ignored. Here at least the goverment handed out energy saving devices and started all these energy saving schemes or websites, admittingly that was politically part of the carbon tax

    by the way the blackouts hyperlink leads to an article about a local business man in china betting the local enviromental protection officer to take a dip in the local river. Interesting article but not the right one.

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    1. Thanks Leo, link fixed.

      Yes, energy conservation is the only sane answer, along with investing in renewables. Of course, energy and politics are a potent mix and the sensible thing doesn't often get done.

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  2. PS. Thank gods for Private Eye

    http://www.private-eye.co.uk/current_issue.php

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  3. I got some news that won't make you happy as a clam:

    "Ocean waters are turning corrosive, and it’s happening so quickly scientists say there may not be any oysters left to eat in coming decades."

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/animal_forecast/2013/02/ocean_acidification_and_oysters_shellfish_are_already_suffering_1.html


    Seafood is going to be off the menu in due time even if heavy fishing is halted. The oceans turning acidic mean they'll be devoid of edible creatures it seems.

    It is inevitable, too, because the current pH level apparently reflects what we dumped into the seas decades ago, and we know it'll continue to increase for the rest of our lives, even if we halted our activities now.

    The future is going to be ugly.

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    1. I think ocean acidification is one the big blind spots that hardly anyone is talking about. We can only hope and pray that it isn't as bad as forecast, or that microplanton etc finds a way of adapting.

      Either way, I'm not hopeful.

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    2. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we're suffering this problem ahead of many. The local (and important) shellfish industry on Vancouver Island already can't grow it's own seed stock; it's sending them to Hawaii until they are big enough to survive our local conditions. And as Jeffrey says, the acidity that's the problem at the moment is caused by CO2 emissions produced 30-40 years ago. So even if our course was reversed tomorrow, there'd still be no more shellfish. Already a massive mussel bed in the Olympic pennisula is no longer reproducing...

      I spent 20 years as a coastal "vegetarian" who still ate fish. I've recently switched to local pork as a more sustainable option. :( Times are indeed grim.

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  4. I almost spit my coffee out when I saw that Telegraph headline. Who's the witches? LOL As for Pistorias, you call yourself a newz junkie? Here's a question, based on all the violence in the world and against women and kids and the innocent, do you suppose he banged on that bathroom door with that lacrosse stick before or after he shot her?

    I feel the same way, like it's getting harder and harder to make any sense of it all. That the whole of the species is descending so far into the madness of denial that when anger does break out...most of 'em aren't ever going to get around to acceptance...hello zero point.

    Jeez, I sort of feel like, what is the point of writing about it anymore? If people haven't sorted it out by now, they probably never will. All speed ahead toward WWIII, ecological oblivion, etc. Lemmings to the slaughter, led by their corporate media.

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    1. William - I have an in-built obliviousness to all sports and celeb news - a bit like Zaphod Beeblebox's peril sensitive sunglasses.

      As for what the point is ... I'm not sure. Nearly everyone seems to be wearing peril sensitive ear plugs. It seems to be the same old people, year in and year out, who are writing stuff on the forums and publishing books.

      Still, one has to try ... which is why I'm going to try my hand at writing a peak everything book. Not sure how many copies it'll sell, but I'm aiming to make it readable by the masses. At least, that's the aim.

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  5. Heh; While I have a wide range of web media sites I scan through periodically for balance, as well as sifting for "real" news, I have to admit I too feel compelled to "slow down and stare at the traffic accident" as I go by. Yes, I actually visit Drudge, if for no other reason to stay a bit aware of what the water cooler talk is about. Overall though, I've disengaged quite a lot, and have my plans in motion for the future we see evident before us.

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    1. Steve - I'm dimly aware of Drudge, but I don't dare go there. That'd be like chasing ambulances.

      I only have a few days left chained to a desk. After then I'll probably start talking to trees and bushes to get my news, thus regaining my sanity in the process. Expect calmer, less negative blog posts.

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  6. Jason -

    I, too, am a 'News' junkie, but most of my input of such on a national/international level comes from the internet and TV - I confine my print media reading to the local fish-wrapper, which is pretty much sloped to the right (the prevalent lean hereabouts) just to get a handle on what's happening in my little town (not much, really).

    I glean what I can from various blogs and 'News' outlets online (mostly left-leaning, since that's my tendency) and then watch the evening 'News' on one or another of the major channels to see what it is they're NOT talking about, which is usually the really important stuff, like climate change & etc. Also, I watch such as 'Democracy Now' - enduring Amy Goodman's super-dry delivery in order to get a broader look at the 'real'. Do I do this every day? Not. I don't think I could endure the dissonance at that scale.

    But hang in there, soon you will be able to "...tune in, turn on (so to speak) and drop out..." by talking to trees and bushes.

    By the way, regarding "The Pipeline" - I've been seeing ads on Craigslist for "Drivers - we'll train you to haul crude oil." - ostensibly hauling crude out of the Bakkan in the Dakotas - right up there next to the border with Canada and the tar-sands.

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    1. Martin. When I lived in rural Spain I was fairly well disconnected from 'reality' (i.e. news). Local news, such as heavy rain washing out a road, became more important, and it felt like the big-wide world with all of its complex problems was 'out there' beyond the mountains.

      Like you, although I can be heard emitting frustrated yelps whenever I encounter the MSM, I tend to get my 'real' infor from blogs and sites such as resilience.org.

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  7. Hello Jason,

    Your lists are hilarious! I had so much fun reading them.
    Did you know that the Guardian is one of the few independent newspapers?

    The Guardian is part of the GMG Guardian Media Group of newspapers, radio stations, print media including The Observer Sunday newspaper, The Guardian Weekly international newspaper, and new media—Guardian Abroad website, and guardian.co.uk. All the aforementioned were owned by The Scott Trust, a charitable foundation existing between 1936 and 2008, which aimed to ensure the paper's editorial independence in perpetuity, maintaining its financial health to ensure it did not become vulnerable to take overs by for-profit media groups. At the beginning of October 2008, the Scott Trusts assets were transferred to a new limited company, The Scott Trust Limited, with the intention being that the original trust would be wound up.[86] Dame Liz Forgan, chair of the Scott Trust, reassured staff that the purposes of the new company remained as under the previous arrangements.

    Extract from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Guardian
    Read more under the heading "Ownership".

    I do not like to spend much time behind a computer, and therefore refuse to do more than necessary. Mailing takes up time, as does the creation of private photo albums of our many travels and adventures. I share those albums only with friends, and only for a specific time period.
    If needed, I search on the internet for free crochet patterns, for I am a crochet addict.
    We do not watch television, as American television is even worse than Dutch television was. I cannot imagine people actually spend time on all the crap that is shown, let alone that lots of people spend lots of time on it.
    My only world information comes from occasionally listening to NPR-radio (National Public Radio, a very good station of which Americans can be proud) and four internet feeders: yours, the Archdruid John Michael Greer, De Volkskrant headlines (Dutch newspaper) and The Guardian headlines. I do not read what does not interest me. The Pistolius case is one of them, and I like to keep it that way.
    So, you may take it as a big compliment that I am willing to read your blog, and even spend time on commenting!

    Keep up the good work,
    Jeannette




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    1. Jeannette - yes, The Guardian may well be independent in that it isn't owned by an evil power-crazed tyrant, such as Rupert Murdoch, but it must still reflect the views of its readership. Did you know, by the way, that the loss-making Guardian is financed by its profitable car dealership business Auto Trader?

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/9771797/Autotrader-suitors-eye-Guardian-Media-Groups-stake.html

      Thanks for the compliments! But seriously, I'd recommend getting a few more blogs in your reader - you can see the ones I like on the right hand side of this page.

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  8. Noticed this year that the news is getting wackier, not sure if that reflected an actual shift, or if my own perspective had moved. Last summer, pulled up CNN after seeing on television that the entire US was in a drought (news to me at the time), and CNN had a page dedicated to the Mayans to explain the drought. First thought, this has to be a joke.

    By strange coincidence, the few times I pulled up a news site in the last few months to catch up, each time there was a front page story about a domestic shooting massacre. 1.) Joker. 2.) 15 year old in Colorado. 3.) Chris Dorner in LA.

    Had this strange thought experiment the other day related in Re: to hallucinogenic dream. What if you are here in this dream and believe it is reality, but the rest of the people in the world are avatars who are aware that this is a dream and are only pretending that its reality for your sake. Among these are those who are trying to waste your time and energy and those who are trying to help you spend your time and energy however you choose to spend it. If you are here to waste time, the first set are friends and the second set enemies. If you are here for self-actualization, the reverse is true.

    The world doesn't have to actually be a dream and everyone doesn't have to be in on the gag for this to be true.

    Within this operational framework of reality, the internet is the most ingenious thing ever devised by the time and energy wasters, it allows those with goals of self-actualization to create an entirely self generated and created prison.

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    1. Justin, if everyone else is an avatar pretending this is reality, then that would surely mean that I am too (to you) and you are to me. I'd certainly agree about the internet - it's a great medium for tailoring your own version of reality/unreality to suit your preferences - a kind of fully-automated electronic mind prison.

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  9. The legless guy was pretty well known here in the U.S. - the Olympic connection I guess. The fall of the famous (even the legless famous)is always popular.

    I did catch the Oboma golfing party- too strange.

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    1. I'm sure he's pretty well-known everywhere with a TV or internet connection! I think there's some serious psychological analysis needed here about just why this case is allegedly so shocking as it is said to be.

      Is it because, as a disabled person, he is not supposed to act in an evil manner? Is killing a nice-looking blonde woman more evil than killing someone less well endowed? Are people just hooked on seeing a media-constructed supposed paragon of virtue brought down low, a la Lance Armstrong (whom I have heard of!)? Is the media lusting for the good old days of OJ Simpson's murder trial? Can I be bothered to waste any more time thinking about these things ... ?

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  10. I get my news from reading you and WHD mostly...also from JoeP's thread at the doomsteaddiner.org...although even then I don't read the articles that he posts, just the headlines. I could care less about the "news."

    The last time I saw the news was a little over a week ago. The wife and I were at a mexican restaurant and they had it on CNN. All they could talk about was some poo poo cruise. Something about a cruise ship that had an engine room failure and people were eating onion sandwiches and shitting on the deck while the world watched. My taco was more interesting.

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    1. I saw the cruise ship news. Those poor rich people who had to suffer from a lack of plumbing must be traumatised for life!

      [Meanwhile 93 Burmese boat people drowned after the spending weeks at sea with some people saying that boatloads of people are simply 'disappearing'.]

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  11. Hi Jason,

    Like many others, I've come to your site via the Archdruid Report! I've been reading for a while, but thought I'd comment on this. There's an article in today's Observer (the Sunday version of the Guardian, for those who don't know it) which you may find interesting: The harsh lives of the forgotten rural poor. By the by, it rather contradicts your assertion that the Guardian hates the countryside... As a regular reader of both that and the Telegraph, I must say that I find your lists a bit simplistic, but I don't imagine they were intended to be more than tongue in cheek! Anyway, I Googled the author of that article, and it seems he runs a woodland in Somerset; you might find it interesting as you plan your own sylvan future (which sounds really exciting - best of luck with it).

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    1. Hi Carp. Thanks for the links - it is an interesting article. I'd still say it's more of an exception than the norm, however, to have articles about normal people who live in the countryside. Of course, my list was very tongue-in-cheek (!) but, also true. I used to be a Guardian contributor myself and I did get stuff chopped out of what I wrote if it didn't fit in with the 'editorial preferences'.

      BTW look at the comments below the article, they soon degenerate into attacks on 'country people'.

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  12. Hi Jason,

    I enjoy reading your blog.

    I'm also a news junkie. That aside though, it occurred to me the other day that the news bears a similar relationship to government that advertising does to industry (defining "industry" very loosely as "people selling to the consumer").

    smc

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    1. Thanks. Hmmm. Well, the government doesn't really set the news agenda (much as it would like to), in Britain, at least.

      Journalists can blow useful smokescreens for the government, but then other journalists are apt to point these out. There are plenty of cosy little pubs and private members clubs around Westminster where furtive meetings take place between journalists and ministers.

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I'll try to reply to comments as time permits. You can post anonymously but I'm less likely to reply.