Between & Beyond: Media

With Iraq in the news again, I feel compelled to write something but I stand at a loss. It all feels like such a bitter regurgitation. There’s no way the war could be any more of a failure, nor any more of a crime. What there could be more of is justice and as usual it is in short supply.

A friend sent me a picture of his daughter today and with it a message expressing deep concern and fear about the future of her generation and the idea that politics never solve anything. This is an idea I have touched on in this column, and it bears repeating here as Iraq stands as a profound example.

I find myself drifting more and more into thoughts of grand conspiracies these days. With the odds so stacked against us common folks, against any sort of compassion-based progressive ideology, against any sort of plan for living a harmonious and symbiotic existence with the Earth, it’s hard to not go that route. And with Facebook psychology experiments and massive data collection programs ongoing in the background things seem eerily sci-fi. There’s no need for pretense any more. Data is just collected. Experiments are conducted. Rulings are rolled out. Drones are launched.

And it’s from this perspective that I begin to wonder about the media most of all. Last week I included a quote from Terence McKenna about how there’s no more important place or time than here and now. He is saying that the direct felt experience of the world is one thing that we have sacrificed over and over again for security and advancement. It makes up the collected and cool arm’s length of materialist science and academic institutions. It makes up the celebrity culture that takes us away from our peers and our bodies and has us chasing some superhuman ideal that is perpetually beyond our reach. It also makes up all media. The word speaks for itself. Media: Plural of medium: Mediation. When we look to media to tell us what the world is it’s like we are choosing to stand at a certain point in a canyon to wait for a rolling echo instead of sitting down in front of the symphony.

Yes. We need to be informed and educated. About what though? Do we need to know about foreign policy in order to survive? It’s a dangerous question. We certainly don’t want our elected leaders committing atrocities in our name and the media should be the fourth branch of the government. But we should know by now that the politicians don’t work for us, and while the media should absolutely be working for us, they don’t. They’ve been bought by the politicians. It’s been proven again and again that the news media is in collusion with the government.

This idea is what has me feeling conspiratorial these days. How far does this idea go? Surely, we should all know this to be true of Fox News. It’s the sore thumb. But, there is incredibly compelling evidence that CNN faked live reports during the Gulf War in the ’90s. Maybe it was the faulty logistics of 24-hour news during its fledgling years, but maybe for a long time, news does not speak truth to power, nor does it expose the dirt hidden underneath the shiny veneer of public relations. Maybe, for a long time, it has been designed to shape our opinion. WikiLeaks, Mr. Snowden and Private Manning have each acted as true reporters should, exposing criminality, and each time the “real news” has done nothing but cycle through backwards and baseless moral and character questions that take away from the point at hand. Even the great Liberal bastions of NPR and PBS, how far do they go? Not far enough I would say. They give us more information than most other news sources, but is information the same as insight?

If we take a step back and try as hard as we can to view America from the perspective of an outsider, what could we see? Maybe the difficulty of answering that question is exactly as far as we need to go to show how limited the news media really is. No news organization truly bursts the insular bubble that America is. When I try my hardest, I see a declining empire grasping for control. This vision shows itself in the most random of places. Just the other day I heard a statistic about how most car sales trends are modest these days except for Maserati, who at this time last year had sold 300 cars and currently they are up to 1,000. These are the signs of our disparity right under our noses. Beyond our scope is an entire globe writhing and churning beneath the blanket of our influence and dominance. Francis Fukuyama claimed that history had ended once the West had established liberal democracy and free market capitalism. Any resistance to these ideologies that might pop up will not be from a competing ideology but from just mischievous discontent. This is the kind of arrogance that seems inherent in the ethos of news media. When do we really truly get the deep and nuanced perspective of the Other. NPR will report on senseless violence all day long, but it does nothing but keep it distinctly senseless.

Don’t get me wrong. I despise violence. It’s always the wrong answer. But, it’s so rarely senseless to the person committing it. There’s always a reason and understanding that reason is probably the only way to stop it.

There’s a certain kind of ironic feedback loop that is inherent in the Homeland Security mentality that was spawned by 9/11 and the Iraq War. The Homeland Security prescription is both offensive and defensive simultaneously and indefinitely. We will root out the terrorists where they exist, and we will continuously and egregiously monitor activity here at home. Yet, neither seems to affect the other. As in, we can’t seem to dismantle the organizations abroad enough in order to scale back on surveillance, and we can’t use our surveillance data in order to scale back our offensive. It’s just perpetual. We should be very wary of a plan without a goal, but the media doesn’t seem to notice. They seem intent on selling this plan right to us.