The Manipulators and the Manipulated


Why must summer always go by so quickly?  In two days it will be August, and then the rest of the year will race away before we can blink. I’m not ready to think about Christmas yet!

Politically, the planet just keeps getting hotter, as does the climate. As a kid, we looked forward to summer as a time when we could shrug off the shackles of school and teachers, kick back with our buddies and maybe find someone to snuggle with until it was time to “see you in September.”

But not this year. This year, no one is allowed to relax – ever! Even if you are not paying attention to the lout down south, Ontarians are dealing with a newly elected premier who is a wannabe tin pot dictator, hell-bent on giving Toronto a serious thrashing for not electing him mayor when they had the chance.

beach coffinWhether you follow regional, national, or world politics, what’s going on is a constant demand for attention from political bad actors. It’s like a painful IV transfusion, filled with acid and bile, that drips poison into our veins and our minds, and turns us against each other. And these egotistical blowhards are taking our summer from us with their narcissistic need to be constantly in the spotlight.

But I have not come here to bury Caesar .. or Trump or Ford … no, I have my rifle sights set – oh yes, again! – on the media.

I won’t go into my rant on the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine again – I’ve done that twice, and it still hasn’t been put back into place. (It’s like the Supreme Court are not even listening to me! Bastards!)

No, what is stuck in my craw is what repealing the Fairness Doctrine has wrought. It’s not just the crazies at FOX and Friends who treat the news like reality is debatable. It’s also the ‘usual suspects’ in the mainstream media.

It’s making me crazy – and it’s making us stupid.
Stormy and Trump 2
In One Year, MSNBC Covered Stormy Daniels 455 Times, War in Yemen 0

While we’d like to think that it’s the grownups in the room that present the news at CNN or MSNBC, the truth is that ALL of the channels, no matter how lofty the stated platform and mandate, have to pay the bills to keep the lights on. Like all entertainers, they’re playing to the audience.

The media is fixated on the news that is either sexy, or that can be spun as sexy. And that means that an awful lot of actual news never gets discussed.

At any given moment, there are events happening around the planet that impact millions. But, unless there is something interesting that North Americans can relate to, those moments will pass unnoticed. We need SEX! We need BLING! We need TRAGEDY!

Who would have ever thought we’d be so interested in the fates of the Thai soccer team? Why could we not stop watching the drama?

We are bears of little brain, it seems, with the attention spans of hummingbirds or goldfish. We constantly need to be tantalized, to have the glittery keys dangled before our eyes, or off we go, on to something that fires more neurons in our neural cortices.

There’s such a lot of spurious dealings going on in the States and in Canada, events that should be taking our full attention, and that, logically, should have citizens up in arms and marching in the streets … but that are instead being met with a collective sigh, and a sad little turning away from what is going on right before our eyes.

The kids in cages at the border; Kim Jung Un backing out of whatever the heck he and Trump had decided upon on nuclear disarmament; the U.S. president’s treasonous capitulation at Helsinki and whatever the heck he and Putin had decided upon for the fate of the planet; the consequences of Trump’s ridiculous trade war; Ford‘s assault on democracy in Ontario; all of these are stories that SHOULD be lighting real fires under our asses.

pay no attentionBut … look at Stormy! Listen to Avenatti! Laugh at Giuliani’s double talking defenses! And whatever you do .. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain …

Most of us are only just beginning to realize how manipulated we have been by not only those in power, but the one’s behind the curtain, that have put them there, by a media that ensured that some politicians received more attention than others. This gambit almost guaranteed that theirs was the name on the ballot that seemed the most familiar, and therefore, possibly the most reputable.

dont shoot the messengerBut instead of getting out the torches and pitchforks to roast the bad guys, we’d rather shoot the messengers who try to draw our attention to the manipulation going on in the background. It seems that most of us would rather pretend not to know how very helpless we are in the face of those who make and break the rules for their own benefit. It’s just so much more convenient and easier to go along with the crowd.

In the United States, which has spent the last two years dealing with an overt corruption and greed beyond their wildest dreams, we have seen an emergence of new, democratic voices, and there is hope that a midterm Blue Wave will overturn the stranglehold that the Trump administration has had on democracy to date.

With any luck, America may be able to place new and driven people, brimming with innovative ideas, into the White House. It would be good to see a move toward term limits as well, to ensure that elected representatives are truly representative of their constituencies. It’s time to turf out politicians who spend their time in office primarily in the getting, consolidation, and keeping of their power, rather than in working for the people who elected them.

Canada will undergo it’s own trial by fire in the next few years, with the election of Doug Ford. We can only hope that we’ve learned, from watching the rampant abuse of power down South, that giving power to bullies only encourages apathy and a destructive divisiveness in our most precious resource – our people.

 

 

Thinking About Thinking


Ain’t I a wonder, and ain’t you a wonder too!

cheese_and_internet_memesOr so we’ve been led to believe, by all of our ‘likes’ and ‘loves’ on social media, which is where we go to show off our funny, pretty, and intelligent sides. It’s where we go to get our ‘strokes’ of approval, to find out who’s doing what, and it’s where some of us go to air our opinions and beliefs, and to challenge the opinions and beliefs of others.

“(As of August 2017) For the first time in the Pew Research Center’s surveys, more than half (55%) of Americans ages 50 or older report getting news on social media sites. That is 10 percentage points higher than the 45% who said so in 2016. Those under 50, meanwhile, remain more likely than their elders to get news from these sites (78% do, unchanged from 2016).”

There really isn’t anyone moderating what we say on Facebook. Oh, the book of face would have you believe that, like McDonalds, “we do it all for you,” but anyone who’s been slapped with a three day suspension for uploading a picture of a woman breastfeeding would disagree. No one seems to really know what FB will decide is pornographic or unseemly. Even Facebook itself is unable to provide a hard and fast policy, since it changes with whatever the loudest voices declare to be currently correct.

And Facebook’s acceptance of Russian payment for the placement of ads that ultimately swayed voters in the last election – well, that’s for the courts to decide, but I’d say that might be considered a Russky Bridge too far.

grown ups on the internetWhat is indisputably true, in the world of social media where reputations can be made or destroyed in the space of a tweet, is that there aren’t many grown ups in the room.

And the barrier that might have once existed between terrestrial media and internet social media is gossamer fine.

Because it’s that kind of world, now, where the highest rated radio and TV shows are filled with loud, opinionated, and often grossly under informed ranters who toss the red meat of controversy to the most rabid of listeners who will wait, slavishly, by their phones, in order to add their own voice to the cacophony, and be part of the fun. It’s a world where a reality TV host gets to be president. It’s Idiocracy.

How did we get here? Well, I’d say the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) played a very large role in this slide into mis and disinformation. Created in 1939 to license and renew the license of broadcast stations, the FCC did not originally have the power to censor what was aired. Until the 1950’s, most people got the bulk of their information from radio, and news was sold strictly as news, not entertainment. However, then as now, radio stations needed advertisers to keep in business, and the Commission worried that station owners would be influenced by their advertisers, and by what the conservative owners might decide to pass off as truth.

And so, the Mayflower Doctrine was put into place by then FCC chairman Larry Fly, “fearing a further commercialized, conservative-biased and corporate dominated medium.” The Doctrine declared that broadcasters have “an obligation to allot a reasonable amount of time to treatment of controversial issues and that they have an affirmative duty to seek, to provide representative expression of all responsible shades of opinion.”

The Mayflower Doctrine gave way to the Fairness Doctrine in 1949.
fairness doctrine Reagan“It established two forms of regulation on broadcasters: to provide adequate coverage of public issues, and to ensure that coverage fairly represented opposing views.  The second rule required broadcasters to provide reply time to issue-oriented citizens. Broadcasters could therefore trigger Fairness Doctrine complaints without editorializing. The commission required neither of the Fairness Doctrine’s obligations before 1949.” (wiki)

But even that modicum of control was removed in 1989, ushering in a whole new way of presenting information. No longer did radio or TV have to be held to truth – instead, it became permissible for broadcasters to present, higgledy piggledy, views that directly benefited their paid advertisers and corporate owners. it was the beginning of ‘fake news,’ paving the way for owners like Rupert Murdoch to found stations based upon the rantings of radio and TV shock jocks, those highly emotional if often low informed and biased talk show hosts ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

fox-news-hostWhile this sort of blathering can be very entertaining, and kickstart the hearts of those who either lack their own opinions or love to air their ideas and conspiracy beliefs, it really didn’t do much good for those people who are easily led to often ill informed and hard right theories.

The thing about life is that most of us come to our ideas through our very limited experiences. And yet somehow we believe that our conclusions on goings on outside of our own personal spheres are as valid as those of the people who have dedicated their lives to understanding those events.

Thinking like that is naive, and is what led to America electing one of the most incompetent presidents of their history. Believing that success in business equates to success in government is an enormous lie of epic proportions and horrifically sad consequences. The very qualities that comprise ruthless thinking and lead to success in business are the direct antitheses of the qualities necessary for a wise, compassionate, and humane leader able to put the needs of the Nation before his own.

know it all diploma

Why is it so hard for most of us to realize that we don’t have all the answers? To understand that there are people out there who are smarter than us, or who have more information about a topic, or maybe just have that intuitive flash of brilliance that allows them to weigh up an issue, thoughtfully and with ALL of the data considered, and then come up with a solution that actually works for all involved, something that we’ve somehow missed, no matter how long and hard we’ve worried the question?

genius does what it mustWhy is it so hard to understand that there are very few of us capable of holding every aspect of a quandary in perfect balance for long enough to solve the equation?

Time and again I have seen businesses and governments weigh up a problem with all of their combined brainpower .. and still come up empty. It’s truly infuriating for all of us – the entity trying and failing to find a solution, and those impacted by their lack of a properly considered conclusion in which all of the players needs are considered.

Fr’instance. In British Columbia, homelessness and drug addiction are a crushing burden to those who suffer from these issues. Trying to help and control the realities of how these problems impact upon not just those who suffer, but those who live within a society that bears the financial and legal brunt of these issues, is something that the BC government and policing agencies have to deal with. At this point, a tangle of laws, rights, and ugly reality have created an impasse. There’ seems to be no answer to this question. The result is an uneasy standoff, that benefits and pleases no one.

I don’t have the answer. But somewhere out there, someone does. He or she just hasn’t been asked the right question.

smug gifCorporate and political entities are not the only ones that often have a smug belief that they are the only ones with the answers.

Take the subject of phasing out oil powered vehicles vs electrically powered vehicles. Pretty much every driver who is of a certain age has little belief that the demise of fuel will happen any time soon. And yet, the Chinese government is following in the footsteps of countries like India, France, Britain, and Norway, which have already announced plans to ditch gas and diesel cars in favour of cleaner vehicles in the coming years.

I’ve heard all of the arguments, and the cries that trucks and other heavy vehicles will never be able to be replaced by electric or electrified vehicles, for at least the next fifty years.

electric-vehicles-2016But it IS gonna happen, and much sooner than those who picture electric vehicles being powered by a trunk full of double AA batteries can conceive. Barring a nuclear holocaust, which would put paid to pretty much all of civilization, electric vehicles will be the only new vehicles manufactured in many countries, as soon as 2021.

When the Fairness Doctrine was tossed aside as though the citizens of 1989 were far more intelligent and civilized than the yokels who’d laboured under these doctrines for the previous fifty years, we ushered in a time when any fool with a platform and a theory could control large groups of people, without any constraints, be they of decency or truth, covering their speech.

The internet and the ubiquitous social media furthered the range of those loud voices, and multiplied the numbers of potential followers their words could reach.

But without any control, or any way to establish rules of argument and debate, the loudest voices tend to be the ones most likely to resort to schoolyard bullying tactics, like name calling, the distortion of truth, and outright lies being repeated until the lies themselves are woven into the fabric of society.

bully pulpit trumpDespite the miracle of the internet allowing each of us to research, in real time, any questionable information presented to us by even the loudest and most authoritative voices, the demand that truth be spoken is often overridden by the Bully Pulpit of those in power.

I’m pretty sure that this is not where the inventors of broadcast media hoped that we’d arrive.

But it is the situation in which we now find ourselves drowning.