For a full week, mainstream news has seized upon a single story and effectively beat it to death; the soap-opera saga of an impotent 80 year old who supports a mistress who looks like Mr. Ed in drag. It’s trashy, gossipy, and titillating. It holds great popular appeal for the incredibly stupid and common people we’ve become.
While Mayor Anisse Parker is bravely fighting for an equal rights ordinance to protect Houstonians from cruel discrimination, her actions are effectively eclipsed by yet another earthshaking story involving the Houston Rockets.
Journalists argue about which restaurant has the best sandwich in the city, while Houston’s historic urban neighborhoods with historic and tasteful architecture are razed by the money-crazed developers who wish to erect ugly cheap townhouses in their place.
Little attention’s been paid to Cheniere Energy CEO Charif Souki’s $142 million pay package, the highest of any Houston energy executive in history, even though Cheniere has never recorded a profit. No one’s asking questions, even after yesterday’s Congressional bill was passed to export LNG.
Instead, news consumers were riveted to yet another festival in Houston that resembles another festival that happened last week. Houston’s sky-rocketing child abuse and failing schools take a backseat to micro-breweries, lobster tacos and the latest news on Beyonce.
There could be a bomb-throwing revolution going on in the streets and mainstream news would still prefer to cover smelly mouth-breathing sports celebrities and advertising crap-food to an already too-fat Houston waistline.
Entertainment, sports, food, alcohol, sex is today’s soma that Aldous Huxley wrote about in Brave New World. The bling is the new gospel and we gravitate toward television prophets like Benny Hinn and the incredibly comedic buffoon, Creflo Dollar.
People should be mad about this; they should be Madame-Defarge-takes-up-knitting-mad.
There should be some populist outrage about the under-the-table deals taking place under the Perry regime and about the fact that Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick, on a television station in Lubbock, claims fracking is safe .
The reality is that we are in the midst of the politics of resignation—the “we surrender” mindset. We have selective amnesia about the fact that a group of 10,000 wealthy Americans will decide who will govern us. When reality seems too big to fix, we focus in on the trivial and the titillating. I can’t think of another time in history when we, as a people, were more ignorant than today.
We have become like the society in the 2006 cult-film, Idiocracy; where America’s favorite TV show is “Ow! My Balls!” and the award winning film is entitled “Ass”. We’re already there; a dystopian state with a disdain for intellectualism and love for commercialism, an unthinking population devoid of curiosity, social responsibility and a coherent notion of justice or human rights.
To put it into the vernacular that a 21st century society can understand: We suck.
Catastrophe runs rampant in the background, yet we’re focused on the trivial. It’s akin to skipping and whistling through Dachau. It’s become bread and circus. We get the democracy and the journalism we deserve.
Knowing all of this, people should be in the streets, but even if they were, the media wouldn’t cover it. Two days ago, a group of about 2,000 demonstrators marched on Washington for a more sustainable economy and a higher minimum wage and only one independent news outlet, reported it.
Corporate journalists deserve a modicum of blame. Too many of our newspapers are nothing more than advertising tabloids with a smattering of poorly-written boring stories lacking passion and courage. No passion in the writer means no passion in the reader. We writers have become pay-by-the-piece writing hacks who’ve lost all passion for writing for the public good.
It doesn’t matter if you label yourself a journalist or writer. Your mission should be to write the truth and do it in a way that educates and affects readers; it should outrage them, piss them off, make them curse out loud in indignant anger, wake them up, and inspire them to take action or make them cry. It should have the effect of being cold-cocked by Mike Tyson or personify Kafka’s “blow to the head” or his “ice ax to the heart”.
Writers’ once-passionate ardor for words has cooled resulting in a product that resembles public relations or advertising copy. If we, as writers, don’t make the reader stand up and take notice, then we are piss-poor writers and we should be summarily sentenced to a lifetime of ad-copy for TMZ or USA Today.