Opting Out

So why the heck do you let them decide for you?

Something Ciara wrote Sunday:

I feel, I think, as though the media and the government are currently saying to me, "This is what life is about."

hit one of my hot buttons...

Fortunately, she followed with:

...I feel must explicitly, adamantly, and with all the energy at my command, reject that message.

...and I was able to go about my business.

Until I remembered Amber's post from Saturday

What is elegant and seductive on an adult, or frisky and fun on a teenager just looks garish and frightening on girls in the 8-11 age group.

and I had my chain yanked again.

Then Dave came in on Monday with this one:

Sticking a microphone in some distraught soul's face after a tragedy and asking how they feel, then putting it on TV where some game show host-types can comment on it and act sad. Cheap, mindless, crude, lowest-common-denominator art.

...and reminded me of the local Murdock-owned bottom feeders who kept their cameras on one of the officers at the scene of a near-drowning of a five-year old. ...the officer who just couldn't compose himself in the aftermath of the event. ...and then looped that bit for the balance of the story.

...and then I remembered how at last year's school carnival, Clark, the tech-services chief, and I both thought the makeup and outfits worn by the dance troup made up of K-6 girls was right on par with some professional ladies we'd met while we were working the streets.

...and I have to say I'm flat tired of it. I opted out of TV years ago; I finally realized my brain was slowly oozing from my ears. ...and the jokes were getting cruder and cruder, earlier and earlier in the evening, season after season. ...and the presentation of society was just that of a place I didn't care to be part of. Sure, some of it was from a values thing, but some of it was from watching what happened to people in real life when their lives departed from the TV script, or they tried a little too hard to keep up, or they realized they couldn't keep up.

So I opted out. ...and stayed the loner. ...and just dealt. Until I stumbled on to the Daynotes crowd before there was even a Daynotes Gang and found some people who were able to present ideas in something more than a sound bite.

I liked that; here were thinking, reasoning beings who were able to present an entire idea without shoving it down your throat. Well... Okay, there are one or two... But the risk:benefit ratio was way up compared to the mainstream media.

...and then I found the Weblogs circuit. Whoohoo! ...another bunch of people with things to say and things to link. ...and with agendas pretty much up front. ...right where they belong.

Now we're talking 5000 channels and you can't click the remote fast enough...

So here's my gripe about mainstream media: they're telling me what they or their masters want me to be told. I hear just that side of it. ...with an agenda and a spin that is certainly not unbiased.

...and it's all push. You want information on something that's not on the agenda, well that's just too bad. This and this are our topics du jour and you're just stuck watching this drivel until the drool runs down onto your lap.

...or until you throw up. I listened to the six o'clock news this evening as Shelley watched it from her chair. I was very glad the kids were at a neighbors likely playing some violent Nintendo game. ...so they couldn't hear the details of a triple murder and rape preliminary hearing going on in the hills just north of us. Phrases like ...seven hours of sexual assault ...I didn't realize how hard it was to strangle someone were read over the airwaves on a network affiliate. Excuse me all to heck. Is that necessary?

Apparently it is: you can't drive ratings unless you can out-sensationalize the next station. That applies to morning news, daytime TV, and the 'prime time' sitcoms. So they push the envelope. ...and the viewing public gets desensitized to it. ...so they have to push it further. ...and further. ...to the point where I feel like I'm wading through dreck.

...and I opt out. ...and come back here. ...and I can still find out how Buffy is doing. ...and I can find more channel feeds than I can link to that will give me my baseline news feeds. ...and enough new sources of information and opinion to keep me very able to grow my knowledge base. ...and it's all pull (no RPC-XML stuff here for the moment <g>). ...and I'm making the decisions again and the spin is usually in billboard type.

So I limit my TV viewing to the fifties era 'family values' shows on TVLand when the boys have the TV on, and the occasional news story with Shelley as she's falling asleep. ...and I use the web as my news feed; the cross checks are very easy to do. ...and I don't have to listen to someone read testimony that's an abstraction to most people. ...or promote little girls looking like not-so little girls. ...or watch a cop I know cry over a kid.




Cecil wrote in about the hole I'd left open in the last piece. I'll let the exchange speak for itself:


"Put the keyboard down. That's it. Now back away from the computer and keep your hands up where we can see them."

Seriously though. I can't (or won't) disagree with your points/conclusions, although I think the blog thing could turn out to be Internet fad or a huge change in how society communicates and views themselves. Not to mention the defacto release of privacy and intellectual property rights, but it's way too early to know which (fad/new). You raise some interesting social issues in my mind -- Is filtered news (TV) better than sucking on the firehose (Web); or if you only visit certain web sites, isn't that a filtering action? You may click on links in someone's blog and visit worlds you wouldn't ordinarily seek, you may even bookmark the site which you might get back to in a month or so.

IMNSHO, it is really a question of who edits/filters. Adults pretend they can do it for themselves whether its "bad" web sites or Jerry Springer on TV, but adults (as a group) seem to have a piss poor track record (in a moral or ethical sense) about what they say and what they do. When applied to children, its an unknowable problem. Should my parents have let me watch the 1968 riots in Chicago on TV? Was I permanently scarred (by their standards at the time)? Would my life be better if I never heard Jethro Tull? It's completely unknowable.

I suppose I have to find a point, otherwise this message can't be sent. WOAFC (With Out A F'ing Clue), perhaps the role of the parent re: information feeding/filtering is not to look at the past for guidance, but to teach the skills to handle the big end of the future fire hose. I know thats easier said than done. Maybe I should hold a seminar about that at the Holiday Inn. I could pull down a few bucks telling people what they don't want to hear. I used to be pretty good at that. Maybe $125/day to hear the President of CCDL speak about how to detect BS? Hell, I'd pay $125 for that but then I know who's speaking.



Ah, not pointless at all!

You've touched on the area I quite deliberately left open last night as I didn't want to try to deal with everything at once: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?", be it a custodial parental unit or one's own self.

I propose that the sheep will continue to be sheep, and drooling sheep at that. ...and those who do not expand their circle of acquaintances and information sources are doomed to at best a circular existence and at worst an inward spiral that leaves them biting themselves in the small of the back. ...or mentally inbreeding with their cohorts and discovering nothing new under the sun. ...or that rock they live under.

...and that's the point: being fed pre-digested sound bites and slanted pablum that's ostensibly un-biased. If we insulate ourselves in whatever fashion we choose by not adding on information and exposing ourselves to opinions, how can we grow intellectually and socially?

I submit that one facet of the net is the emergence of thousands of small newspaper columns disguised as Weblogs. These columns are available from my online newsstand upon demand 24x7. I can pick and chose everything from gardening information to health care matters, from conspiracies to immediate direct information about the effects of the weather. You name it and it's out there. ...with a grain of salt.

Why the salt? Because, as you say, we have to apply any of several filters to what we find. We may filter it against our own knowledge base, or someone elses, or perhaps we have a gold standard available (and who created that one?). ...or sometimes we just have to go for it. ...and that's where the parental nozzle (and eventually our own) on the hose comes in. ...because at some point that's what we all have to learn to do: filter content.

...and Tull? Those without know not what they seek...

06/14/2001 * || send comment