Late last year I re-discovered Starship. The ’80s rock band with the big hair and catchy tunes.
As I hurtle towards my mid-life crisis I find I’m revisiting my youth a bit more. I had one of those, didn’t I? Probably another story (and not nearly as long as this article has turned out to be).
Anyway, Starship’s biggest song, We Built This City, contains the line ‘Knee Deep in the Hoopla’ and it appears on an album (remember them) of the same name.
Around about the same time as Starship re-surfaced the news media went completely bonkers. Okay, in general terms they haven’t exactly been news media for quite some time now. But the American election cycle tipped them over the edge and it’s just carried on and on and on and on. And on.
It’s impossible to know whether you’re getting full and complete, both-sides-of-the-story, reporting from anyone these days. Actually, scratch that. You know you aren’t.
That’s been the case for years, of course. The line between reality and ‘reality’ and made-up was blurred ages ago. The proliferation of outlets, all trying to secure their own little niche in what is now the news entertainment industry, means the cycle is becoming shorter and tighter and louder and irrelevanter. The attention span of the average consumer is tiny. The ability to copy/paste appears to be the key skill for a still legitimate career.
Politics is a key subject for the media. It forces us to take sides, pick heroes, have an opinion that probably isn’t good for us. Politics gives us a personal stake in whatever the hell politics is. It glues eye-balls and sells advertising.
In the US, politics is hyper-tribal. The Obama presidency, along with the age during which his presidency took place, has only made that starker. There are huge markets to tap into, with the massive liberal and conservative slots being the most lucrative.
That means it’s no longer necessary to invest in a broad team of impeccably trusted, genuinely investigative news-hounds. In fact, I suspect journalism schools have long since moved on from maintaining impartiality as one of the key values of their graduates.
Opinion and bias are more likely than facts, whatever they even are any more. We’re all knee deep in it, whether we like it or not.
Of course, the many social media platforms open to us today just speed up the cycle, allowing you and me and everyone else to inflict our uninformed ignorance on the world. It never ceases to amaze me how people feel it’s appropriate to abuse someone they don’t actually know just because they can use a keyboard. But they do. I realise this is a fairly obvious by-product of the access people now have via social media and is not a new phenomenon…but seriously? It’s hideous.
We had a rather low level version of this in New Zealand during John Key’s time, but the emergence of Trump has really, really ratcheted things up. I’ve already de-friended the American wife of an ex-work colleague who, through her writings, appears to have turned into a deranged and tortured soul after Clinton got dumped by Trump. She shared anything, I mean A.N.Y.T.H.I.N.G, that supported her judgmental liberal world view and bashed Trump (I mean *****).
Some of it was obviously wrong. It was nasty. It was petty. It was extreme. It was speculative. It was pushing information from sources with pretty much no real world credibility. It was picking facts and opinion to support and shape a world view.
It was totally within her rights to have an opinion and voice it. But I chose not to need it. In the end it was filling my news feed and I was starting to feel myself being wound up by it. So I turned off the switch and walked away. Sorry Seraya. Perhaps taking a few deep breaths and waiting to see what actually happens with Trump might be a healthier course of action.
Anyway, it showed me – again – how willfully blind people can be when supporting their team. I know I’m like that with Tottenham Hotspur, the Swifts, referees and have also thrown out the odd speculator around election time. We all have. Human nature. But the American election – before and after – rammed this into overdrive. The stark contrast of Trump, coming after eight years of Obama-led division, hasn’t helped.
Loyalty is an excellent virtue, of course, when applied with both eyes open. That’s fine. Surely, though, skepticism and counter thinking is vital to a healthy world view. Be especially skeptical of your own beliefs. What if you’re wrong? What if things change?
I ask these things because I don’t see liberal America making an honest attempt to figure out why they lost to Donald Trump. That’s DONALD J TRUMP people! All we ever see is: ‘Hillary won the popular vote’. ‘It was James Comey’s fault’. ‘Oh…and the Russians. Hacking. Yeah. Them too.’
None of those things matter.
Hard questions and genuine renewal is what they should be focusing on. Not deflection and borderline defamation designed to delegitimise the incoming president and secure ongoing employment for the establishment players.
Under Barack Obama’s reign about the only elections the Democrats won were his victories over John McCain and Mitt Romney. They lost senate seats. They lost house seats. They lost State governorships. They lost State house seats. That’s a long-term trend. That’s a problem.
Now they’ve lost Obama. When will liberal America actually show some self-awareness, a little humility, some balls, and work through a process of genuine renewal? The feeling so far is no, it doesn’t look like they can. Blame. It’s the other guy’s fault. That’s how my nine-year-old and seven-year-old boys operate. The way they’re going, Trump will sleep-walk through the 2020 election too.
Get your bloody act together people.
Speaking of lack of self-awareness…what about Hollywood, aye? The whole film industry was embodied this last week by Meryl Streep and her speech at the Golden Globes. Whenever I hear an actor try to talk politics I can’t stop myself from thinking about the Team America: World Police puppets. Sorry. Just an aside…
Now, Meryl Streep can say anything she bloody likes. We all can. She’ll have known she was in a safe place (something many American liberals seemed to need after Trump’s election) in that room and I guess she also would have been smart enough to know there would be a reaction. Any publicity is good publicity, right?
But was talking down to a country that has given her such a fantastic lifestyle wise?
Was suggesting her industry was above ‘football and mixed martial arts’ which are massive, massive industries in the US, all that clever?
Was a lecture on values from someone who applauded Roman Polanski (yeah, the dude who raped a 13 year-old back in the 1970s and ran away to avoid imprisonment) ever going to be anything other than hypocritical?
Was suggesting ‘Hollywood, foreigners and the press’ are the most vilified sections of American society to a room filled with multi-millionaire ‘victims’ from Hollywood, overseas and the media going to go un-noticed?
It wasn’t a ‘powerful take-down’ of the President-elect. For someone who is probably the best who’s ever done what she does, Streep showed a surprising lack of awareness and, even, gratitude and humility for the award she was receiving. Okay, it hasn’t been uncommon for Clinton supporters to speak and act that way, but she showed herself up as just another hypocritically sore loser.
Steep showed a lack of awareness about the opportunity she had. She divided rather than, as one of the most respected and powerful people in her industry, using the platform she had to attempt to unite and heal what seems like a bitterly diverse country. Had she done that she may well have actually assisted in the Trump take-down by pushing herself above the fray and putting some pressure back on him.
But, predictably for a Hollywood liberal, she couldn’t rise to the occasion. Her legacy will be somewhat tainted, I’m sure.
And speaking of legacies, what about that of the outgoing US president? To my mind, Barack Obama’s legacy is simply the forthcoming Donald Trump presidency.
Obama is a good, often superb, speaker. He’s a studious, hard working performer. He seems like a cool dude with a solid family unit and no swirling scandals (apart from some of the people he associated with in Chicago in his earlier days, which wasn’t really covered by too many in the mainstream media).
He’s set himself up superbly for life after the presidency, without doubt, but was he all that good at his day job?
Well, I don’t really know. For someone living on the other side of the world, I can’t speak knowledgeably enough because I haven’t lived in the good, or bad, or mediocre, or whatever state the USA is in, so don’t have first hand experience.
I don’t really know because it’s been impossible to find any media outlet I’d trust enough to give unflinchingly unbiased ongoing coverage of his presidency. One set of seemingly convincing set of ‘facts’ and opinions are easily countered by an equally persuasive set of judgements and statistics.
News as entertainment.
So what we’re left with, if you can put aside for a second your partisan political leanings (seriously…try), are actions and outcomes, rather than words, to help us decide. In simple terms, then, under his watch America became a country in which Obama’s Democratic party came to the conclusion that an utterly repellent insider was an appropriate presidential nominee to take on their Republican opponents who threw up an obnoxious show-off with no formal political experience.
It became a country in which Obama’s own team, both through its performance over eight years and its decision making in 2016, ensured the presidency will now be something like we’ve never ever seen before.
My feeling is Obama’s presidency was a massive wasted opportunity. Hope and change it wasn’t. So now we’ve got someone who looks like he’ll be bringing about change no matter the cost.
The thing is, despite all the doom and gloom on one side and the iridescent glee on the other, like most economists and weather forecasters, no-one knows how this will play out. They don’t.
No. They don’t. Neither do you or I.
Trump has said and done some silly things in his life (which, naturally, have been magnified by his detractors) and also some excellent work (again magnified by supporters and, not surprisingly, buried by many in the media who chose the other side). As have you and I, probably not to the same extremes and under the same sort of microscope as him, but we have.
To write him off talks only about the person doing the writing off. To unduly pump him up also does the same. No-one knows what is going to happen so maybe we could give the guy a chance? You don’t have to like his public profile (very few of us actually know him so I can’t say you don’t have to like him – because you don’t know him) but wait and see and come to a conclusion based on actions and using your own brain rather than on someone else’s words and opinions.
I do know this will be entertaining as we sit in our seats here on the other side of the world. We’ve already seen the self-importance of one media outlet – that guy from CNN who felt it appropriate to yell down the president-elect at his press conference – met with uncommon belligerence.
We’ve watched as Trump has used social media to talk right through the media in a way that’s not been done before…and the slavish devotion by most media outlets as they report his tweets and present their own spin. The press is no longer in charge in the US and they’re scrambling. It’s fun to watch.
News as entertainment…
The lesson and, I guess, point of this more than 2000 word ramble? Treat the media and celebrities and anyone else who would presume to tell you what to do from a position of influence with a critical mind. They don’t care about you and their motives are not yours. Consume the media, watch Meryl Streep’s latest movie, listen to Springsteen or Beyoncé…but don’t ever think they’re more qualified to make up your mind than you are. Don’t substitute your brain for theirs because it’s easy, expedient and you’re too lazy to work on it.
Enjoy it all. Enjoy taking responsibility for your own life and making your own decisions. Enjoy being entertained. Enjoy knowing that you are probably wrong most of the time. Enjoy being challenged and learning and taking responsibility for making your own decisions. Enjoy being better.
[Yes, I appreciate the irony of writing an article warning about other people telling you what to do then telling you what to do. So, you know, do what you like. This is just an opinion. Much like everything that appears in the media…]
Yes, we’re all knee deep in this, so we may as well enjoy it.
Okay. That’s finally out. Now I can get back to football and travel.
And, just in case you don’t remember…