Sunday, November 13, 2016

Real "America" and the media the media the media the media the media

SO then. Here we are. Forty-seven percent of U.S.A. voters cast their precious ballots and made it so that with a popular vote loss but 290 electoral college votes to 228 (and still counting some states) TheDnldUGHTrump will occupy the White House and deprive Hillary Clinton of that opportunity. 

I mean, don't get me wrong: I'm pretty sure that 47% of all y'all out there make terrible choices on any given and every given day, so why should election day be any different? 

But today we are here specifically to address this idea that MrTrumpface somehow spoke to the concerns of "real Americans" with whom the media was out of touch.  

"The media" is an incredibly vague and fairly useless phrase, so I'll narrow it down at least a little to the talking head anchors and roundtable sitters on network news programs who spent the last year pretending Hillary Clinton's "widespread unpopularity" which they harped on excessively until it finally started growing -- sort of beating life into it --  was a news story, rather than any of the bazillion policy issues, policy statements, political issues, social issues, current events, tragedies, hopeful outcomes, etc. happening all around us in the nation that Hillary addressed month after month after month. Those media squawking heads salivated breathlessly as they manufactured dislike for Hillary Clinton and offered up freely their interest in non-issue email invented "scandals" and pretended the Drumpfster was a legitimate option for the presidency and then acted stunned and shocked on election night. That was stupid of them, and they were one of the top two targets of my election night (Facebook) wrath, along with the delusional/bamboozled people who actually cast votes for DT. 


As the Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman points out here, the media "failure" is yet another story we are telling ourselves as some especially loud voices insist that "real Americans" have spoken. (If anything, the nation "has spoken" via popular vote for Hillary -- the electoral college, which hasn't yet spoken, may be called upon to speak for Drump.) What's worse, though, is the idea that some residents of the U.S.A. are "real" and some are not. AND, that if for some reason there WERE some who were real and some who were not, that the minority, the far far far smaller number, would be the real ones because they live somewhere where they have to drive a gas-guzzling car to get anywhere instead of being able to hop on public transportation. 

I mean, that's just silly.

It doesn't stop people from posting memes, though, with maps of the U.S. colored in red and blue by county vote, and it doesn't stop people from saying when they post those memes: "This is the people taking their country back!" Here's an example from The New York Times' presidential election results:  

When I pointed out to one poster of memes (of oh so many pro-Drumpf memes) that the "more red" areas consist also of more open space, highways, and cattle, while the blue areas are where there are more people, she helpfully reminded me that "I don't think the cows were voting! It was people!" 

Uh - my point exactly, lady. More people = blue areas. Fewer people = red areas. 

But who's "out of touch with the real" United Statesians? 

The media bashers like to say there are just a few liberal elite, a minority sitting in their elite New York penthouses and Malibu villas, making movies and hobnobbing with one another. 

Actually, there are tens of millions of people who live in cities. And tens of millions of people who voted blue in this particular election. And we are real. Who are you to say only Plains state farmland plowers are real? That's absurd. 

Imagine if you had a dozen people over to your house for a Super Bowl party (can't get more "real American" than that, now can you?) and realized at the last minute there was no soda pop so someone dashes out to get a 12-pack. He asks, should I get Coke or Pepsi? Yes, there are some people who don't drink soda and won't have either, but that's not his question. Coke or Pepsi? Let's say you take a vote. People are milling about, but at this moment three are sprawled on the couch in the giant living room watching pre-game jabber, and nine are standing clustered around the snack table in the small dining alcove because the snack food is interesting as is the conversation there. Two couch people vote for Pepsi and one for Coke. Living room, 2-1, Pepsi. Seven snack table people vote for Coke and two for Pepsi. Snack table, 7-2, Coke.  Total, 8-4 Coke vs. Pepsi. But the host says, well, the living room is bigger and takes up more area so in order to get the "real" vote we'll give them more say. Pepsi it is. 

Gross! (For those of us who don't care for Pepsi and can't beat the real thing.) But that's the argument I keep hearing put forward about why and how the electoral college represents rural areas' interests, and it's just as nonsensical as saying the people who take up more empty space are "real" while the people clustered together in a smaller physical space are not. 

Monday, November 07, 2016

Reading the News That Someone Saw Fit to Print

You have a very important duty right now. It's a simple act, but a vital one. Please do this one thing, before it is too late. 

I refer of course, to this: you should get a newspaper subscription. 


You should have got one long ago, but many of you have not done so. Many of you haven't touched newsprint since you were a small child paging through the paper your parents subscribed to, looking for the comics or Dear Abby or movie listings or maybe not even those because maybe you didn't start going to movies until Moviefone already existed. 

Lest you think this is a screed against millennials, though, I know there are a whole lot of Gen X-ers and Boomers out there, too, not bothering to subscribe to any newspaper anymore. 

Let's fix this. 

Commentator David Frum of The Atlantic spoke well about this on the most recent episode of Bill Maher's show. It's become so trendy, somehow, to bash "The Media" and reject all institutions. But really, that generalization betrays your ignorance and is a terrible idea. Rejecting institutions leads to a vacuum, which nature abhors, and which nature or TV then fills with DonaldWTFTrump. David Frum argued that young people's rejection of all institutions ("it's all corrupt!" "the mainstream media" "sick of all politics" etc.) have directly resulted in this debacle in which the malicious, manifestly unfit Trumpface is being considered a legitimate candidate for president of the U.S. 

I would hasten to add that a lot of people have been using the words "media" and "journalists" over the last few months when what they actually mean is "cable news networks breathlessly trying to outdo one another in a quest for the most salacious and shocking story that will draw ratings."

Newspapers, on the other hand, can calm down a little bit. And you can calm down a little bit when you read them. 

If you conflate TV newscasts, especially the "surrogate-from-the-right-plus-surrogate-from-the-left" or "fair and balanced" variety, with dogged newspaper journalism, you need to run right out to your local library and pick up a copy of Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, followed by a few Marshall McLuhan books.

And then you need to come home, read those books, and subscribe to a newspaper.

Reading the newspaper each morning, or each evening, is a nice habit. 

Reading your local paper will put you in touch with your community in ways you might not have imagined. It will do the same thing for news of the nation and of the world. 

But, you say, you do read articles published by the newspaper, on its website. Well. Besides the fact that you are offering no part of your finances whatsoever to said publisher, you are also picking and choosing from links or, more likely, from among what got shared the most that day on social media. 

Reading the actual newspaper, divided into sections, laid out by editors -- by professionals, that is -- gives you perspective that you don't get on your smartphone. 

If anyone out there wants to try the whole "But I'm saving trees by not reading a newspaper!" argument, let's just stop that nonsense right here and now. 

First of all, no, I do not for one second believe that's why you don't subscribe to a newspaper. But secondly, for all two of you out there who do legitimately use that reason, and for all the rest of you who have replaced paper news with electronic news for your convenience, you need to seriously come to an understanding of the toll your electronic devices take on the environment. 

I mean for one thing, they require electricity to run AT ALL. Electricity means trees die. Constant electricity. I would love it if we lived in a world full of solar, wind, and other renewable energy power. We don't. We live in a world where coal mining decimates entire mountaintops. Trust me, forests, animal species, and more are dying for you to use all your electricity. 

Not to mention the planned obsolescence - your tablets, laptops, and smartphones are designed to become obsolete as soon as possible so that you'll buy another smartphone. Not only are we wasting tons of resources and energy making the things in factories, but we have actively set up a system that they are not meant to last after expending all those resources, and emitting all that factory pollution -- so we get to deplete more resources and pollute even more within just a year or two. And everyone will happily rush out to "update" their products. 

But you won't buy newspaper, which is one of the easiest things to recycle and which is often printed on recycled paper as well? 

Everyone knows that after this election, you will need something. Mr. Frum and I would like you to consider that the something you need is a newspaper subscription. 

Call now. 

(Or just order it online.) 

And order one for a friend, too. Call it an early holiday president. 

Make the world a better place, in this one tiny way.