Friday, November 12, 2004

We May All Be Getting Screwed

We all know that there's a huge "cultural" rift in the US following the election.

"America is more divided than ever!" the news announces.

I'm thinking that that same media may be part of the problem.

Talking (ok, e-mailing usally) with most of you, I find that there are a lot of strongly-held opinions these days. Even having spent the first half of my life in the South, I sometimes find myself at odds with the very people I grew up with. Differences in opinion are one thing, being angry with one's own friends is another.

So why are "Red States" so Red when other states are so "Blue"? Why is "Government Evil/Business Good" for some while "Big Business is Satan/Governent is Salvation" for others? Living in a Blue State, I'm all of a sudden a "Cultural Elite"? Why am I told that everyone in a "Red State" is a mouth-breather? I don't feel any smarter than before the election, much like I'm sure most RedStaters don't feel dumber. Point is, I'm beginning to suspect... you guessed it...

It's Someone Else's Fault.

Everyone can always agree that any problem is caused by someone else, right? So why not blame the media?

I don't want to jump into the quagmire of what's causing the news to be biased. Heck, the only thing we can all agree on is that the news went bad after Walter Cronkite left.

"News as 'info-tainment'", "News for profit", "Yellow
journalism", "Liberal bias", "Corporate corruption". We can argue that forever. The truth is probably closer to all of the above plus more. In short, the problem with our news is: Humans.

We can take solace in knowing that just about any alternative would probably only be worse. ( "WMTX! Radio Matrix! Brought to you by, 'The Machines!")

Sorry, I digress.

For example:

I'm an NPR listener (Mainly because I got tired of hearing constant
advertisements for anal cream, casinos and every other variant on snake oil. With NPR all my advertisements are confined to the top of the hour ;-) and I read Google news.

Having been laid off for almost 2 years, I've consumed a *lot* of NPR/Google news. Was I missing something? This election prompted me to find out. I spun over to the AM dial and begun listening to more conservative (for lack of a more PC way to say "opposite-of-liberal") broadcasts.

One thing that caught my attention this morning was an announcer's outrage at the success of the new console game "Grand Theft Auto: San Adreas". Basically, he was asking if we were trying to teach our kids to be criminals.

That struck me as quite humorous, as GTA:SA hadn't shown up on my NPR/Google newsfeeds, but yesterady another game had: 'Halo 2'. "It sold over $100M its first day!"

One game features a military hero slaughtering alien slime. The other features (illegal alien?) slime slaughtering helpless civilians. Exercise for the reader: Can anyone figure out how each might be spun to outrage a demographic?

The contrast in reporting struck me as odd. Why would different news feeds be focusing on different video games, each released within days of the other, while not even mentioning the other? I'm thinking its demographics. You broadcast to "conservatives"? Spin the hell out of GTA:SA. Your "consumers" a bunch of "whiney liberals"? Halo 2's automatic weapons may be just the ticket.

So the point of this whole diatribe is this: Try listening to "the other side's" news every once in a while. Not in an attempt to "convert" so much as to give yourself an insight into the bias you may receiving every day from your _own_ news sources. ( Heck, I didn't even know that "GTA:SA" had been released! What are those NPR bastards trying to hide from me?!?)

Listening to AM talk radio won't make me want to join the Moral Majority, but it may give me some insight into information that is totally disregarded by my normal news outlets.

Seeing both sides of the coin helps to remind me that it is *just* a coin.
(Alright, alright. So Sage of Perls of Wisdom I ain't. Somebody's *got* to be able to come up with a better chestnut than I did here! Help me out!)


Keep in mind that even if you can't pick up "the other side's dastardly radio broadcasts" in your area, most are now available on that "great equalizer" the world-wide web. ( Why do I find it curious that although we're the most "interconnected" we've ever been, we're also the most divided we've ever been? Could the Civil War have been a result of radio? Oh, never mind.)

If you've got posters of George Bush on your wall, try listening to NPR (I use '') or maybe even Google news.

If you have posters of George Bush on your wall, only they've got bulls-eyes or cross-hairs painted on them, try listening to something more conservative, like Fox News ('') or KGO AM

Trust me, it's an interesting thing. We can easily see how the "other side" spins things. Once we learn how it works, we can then more easily see how "our side" spins things for *our* consumption.

Long story short: We need to avoid the path we're headed into. Fighting with each other (Rowandan machete, anyone?) is only detracting us from the real problem. I'm not yet sure what that problem is, but I'm guessing that it's not my friends, family and neighbors.

Lemme know what you find.