Friday, December 9, 2016

Social Media

We definitely fed it after midnight...and must have got it wet....

From His Lips To God's Ears....

Emperor of the Year

Since the election, my Facebook feed has been very quiet.  Granted I don’t have that many friends, but most of them share my progressive politics; and they were very VERY active on Facebook prior to November 9.  Since then…a whole lot of quiet.  Not even a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Just…shocked silence.

Some of this has to do with the widely circulated perception that social media was the devil in this election.  That the wildfire spread of “fake news” on forums like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram assigned and sealed the fate of the Clinton campaign.  That’s right, Mainstream Media.  Blame it on the Fake News.

Trust me…I get the whole poisonous Fake News scenario.  I read this article on NPR about a guy--a registered Democrat, no less--who got into the “fake news” business in order to shame the gullible right.  He eventually learned that his strategy had totally backfired, but by then, he was making $10k a month selling advertising on his fake news pages.  Suddenly his political motivation didn’t matter quite as much as maintaining a lifestyle to which he had rapidly grown accustomed.  And he blithely passes the blame for the damage his fake news has done to the “consumers” thereof.  “The consumers of content have to be better at identifying this stuff. We have a whole nation of media-illiterate people.”  Once again, it’s all about the money.  This should scare the shit out of us.  And it does.       

But the American “Mainstream Media” is just as culpable for the rise and dominance of Donald Trump as false propaganda spread by soulless, greedy internet trolls.  The New York Times estimates that Trump received $2 billion worth of free press.  All he had to do was run all over the country stirring up violence, discord and controversy; the ratings-craving mainstream media followed him around like the dutiful lapdogs Trump knew them to be.  The MSM insists it was reporting Trump's non-stop antics because they were “news.”  But, in fact, they were providing Trump with precisely the tool he needed to win this election:  His face all over every bit of video and print media, 24/7/365.  No candidate could ever buy that much air time.  And Trump had it handed to him on a silver platter.

Late in the campaign, the Mainstream Media seemed to assimilate the fact that they had been monumentally complicit in Trump’s meteoric rise in popularity.  They didn’t stop reporting about him, though…they simply decided that if they began showing him for the demagogue that he is, they would have done their duty and cleansed their souls of any responsibility for Trump’s rise in popularity.  Not only was their epiphany too little too late, but at that point, it didn’t matter whether the press Trump received was negative or positive.  Maybe it never did matter.  The Trump faithful were free to pick and choose what they believed about their candidate…and his smirking face continued to be plastered all over the news.

And just to prove that the Mainstream Media still has not learned its lesson, we have this little gem that broke earlier this week:   

Time stands by this unpalatable cherry on the top of the enabling clusterfuck that was the MSM's coverage of Election 2016, stating that  "Person of the Year" honors go to any figure, negative or positive, who has had the most impact on the world during a given calendar year.  It points to its covers of Hitler, Stalin and the Ayatollah to prove its editorial purity.  I suppose that puts Trump in the appropriate company, but it completely misses the point. 

Really, Time?  Don't you think that conferring this honor upon Cheeto Jesus is like handing a free kilo of heroin--along with a tourniquet, a bunsen burner, a spoon and a gross of brand new hypodermics--to an addict?  Should a media junkie who has proven a master manipulator of the press be handed yet another several million dollars of free media exposure because he is "news?"  When are you going to GET that you are being played?  Dangerously played?

What about the first woman in history nominated for president of the United States by a major party?  Isn't that news worthy enough for you, Time Magazine?    In truth,  the choice boils down to M.O.N.E.Y.  Trump's smug, ugly mug will sell WAY more soap than Hillary's exhausted, long-suffering one.  

Still...I prefer THIS cover for Time:


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Christmas Musings

Oh, well.  Enough of...that.  I think I'll just write about Christmas.

Christmas.  Christmas and I have a love/hate relationship, with the "hate" side growing more and more dominant as I grow older.  In fact, it seems like the "love" half is mostly a memory of love.  I don't love Christmas anymore.  Not really.  Because so many of the things I loved have gone away.   

One of my favorite parts of Christmas was the gift-giving...but we stopped doing that a couple of years ago.  Let's face it:  when and you've lived your life in mostly comfortable middle-class-ness, by the time you've completed your sixth decade, you have probably acquired most of the affordable trappings of the station, several times over.  What you don't have, neither you nor anyone likely to have you on their Christmas list can afford...which is pretty much why you don't have it.  For a couple of years, I tried coming up with more imaginative things like promises of help with a project or gift certificates for dinners out.  Among my unimaginative family, those kinds of things never caught on, so I gave up. buying and hiding and wrapping and hoping the gift hits its mark on Christmas Eve.  Sure, we don't have to fight the retail crowds or sweat the Christmas rush delivery schedules.  But that might have even been part of the fun.

Christmas parties used to be fun.  In our younger days, we had some of our most fun times at work parties. I remember champagne and pretty clothes and dancing in a conga line on blistered feet in sparkly shoes; and winning a television in a raffle drawing.  But the husband has worked 22 years for a company owned by a Jewish family, where many of the workers are Asian non-Christians; so the company Christmas party went out the window a long time ago.  When we had the restaurant, our Christmas parties were one of the few highlights of that miserable time.  We even had a couple "reunion" parties after we closed the place.  But after 5 1/2 years, everyone is pretty much spread to the four winds, young people with kids and lives and friends of their own. 

And we don't have any friends, so we don't entertain.  The family comes up sometimes for a day or two during the holiday season, weather permitting.  But the older we get, the less weather permits.  Even a heavy rain storm is enough to keep us off the roads and trapped in our homes.   

The one Christmas indulgence that has yet to be killed off in me is my love (bordering on obsession) of the trappings of Christmas.  I adore the decorations.  Can't resist a cute or quirky ornament or chotchky.  If it sparkles, I covet it.  I think all my love for the season that used to find its release in many directions--in the gifting and the parties and the little dinners with friends--has been channeled into decorating.  The end result is that I have acquired boxes and boxes of Christmas crap, which take me a week to sort out and arrange in early December, and as long to disassemble and pack away six weeks later.  Which nobody sees but me and the husband and the cats and the occasional mail person or UPS driver.  I think one definition of insanity must be to spend a week putting up decorations that no one ever sees.  I do enjoy them, yes.  But maybe not enough to invest eighty or a hundred hours each year putting them up and taking them down.

In my morning devotions, I honor my spirits of the West--Gull and Pelican--and ask them to guide me to freedom through unburdenment.  Every morning since November 1, I have been fully aware of what I need to unburden myself of.  In so many of the spiritual texts I have read, we are admonished to set aside things that no longer serve.  And I have a house full of those very things.  From which I need to pry my nostalgic fingers and just...let go.                      

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Everything Old Is New Again: The Electoral College Debate

There is a lot of speculation going on about the Electoral College, since Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a large margin, yet Cheeto easily amassed plenty of electoral votes—enough to handily quash Mrs. Clinton’s presidential hopes. 

People are coming up with many and varied theories about why the Electoral College was conceived by the founders to begin with.  It’s popular, these days, to connect the College to the insistence of slave-holding states that their wealthy agrarian lifestyle—and potentially unacceptable institutions—maintain an effective amount of sway in federal elections.  The aim here, I suppose, is that if we connect the Electoral College to the great moral sin of slavery in the south, it becomes tarnished by association, and therefore worthy of no better treatment than the institution of slavery itself.

I had written for another hour on this subject today… And then I realized I had already DONE this essay.  Twelve years ago.  In three parts, no less.  Complete with the research I have neither the time nor the patience to indulge in these days.

So…here’s the link:

Go read. All three pieces, please.  And comment.  Here or there or on Facebook.  I’d like to have a conversation about this…

Did I ask for a conversation?  What in the world made me do that?  Most people who came here from Facebook didn't even glance at the original essays.  Oh, well.  Their loss--they ARE good pieces of writing.  Guess I just can't let go of the past...  :(

Monday, December 5, 2016

Don't Really Want to Believe This...

I wake up every morning, newly unbelieving of the results of last month's presidential election.  I CAN NOT wrap my head around the concept that the American people chose a completely unfit narcissistic sociopath to "make America great again."   Yes, I inhabited that hopeful liberal bubble before the election...the one that insisted that a majority of voters would never embrace the traits Trump exhibited--racism, xenophobia, sexism to the point of misogyny, and beyond all those, just an outright, down and dirty meanness--as representative of the character of the American people.  But they did.
So now, it seems I go through the seven stages of...something...every morning when I roll out of bed and realize Cheeto Jesus will be the next president of the United States.  Except my stages seem to have wrapped themselves into a loop:  Denial.  Guilt.  Anger.  Reflection. Denial.  Guilt.  Anger.  Reflection.   Ad infinitum.  All laced with a strong sinew of fear and trepidation.
The cartoon above represents what I fear, but hope with all my heart is not going to be the case. 
And while I'm on the subject of fear, I cling like a drowning man to this concept:  Fear has never been the motivation behind anything pure or laudable or heroic.  Fear, in large part, caused the situation we find ourselves in now.  Fear will not raise us out of can only drag us deeper into it. 
Fear doesn't work.  Let's find a solid platform of some other emotion--loyalty, charity, courage, determination--from which to mount our resistance. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Not Handling It

Three weeks ago, the people of the United States of America chose to elect an idiot monster to the highest office in the land.

I've been trying so hard to assimilate this information.  To keep calm, accept the fact, and make a plan for moving forward.

I have had zero success in this effort. 

Our President-elect is a psychotic, entitled egocentric with the impulse control of a five-year-old.  With enough money to buy the silence--or silencing--of anyone who might even appear to oppose him. 

We are SO screwed. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

I'm Back

First there was the election.  Then I had to drag the shattered pieces of  myself up out of the pit of despair and glue them back together so I could go on a vacation that had been arranged before we even realized it was going to take place the weekend after the election (and of course, before we realized--because we never could have conceived of it--that Cheeto Jesus was going to win the election.)  Once I actually applied myself to the vacation, it seemed...easier?  wiser? just shove the whole mess into the back of my mind and deal with it after we got home.   Net result being, among other things, that I have fallen seriously behind on my challenge to reach 1300 posts by the end of the year.

But never fear, invisible audience!  I'm back, and ready to make it happen. 

This morning, a Facebook friend linked to this New York Times article; which, given the undeniable culpability of the mainstream media in the "surprise" triumph of Donald Trump, struck a nerve with me:


In it, the Times goes about putting together a fine little bit of investigative journalism, in true Monday-morning-quarterbacking tradition, in which it follows the genesis of a tidbit of "fake news" from the account of a twitter user with forty followers, to a re-tweeted, linked-to and overblown erroneous report seized upon by right-wing outlets and blasted across the internet.  It seemed typical that a venerable MSM outlet like the Times would prefer to scapegoat "citizen journalists" for the insane explosion of false news stories surrounding the candidates of our late presidential election,  racing around the globe at the speed of light.  So much easier than shining the light of culpability on their own weak, erratic and blatantly partial performance.  And I indicated as much to my friend.    

So rather than try to keep my sleepy eyes open long enough to turn the following comment thread into a decent essay, I'm going to reproduce said thread here, verbatim.    

Me:  It's interesting that the Times chose to perform this little bit of (highly unusual for these days) investigative reporting based on a private citizen's erroneous tweet.

I get that fake news burning across social media like wildfire is a problem. But perhaps the Times might also write an expose on how live reporting on major stories by mainstream media outlets like the Times itself becomes perverted and jumbled by this "need for speed" that seems to be the main priority in 21st-century journalism. Reports on breaking news have become an agonizing process of "react and retract."

I remember being frustrated as hell trying to glean the actual stories from the 24-hour garbage stream generated by the media during events like the Boston Marathon bombing and Newtown. In both those cases, the lives of innocent men were nearly ruined when the MSM circulated erroneous identifications of possible suspects based on...what?

The point I'm trying to make (badly) is that the mainstream media are every bit as culpable as what they condescendingly refer to as "the blogosphere" for the genesis and spread of "fake news." They simply prefer to scapegoat the non-professionals rather than address their own sins.

Friend:  There's a very significant difference between professional news organizations which try to live up to their long-standing reputations for reliable reporting (and sometimes fail), and bullshit purveyors. The NY Times and Washington Post have had to publicly apologize for such failures, but I would not compare them with the likes of Breitbart, Infowars, AddictingInfo and Occupy Democrats, to name a few of the worst.

Me:  I disagree. I no longer see a SIGNIFICANT difference between "professional" news organizations and what you call "bullshit purveyors." If the difference was black and white, we wouldn't need an agency like snopes to discern what is real and what is false. There would be such an obvious difference between truth and bullshit that we could simply turn to our favorite news organizations with their "long-standing reputations" to get the real story. You and I both know this is no longer the case.

The model of careful, well-researched factual reporting has been completely scrapped by the 21st-century MSM. In video journalism, because news is no longer public service information, it is entertainment; and in print media because they have bowed to the immediacy of the internet. Most daily newspapers are no longer any more than human interest magazines. They don't report the news, because by the time a newspaper can research and print a story, it's no longer "news." And when a story is so huge they are compelled to report--such as Newtown or Boston--they fall into the same trap of hurry-up hearsay as the citizen bloggers and bullshit rags. Sure, the reputable news agencies might go back and retract misinformation, but the problem is, in this day of tweet and retweet, link and re-link, it's impossible to unring the bell of bad reporting. As this NYT article aptly demonstrated.

Perhaps the debacle of this election cycle can regenerate a market for "slow," factual news. Perhaps we are learning that REAL reporting takes time, and we can...we MUST...refine the art of PATIENCE while waiting for the truth.

Friend:  You don't see much of a difference. We will have to disagree on that. Even my local papers are more reliable than many of the websites that end up in my FB newsfeed. In this post-truth era, with a President-elect who is infamous for making stuff up and for re-tweeting nonsense with no basis in fact, we are going to need reliable news sources, and a healthy dose of skepticism is going to be required too - even when reading the NY Times. And we all need to pause before we pass along what could be fake news to our FB friends. When a bell cannot be un-rung, it is important not to ring it in error.

Me:   I think the difference between you and me on this question lies in location, location, location. You basically live in New of the largest and most diverse cities in the world. I live in the sticks. And yet, even out here in the sticks, we USED to have decent news. Both the Oregonian and the Eugene Register Guard were award-winning newspapers in their heyday. Both have been reduced to what amounts to daily versions of "Parade" magazine. They don't even bother reporting on national or international news to any extent at all. Newspapers all over the country have suffered the same fate. Possibly NYC is one of the last bastions of worthwhile print reporting...I don't know. I don't live there. I could subscribe to the New York Times...but I'm of the opinion that even that venerable paper has succumbed to the realities of 21st-century media, and relies more on its reputation than on any actual prize-winning reporting being done today.

And, trust me, I'm not defending the crap websites like Occupy Democrats or AddictingInfo. I realized a long time ago that they were simply left-wing versions of shit like Breitbart or the Free Republic. They are no less guilty of the crime against humanity that IS the election of DJT to the Presidency than the alt-rightest of "news" outlets. My general method is to discount anything that is obvious incitement, and fact check the rest. Can't say I was never guilty of "sharing" bullshit during this past election cycle...but I will be MUCH more cautious in future.

I feel strongly that the media played a H.U.G.E. role in the national tragedy unfolding before our eyes this sad November.   Social media and the blogosphere were a disaster, yes.  But the mainstream media completely bungled everything about this election, from soup to nuts.  Their new mission statement of news media as entertainment rather than information has served the American people a great big shit sandwich.  If we can't figure out how to drag the news media back to truth and public service, kicking and screaming though that will surely be, we will not only continue to be stuck with the political monstrosity we now have, but it will get much, much worse.  Hard to know how much farther down there is to go...but if we don't make some drastic changes NOW, we're going to find out. 

Rise Up, Sisters