I’ve recently been hearing people complain, at the same time, about both the new media meaning that news come from so many angles that no one seems to know what to believe so people believe all these reporters without CREDENTIALS and about how people believe nothing and look for holes in everything that’s reported.
Since the people I’ve been hearing complain are fairly conventionally liberal (what I would call establishment “liberal” – they don’t think about it much, but they tend to buy the party line, because everyone who is anyone repeats it) this is of course one and the same complaint. They want to quote Leonard Cohen their “mirrored night” back.
Because for them news are a matter of “being in the know like everyone else who is in the know” they want an easy source of information that all the right people believe, a guided conversation that is reflected in all the conversations at the water cooler. They don’t want to know the truth, so much, as they want to know what to believe so they won’t be revealed as dumb at water cooler conversations.
One of the things they seem to focus on is the “Sandy Hook” conspiracy theories as being particularly nefarious because they “are people’s attempts to deflect from the conversation we must have about the causes of the massacre.” This reference to the Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theories baffled me a little – or would have, if I couldn’t decode it – because though there are some (when aren’t there about a nationally reported event?) even I have only managed to run into one. And I frequent the “out there” libertarian blogs which are, by definition, conspiracy central.
But the reason to focus on THAT conspiracy – not, say, the nine eleven conspiracies that brainless stars believe – is that the theories are nefarious because they deflect from the administration’s attempts to shove gun control down our unwilling throats and to use a school shooting as a pretext.
Because only a fool or a sadist speaks the truth in social circumstances, I almost bit through my tongue not to answer “Okay, do let’s talk about the causes of the massacre: improper care for the mentally ill; or perhaps families that are not families because each parent is doing his thing and pursuing his bliss; no fault divorce?; families with no father?”
That of course, was not what they were talking about, but gun control, which has not ever in fact, stopped ANY massacres.
Are these people, then, total stooges of the administration? Do they want government controlled news?
Of course not. What you have to understand – particularly if you’re younger than I and grew up in the new information era – is that the news used to be something you perused to know what everyone knew.
It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it matters that there is a consensus reality. Most people out there only want that. And their complaints about the new media is that they’ve been denied that. They no longer know “what to believe” to be socially acceptable.
Having been accused by a friend of being “too cerebral” as a writer (guys, I like explosions and soppy love stories, sometimes in ONE book, so I don’t see what in hell he means) I’m probably making my case worse when I say that’s never what I wanted to know.
Maybe it was very early on reading the Times report on incidents in the Portuguese revolution, which were not only wrong to what I’d witnessed, but managed to be more wrong and narrative-y than the more or less state controlled Portuguese newspapers of the time. (Who needs state control, when every journalist believes the communists are ALWAYS on the side of angels?)
Maybe it was the fact that at one time I wanted to be a journalist – a real one – maybe it’s the fact that fiction counts for nothing if you don’t try to reflect a deeper truth.
Whatever the cause, when I read the news – in any media – what I’m trying to look for is the truth.
So to me, the same thing counted for reading the “real” newspapers twenty years ago and reading the blogs now. I used the same tests: what a commenter yesterday referred to as “reality testing” – does this accord with my experience of how things happen? Okay, suppose it does, next, does this accord with stories about similar incidents I’ve heard from people I trust? Okay, suppose it does. Apply Occam’s Razor. Is this the simplest explanation for observed facts? If it involves a conspiracy, does it necessitate hundreds of peripheral people collaborating?
The nine-eleven conspiracy fails on that. The people in those airliners undoubtedly existed, and I don’t see them being walked out of their lives forever, into some sort of witness protection program and NEVER FOUND AGAIN. (Beyond its failing on “how things happen” because fire does indeed melt steel – rolls eyes.)
I will confess that the “too many people in the conspiracy” has now failed me twice: the jorno-list thing. I simply wouldn’t have believed it wouldn’t have blown up earlier or again (since I’m fairly sure it exists again.) And the Hide the Decline ditto.
OTOH these are not random people. Everyone in the conspiracy is a true believer, and each of their careers depend on it – so I should have paid more attention to “is this how things happen?” because it invalidates the “too many people.” After all, I’ve seen this in fiction, where we’ve managed to have the impression of lockstep simply due to the gatekeepers and those of us who disagreed being too afraid for our careers to say anything.
But the point is, I’ve always done that, my whole life, because I always wanted the truth. The reason I wanted the truth is because if you don’t know the real causes of things and what is really going on, you can’t anticipate the effects. What is really going on – as opposed to what you’ve been told – might necessitate a reaction to prevent the true effect of what is going on from killing you. It’s not just “What you don’t know can kill you” it’s “what you think you know can kill you.”
What I heard reflects the normal person’s frustration with not knowing what to believe to “fit in.” They view news not as information, but as a system of social cohesion.
They don’t seem to realize social cohesion is usually created – in the modern state – by rulers, with intent to lead the people for their purposes. They’ve forgotten – or never heard about – the “news” apparatus of Hitler and Stalin. And they clearly haven’t been paying attention to the successive “summers of recovery” even as we sink deeper into penury and morass. Or if they have, they believe that if only we believed– (Click your heels and say “there’s no place like mainstream news.”) — the economy WOULD have recovered (the average person on the street seems to have clue zero what makes the economy go, or downright wrong ideas “price measures labor” or “money is gold based.” “If we believed in it, socialism would work” is about a same-order fallacy.)
I for one prefer a news system in which I can filter from many dissenting voices. And I test EVERYTHING.
And part of this reflects the fact that the left has in fact managed to politicize EVERYTHING. (They weren’t just whistling Dixie about “the personal is political”.) I realized that at the con as an otherwise very nice young woman said that her panel on steampunk had been interrupted by a very rude bestselling author who called them polite fascists and went on about how they longed for a return to British Imperialism. She was bewildered by this, since she likes the setting for the costumes and the gadgets. And she said in a plaintive tone “I don’t know why he wanted to do that. We’re not political. I hate politics and I don’t think it belongs anywhere near your fiction.”
While she was right that the author was insufferably rude and that most people involved in steampunk are in it for the manners, the costumes and the sense that at that time civilization was going somewhere – she is wrong about the argument being about “politics.”
The argument is in fact about history. (And had I been there, I’d have folded that author’s words all in corners and made him eat them – since he’d already broken decorum.)
In that case, because there was no point yelling at the very nice author, I had to bite my tongue again. What she didn’t want near fiction was not “politics” it was HISTORY. And when you refuse to refute the skewed view of history being forced on you, you are in fact accepting it as the consensus.
History is just slightly older news. In history as in news, what you don’t know can kill you and what you think you know can kill you FASTER.
You might not be interested in what is really happening; what is really happening is interested in you.
Those who forget history and ignore current events aren’t destined to repeat them – the twentieth century has shown us, by and large they’re destined to die from it.