Getting ready to watch the Republican debate. And I haven’t gotten any comments and perhaps no readership here so I decided to use a nice provocative title. People love provocative titles, they like things that surprise, shock and amaze them. And in order to guarantee one of these desired emotional responses they engage in various forms of self-deception, lies basically, so that what should be just news is somehow spectacular.
Here is an example: A recent study showed that at least 20% of women have been sexually assaulted. It is posted by various news outlets as, “shocking”, “surprising”, etc. Really? This study only validates the impression that I have that sexual assault is rampant and out of control. And not just against women too. So what kind of preparation is necessary to see such a story as anything but sad and disturbing?
Well first you have to tell yourself or have someone you trust tell you stories that we have given women the rights that they deserve, that we respect those rights, that our law enforcement system has an appropriate focus on sexual assault issues and effective means of intervening, that courts and juries are sensitive to these issues, etc. ad nauseam. Then you have to carefully keep your head in the sand and avoid any evidence to the contrary for months at a time. And, unless you have been the unfortunate victim of sexual assault, you can usually do this fairly easily. Of course not having been a victim it’s also easier to believe that such assaults only happen to people who are somehow bad, deserving or “asking for it.”
Then, low and behold, along comes the shocking story and you read it with prurient interest. But you must not go too deeply. You must not go so far as to find that you have been naive. And you must not keep the article or stats in memory for more than perhaps a week. That way you can be assured of having another satisfying emotional experience when the next article comes up in a few more months.
The same directed ignorance is, I believe, what informs the dominant news cycle which, in turn, influences what our politicians will choose to debate. (Didn’t think I would get back to the upcoming debate, did you?)
But whether the issue is sexual assault, corporate corruption, union busting or what have you, the proper consumption of the mainstream news cycle requires that you, as a viewer, accept the emotional tone dictated by the news outlet. You are required to have only such memories as serve the delivery and intended impact of the story. Sounds kinda controlling, doesn’t it? Of course it does. But what is really surprising is the massive complicity in our increasingly anti-intellectual culture.
That being said I am preparing to watch this upcoming debate with essentially the frame of mind which is needed for the likes of Jerry Springer or Maury Povich. I do not expect to learn anything useful. I expect to be entertained. Sort of like watching boxing. There may be a surprising punch or so but the attraction is the battle itself. Sadly nothing of consequence will be discussed in a meaningful way. There will be no serious analysis (might as well have John Madden’s rambling non-commentary).
And this debate will serve its function in the news cycle of keeping the real issues out of the forefront so that the proper emotional delivery can be made at the time when it will have the greatest effect. When? Oh, long about election time, I guess.