Feelings trump the news

In the wake of the testifying of former FBI Director James Comey, I’ve noticed a fairly significant rhythm and rhyme in the way that the media has been reporting on the event.

Aside from the non-revelation that a billionaire would dare to be outrageous with the truth for the sake of personal benefit, I am surprised a little that the headlines seem to focus upon Comey’s assessment of Trump’s character, rather than the actual news stories I took from the testimony. Those being:

  • Then Attorney-General, Loretta Lynch, asked Comey to call the investigation into Clinton a “matter” – effectively removing any kind of insidious tone to the process – to which Comey actually complied.
  • Comey was the leaker of information, albeit indirectly (not a crime in this instance, but certainly questionable for a public servant).
  • The New York Times was “almost entirely wrong” about the alleged contact between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

It is no great surprise that media outlets are very biased in their coverage, and their glossing over these particular points does make me understand why trust in them is at an all-time low.

However, many would distill this down to being a left-right issue, when I think it crosses party lines and starts treading into “establishment elite” versus their outgroup. Ever since the US election in November 2016, there has been zero let-up in the attacks on the person who the people voted for. These attacks have come from Democrats, the media (both left and right), the majority of social media sites, and even Republicans.

I don’t care for Trump, personally. However, I was happy to let him see out his first term and watch him make an ass out of himself, letting the system oust him over time. However, it appears that the powers-that-be are not content with this timeframe and are wanting to hurry things along. This concerted effort, I am sure, has not gone unnoticed with those moderate people who were on the fence with Trump, and are now seeing rich elite entities poo-pooing the peoples’ choice and trying to have it removed.

I am aware that when it comes to conspiracy theories, that if you are unable to name a “they”, then the theory is just paranoid delusion. I’ll deal with this later, I think.

Modern Day Philosophers

Comedians are Modern Day Philosophers, goes the thinking of some. “Hogwash” goes mine.

In the brief moments of pure, arrogant hubris, I consider trying out comedy as a vocation. Then I hop onto twitter and read opinion articles, and then nope the fuck out. Comedy is far too fucking serious.

It’s not that it’s not funny. Some of it is. It’s just that it’s something that is hugely scrutinised. If it’s not the “parallel thinking” of Amy Schumer that’s under the microscope, it’s the policing of jokes for what harm they may bring. Jon Stewart once lauded himself for being a greater news source for the youth than traditional media, after which the next few years saw talk shows like his turn into the traditional media.

Comedy can make very striking observations, however they typically are only superficial assessments of any given topic. Any comedy piece I’ve seen that tries to delve too far into any given topic usually ends up pandering to the audience, and descends into what I call “Woo Comedy”.

The kind of comedy that usually gets one or two lonesome voices in the crowd to yelp “Woo” before everyone else awkwardly applauds afterward – possibly because there are stage staff who are telling the audience when to applaud.

I do not find Woo Comedy funny. I do not find Woo Comedy informative. I do not find Woo Comedy useful even as philosophy. In fact, to call comedians philosophers is to insult those who might actually study philosophy.

Woo Comedy is preaching.

When a Comedian is telling me what topics should be taboo, I disagree. When a comedian spends more time insulting their political opposites, I turn off. When a comedian tries to wrap something up as intellectualism, I cringe so hard my face folds in half.

This isn’t to say what comedians should and shouldn’t do. Oh no, quite the opposite. They are free to do and say as they want. I just won’t be watching. And I’m not so arrogant to assume that my thinking is any different to many others out there. In fact, I dare say that my view is not unique in anyway, and that comedians serving as shills for politics are only going to slowly erode in relevance before they become merely preachers to the already converted, while they continue to have their lunch cut by others who actually try to convince moderates in the middle.

Maybe then they’ll realise what comedians were all along; Not philosophers, but jesters.

Remember Fake News?

This is an old issue, but when I look at the term “Fake News” I am remembered when it was gleefully rolled out by the media when they were trying to come to terms with the Trump election victory in November 2016. So quick they were to discredit non-mainstream media, they deployed “Fake News” whenever they could in order to make sure their readers never strayed from their official, polished line.

There’s an adage in martial arts in that you never bring a weapon to a battle if you don’t have an effective defence should it be taken away and used against you.

And this is what I saw after CNN stupidly reported on a story involving Trump’s alleged behaviour in a Moscow hotel room. Having reported a false story, CNN had the term “Fake News” volleyed back at them.

Suddenly the media was caught with their pants down. Their weapon had been turned against them, and it was all on display for the public to see. There was no sweeping it under the rug. They had misreported and were quickly lumped into the basket with those they had initially sought to discredit.

Scrabbling for a defence, media decided to “retire” the term, and Seth Meyers admitted that “Fake News” as a thing was busted.

The media has since distanced itself from the term, although I do see it regularly deployed in conservative circles now, usually to mock the very media who had created the term.

I personally will never forget how “Fake News” seemed to be the cherished cry from traditional media – no matter how much is it now a baby of far-right dens. The media dropped the ball there, failing to make sure their house was in order before the decided to smear everyone else.

I hope they see the lesson.

Google a competitor, or a compliant fall guy?

It is fairly common knowledge that a most dangerous animal is one that has been cornered. When it views its situation as dire, and sees no option that won’t cause harm, it is likely to lash out with ferocity and with no concern for its own safety.

At least, that’s how many would view the actions of the Wall Street Journal, and Gawker’s undead fragments as signs of a devastated media frightened at their dwindling relevance. I am referring to the idiocy that surrounded Youtube’s most prominent figure, Pewdiepie, and his wildly offensive joke.

Because this occurred in February of 2017 (ie two months prior to the writing of this entry), the refresher is that Youtube user and world-renown screecher “Pewdiepie” made an offensive anti-semitic joke, so the Wall Street Journal went straight to the company with whom Pewdiepie was going to work on a project, Disney, and applied pressure to the uber-sensitive mega corporation.

The ever-averse-to-controversy Disney ended the project with Pewdiepie, and traditional media danced to the merry beat of their own self-righteousness.

For some this was an act of simple justice. For others, this was seen as an attempt by the traditional media to smear the alternative channels through which many people have been obtaining their information. Traditional media’s audience numbers, from accounts I’ve read, is dwindling and they are staring at their own irrelevance. Advertisers are wary that using traditional media may not be the best way to reach consumers. Newspapers and television know this. So, the attack on Pewdiepie now seems far more nefarious.

The thinking goes that, because of Youtube’s harbouring of ne’er-do-wells such as Pewdiepie, that Google now fears advertiser withdrawal. As a result, channels on Youtube featuring alternative views are facing monetisation issues, in that the money is being withdrawn. Creators are not receiving payment for the views they bring in, and Google is denying ad revenue.

Some think that Google is running scared and have gone defensive. These people think that traditional media is to blame.

I am not so sure, though.

Okay, maybe the trad-media is partly to blame. However, I feel that Google is now a company so powerful and influential, I don’t think it cares about ad revenue. This is a company so packed to the gills with money, and with a reach so far and wide, that something as petty as money is beyond them.

I don’t think they’re punishing creators because they fear loss of revenue. I think they’re willing to take the hit to justify having alternative views pushed into silence. Withdrawing advertisers is a convenient excuse to deny livelihoods to alternative voices. By taking revenue away from alternative views, these people need to find other ways to fund themselves – and these other revenue sources take energy away from their passion of creating content.

And it’s not like these voices can move to a different platform, either. No other platform has the eyes and ears and reach of Youtube. To uproot the channel and move to Dailymotion, or Liveleak would hack the audience to a fraction of its size.

No, I don’t think Google is caving to advertisers. I think with the amount of reach, influence and outright power they hold, the almighty dollar is but a mere minnow. The bigger fish to fry is their ability to control information and influence powers and entire demographics. Google is past money and wants actual influence. It will cut off its nose to spite the part of its face it doesn’t want seen. The loss of monetary revenue from Youtube is a pittance compared to the cost of ensuring that you can have a population follow your dogma.

Google doesn’t care if Youtube is delegitimised as a platform. If anything, I feel they would champion it. If they can sweep dissenting voices away, and direct more eyeballs to their causes, then that only helps them.

Read Wikileak’s take on Google’s Eric Schmidt and see past the benign corporation clothes to the find the spook underneath.

Google might have been pressured to demonetise some, but I don’t think they were too reluctant.

Polls are dead

In an environment in where there is only one socially acceptable answer for anyone who values their social status, I am sure people will largely gravitate toward that one answer. Those who publicly go against the grain either have nothing to lose, or have enough backing behind them that they can support themselves.

This is one of the reasons why every single poll everywhere in the lead up to the US election was saying with unbridled certainty that Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in.

And we all know how that shook out.

How did the polls get it so wrong? I am sure the answer is obvious, but I’ll reiterate; it’s because those surveyed weren’t being honest.

When the media is telling you that a candidate is one of the most horrible people on the planet, is the next version of Hitler, and is ultimately going to cause the implosion of the United States, whereas the other candidate is going to be a history-making President, who are you going to tell others you support?

So when a young pollster with a clipboard thrusts their survey in your face, and you have to choose between the widely denounced Nazi and the widely revered stateswoman, you’re not exactly going to pump your fist in the air with a proud sieg heil.

As it has been said by countless others, people can say all they want out loud, but when they’re in the polling booth with no judgemental eyes on them, they can choose whoever they like, without the discerning glare of a pollster silently asking, “Really?”

However, this has extended in polling in approval ratings, I feel. The media is still, despite the lesson being very clear in the lead up to the election, attacking Trump at any angle they can find. He is still being labelled as some of the most horrible isms you can care to unearth. So is it any surprise that Trump’s approval ratings are so low?

I am not suggesting that his approval ratings are the opposite. Oh no. I am just saying that there are just as much reason to believe the polls as there is to not believe them. There’s a reason why “Pulling a Takei” is now a thing. Polls could reveal tomorrow that Trump’s approval ratings are the highest of any President ever, and I’ll still call bullshit on it.

The surveys can reveal all they want, but I am forever dubious on their sources until the media pulls their head in. The smear campaign against Trump, whether warranted or not, has sullied and tainted any poll or survey on him.

Polls are useless. They aren’t a good method of surveying anymore. Polls are dead.

The protest of partisanship

I have long been wary of those who “doth protest too much”. When somebody or something is being overly active in regard to their apparent beliefs, I tend to ask questions as to the motivations of why they feel the need to yell the loudest on certain issues.

This isn’t to necessarily say that those who are seen to vehemently oppose something are, in fact, closet supporters of that thing. However, that could be the case in some instances.

Time magazine recently ran a piece on brands having to “pick a side“, especially in these tumultuous political times (which is a euphemism for “Trump’s in charge, yo”). The article suggests that brands and corporations need to highlight just how virtuous they are, so their customers can, I dunno, support those who align best with their ideology?

Is this what we want to really start? We start to set our purchasing decisions over who supports our team? Why don’t we just get a white marker and draw a line down the middle of the country and just be fucking done with it? Democrats to the north and Republicans to the south, while California fucks off into the Pacific.

It’s bad enough these days that companies vehemently put on a veneer of support for whatever cause they feel is important, perhaps for fear of not pandering to the blaring chorus of social media (who never seem to be satisfied), but I cannot see anything good coming of telling companies to take a side. Businesses should create demand for something, not cater to our allegiances.

Because, at the end of the day, if it’s proven that one team is more lucrative than the other, then you will see a lot businesses jumping on that bandwagon dishonestly. What worries me is that while people can put on a face to suggest that they like Column A, they might secretly support Column B. Would people give them a pass, simply because they’ve paid lip service to Column A?

That’s a rhetorical question, in that the answer potentially scares me.

Celebrity delusion and detachment

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I think there is something that prominent people and celebrities need to realise, and realise fast. However, I do understand that they may find it difficult to make this realisation as the position they now find themselves is new and alien. But now it has been smashed upon them with the haste of a bowling ball hurtling down the alley.

For the rest of us, though, the writing was on the wall.

This is because we have been expressing our distaste to the thoughts and concerns of the wealthy celebrity class, and typically it has gone unheard. The wealthy celebrity class would not know of any kind of dissent with the commoners, as we all were still buying movie tickets, music and other forms of entertainment. For the most part, we were still on-board with our alliance to the “correct” people and our distaste for the “bad” people (who were typically conservative). Those who denigrated the work of these artists were just trolls who weren’t to be taken seriously.

So, all was good while we watched the movies, listened to the music and elected the correct people into the White House.

But suddenly it turned.

Peoples’ wealth was decimated in the crash of 2008. Jobs vanished, and the worth of our pile of bricks on land dropped through the floor. Everyone tightened their belts and tried to do their best to stay sheltered and fed. The Global Financial Crisis was pointed squarely at Republican excesses and deception, and as a result the people voted for change. They voted for Obama.

Cut to 2016, and the much promised change didn’t eventuate. In fact, if anything, there was a very clear impression that (with the wealth gap growing) it was only the poor people who had to shoulder the burden of Bad Times. So, while everyday Jill’s and Joe’s were searching behind the couch cusions for candle money, this kinda shit was going on.

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Yes, throughout all these hard times, sales boomed for cars that cost three times as much as a modest house.

The message, whether intentional or not, was clear: economic recovery wasn’t for the poor people.

Of course, celebrities are acting with shock and incredulity that the commoners dare to not follow their instructions on how to vote. They act outraged that Trump seems to follow through on his campaign promises (which is very un-politicianlike), yet they still decide to not honour their promise (which is very politicianlike) to move to Canada in the event of Trump’s victory. Yet they continue to stand at lecterns and repeat their sermons in the hope that they can set the flock straight again.

But what this all boils down to is something simple: Celebrity opinions have been rejected.

The people aren’t listening anymore. If anything the people are quite willing to move against a celebrity’s voice. Heck, those celebrities who threatened to move to Canada in the event of Trump’s win didn’t realise that what they offered the people wasn’t a threat, but actually an incentive to vote for Trump. Celebrities, I feel, are over estimating their value.

Lena Dunham said she’ll move to Canada? So did Jon Stewart? Well, shit, if that isn’t an excuse to troll them and send them away, I don’t know what is.

People, I have learned, typically tend to know when they’re being preached to, and they resist dogma. This can only be highlighted by Shia Labeouf’s art project, in where people trolled it, recognising and mocking the lunacy of celebrity excess.

Merryl Streep can challenge Trump all she likes – she is welcome to – but I think her and her ilk fail to understand that all they are doing is preaching to the already converted, galvanising their opposition, and doing precisely zero to convince people in the middle that they shouldn’t vote Trump again.