‘Tis the season to be snarly

December 22, 2006

One of the drawbacks of the holiday season is that I get exposed to a lot of mass-market media, thanks to the proliferation of television sets in banks, post offices and other public spaces. At home, the television stays off unless we’re watching a video or a DVD. But outside, whenever I stand on line at the bank or the supermarket, chances are I’ll spend a good amount of time in the company of either Faux News or CNN, or some afternoon “reality” show, and the ranting vacuousness and nastiness of mass-market culture is literally nauseating to me.

I’ve long been aware that corporatized television news has only two buttons to push, anger and fear, and it does so incessantly. But nerve endings are easily deadened, so with every year that goes by the button-pushing gets closer to hammering. Television news has been a bad joke for decades, but spend an hour or so watching what currently passes for information and you may find yourself deprived of the power of laughter. Something burns down, something blows up, somebody gets shot and then the president says something that’s only important because a television camera was turned on when he said it. Day after day, hour after hour, this is apparently all that ever happens in the world.

I look at the clerks who have to stand under these TVs for their entire working days, or the people who go home and bathe their brains in this drivel, and I wonder why straitjackets aren’t America’s number one fashion accessory. This is not a life-sustaining cultural environment. It’s an unending parade of reasons to be fearful, hateful and vengeful.

Last night, while on the way to the store, I dropped in at Hoboken Pizza and had to endure Bill O’Reilly holding forth on the latest media sensation: the pissing match between Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump. Actually, O’Reilly began the show with his recap of the best and worst of the year. The bummer? Iraq, of course, where the casualties mount daily and terrorists remain unimpressed by the president’s strutting. But hey, on the plus side, the massed armies of what O’Reilly calls “secular progressives” are in full retreat from the war on Christmas and some states are getting tough on child molesters — all victories for the Fox News paladin.

It’s truly bizarre to see the fantasy cocoon wingers are spinning around themselves in the face of implacable reality. O’Reilly takes note of the ongoing horror in Iraq, then immediately leaps into imaginary struggles with Santa bashers and judges who want to flood the streets with sexual predators. They’re struggles with no blood shed and victories assured, and yet the rhetoric is ten times more spiteful and angry.

I have presents to wraps, cards to mail and food to cook, so I won’t be blogging much this weekend. But let me suggest that you give yourself a Christmas present and unplug the TV. Read something great, listen to something beautiful, eat something tasty and kiss someone loveable. Stay away from the acrid television universe where an obviously delusional president is less newsworthy than a beauty contest winner almost losing her crown because she likes hard partying, and where Donald Trump’s latest salvos against Rosie O’Donnell — last time I heard, he was calling her an animal — get replayed every hour on the hour.

It’s all non-events wrapped in nonsense wrapped in triviality. Let it pass. We’ve all got more important things to do than pay any more attention to this crap.

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One Response to “‘Tis the season to be snarly”

  1. Caveat Says:

    Just dropped by to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and to thank you for your outstanding blog.

    Great essay, as usual. I think the trouble is that there is way too much air time to be filled with so-called ‘news’ these days. When you view the kinds of trivial stories that get repeat coverage, it is quite ludicrous.

    But I really did just want to wish you a good Christmas and a great and sucessful New Year.


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