The so-called “news” (ha ha ha ha ha) media are bad for your health. They’re bad for your personal health. They’re bad for the health of society. They’re just plain bad. I think at this point we all know it. We all know that the pompous claims about being watchdogs for democracy, the Fourth Estate, speakers of truth to power (oh, spare me!) have long since been crushed under the wheels of “Jessica Biel Goes Shopping in Auckland” etc.
Sure, I’ll admit there are teeny tiny corners of what we call the mainstream media (MSM) that still do some of that stuff. But they’re teeny and they’re tiny. And if MSM ever did more good than harm (I don’t believe much in halcyon days), that time has long since disappeared. Simply put: Whatever good the media might do or stand for is surpassed in great measure by the damage and destruction it wreaks. It doesn’t speak truth to power, instead it narrows our view of humanity and the world; it reinforces envy (wealth, beauty things) and stereotypes (where to start on this one? Read through some of this. OK, that was mean. That was click bait, i.e. mysterious link. The link is to the Treaty Resource Centre’s ‘Media and Māori’ section), it tries to tell us how we should think, what we should consider important, it plays down or avoids altogether so much that is significant while filling our lives with the most stomach turning trivia… (I should stop now) I think deep in our hearts, we all know it. We listen to them when they bang on about freedom of the press, and figure, well, we don’t want to live in a totalitarian society. OK, so the media suck, but it’s better than being stuck with Pravda. And we go along with it. We accept their inflated view of their own importance and, off we go, falling for the click bait. Feeling the blood pressure rise. Then becoming overwhelmed with the inevitable regret that we clicked in the first place.
You know what it’s like, that feeling that you’re helping a drug dealer sell more meth, or P, or whatever it might be. The realisation that you’re reinforcing the use of such cheap, smelly, stinky bait. That you are what lies behind all those media people who, when challenged say, “but we’re giving people what they want to read”. All because you just had to click. C’mon people. Take control of your own digits!!
Back in the pre-internet days, newspaper headlines were generally aimed at telling you as much as possible in the fewest words. The editors and subs couldn’t track how many eyes continued down the page, or turned to the next instead. Now, though, they can. And this is where it’s left us: (a) knowing the media is destructive and (b) knowing we’re propping it up. Which is why I think we must give it up. I know, it’s not easy. And you need to take this in steps. Steps I’ll be incoherently outlining in a series of posts. (If you want the whole series, of which this is the first, click here.) Here are a few points for starters.
1. You get to continue to check out the NZ Herald and Stuff and TV News web sites (whichever mainstream outlet is your P) BUT you do not get to click. Just don’t click. On anything. If you try this for a couple of days, you’ll find that you get more than enough of a fix on the general discussion going on out there in mainstream land — enough that you don’t feel entirely cut off from your fellow humans. After a while, I predict you’ll start to realise that you learn almost nothing useful or worthwhile by clicking and reading the content of the story. But, if you don’t believe me and/or find this not clicking thing difficult, some suggestions are included in the points below.
2. If it’s an overseas story, then go visit an overseas website and read about it there. And try to pick one that doesn’t use hideous click bait. (Click bait pushers include sites like BuzzFeed, HuffPost, etc.) The Guardian is variable on this score, but acceptable. The New York Times remains pleasantly stodgy and passes the anti-bait test. Oh, and if it’s a “local angle” on an international story, I can assure you that you will learn absolutely nothing from the “local” version. Admit it, you know what you’re going to get from “Ebola: Kiwis Shouldn’t be ‘Overly’ Worried.” Nothing! You just do NOT need to click on that.
3. If it’s a local story but you really really want to know more about it, rather than clicking, check one of the alt sites that posts unfiltered media releases, like Scoop.co.nz Odds are you’ll find the local story came from a press release and it’s right there, on the site. (Scoop also has some original content, and often it’s good. Gordon Campbell, for example, lives there.) A moderately acceptable option is to also look for it at the Radio New Zealand news site.
3 (a). If it’s a local story, and it’s original investigative reporting that you’re not going to get from Scoop etc. and you really want to read about it — and I’m pretty sure you can usually tell if it’s decent journalism without clicking, especially if you’ve scouted the landscape and made sure it’s nowhere else — then you can click. The beauty of this is that you’ll be reinforcing the teeny tiny bit of good stuff MSM sometimes does, while not reinforcing the tsunami of crap. Perfect!
4. At this point, you’ll realise there’s almost nothing that appears in or on NZ’s mainstream media that you need to click on. And if it’s just that you want to click on it because, well, you’re a bit addicted to the bait…you’ve just got to tough that out.
5. Social Media: Social media are among the worst purveyors of mainstream media crap. At this point, I think its sole purpose is to play into the hands of the purveyors of click bait. And MSM love it. Oh, how they love it when Twitter and FB get all exercised about a story they wrote and presented in a way designed to get Twitter and FB all exercised. God, we’re like lemmings. (Actually, I don’t know anything about lemmings.) Some “friend” on FB or Twitter will post a link, express some outrage and before you know it, the bait is trending and the drug sellers are happy. I personally think the answer is to get the hell off social media. If you care about your own health and the health of society, just give that stuff up. Go cold turkey (If you can’t, um, what does that say about whether or not you’re a free individal?) Hard? Yeah. And I appreciate that’s too much for some, so if you can’t quit social media, just don’t click, don’t ‘like’ and don’t bloody retweet it.
6. The Left, blogs etc. I’m a raving lefty, but lefties are among the worst suckers for mainstream media crap and bait you could ever meet. They don’t just lazily retweet or post links on FB about which they fool themselves that they’re activists by “liking” or even posting a comment. No, some of them even devote entire blogs to expressing their outrage about the latest MSM outrage. (At the same time as whining about MSM hegemony!) Again, yeah, you get the picture, all they’re doing is reinforcing the MSM they so loathe, with all its click bait mentality. This outrage in turn gets FB’d and tweeted and so it goes. Just stop. Please. Stop. I know, I know, I’ve done this. On this very blog. And I’ll probably do it again. But at the very least, be aware you’re doing it, try not to do it unless it’s really really important/necessary; try to find alternatives, try to write posts that do not link to MSM crap or click bait. Go back and re-read points 1 and 2.
So, go off and practice that. Try it for a week or so and see how you go. I guarantee you’ll feel better. Clearer. Calmer. There’s a lot of room in life for media of value — by which I mean, books, literature, poetry, good movies, alt media feature writing. But if all your time is taken up wallowing around in the mire that is NZ’s MSM, you won’t get to enjoy any of it. Do it for yourself. And for the health of society. And stay tuned: I expect to be posting more on this issue in the future. Weaning ourselves off this drug is hard. It’s a long and difficult road, and we’ll all be frequently falling off the wagon. But, people, mixed and bad metaphors aside: Yes We Can!