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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

(with apologies to King Bob)

By L Ron Brooks


THE HEARTLAND—You know what holiday norm I used to hate? Year-in-Review pieces in print or on TV. My feeling was always, “Lazy [blankety-blank blankity-blanker], I was there too; I still remember this stuff just happening. Why not find a real news story to cover?”

It occurs I haven’t seen any of those kinda od shows advertised yet this year. Funny, that. Already when we look back at 2020, it’s from over our shoulders and we only want to know one thing; it’s not still chasing us, is it? It isn’t even all the way behind us yet. I’m writing this the Monday morning 66% of the U.S. learned about the UK ‘variant’ on the virus. Ten more days to go and 2020 is still serving up fresh steaming loads of catastrophe and abomination.

I reckon that’s because it has momentum. And friends in lofty perches.

Who aren’t going anywhere next month.

2020 is not going to stop impacting our lives just as soon as it’s played offstage and its Leader escorted out by U.S. Marshalls come January 20th. The totem, the figurehead of all the calamity and chaos will be sidelined, but he was only the highest-profile public face of our societal dysfunction. He was our picture of Dorian Gray; we should have known something was up when he never seemed to grow a day older, but collectively the country was aging in dog years.

I run the TVboxmachine in the morning while I’m waiting for my brain to kick in. The default station is Channel 200, “News Mix.” It runs 4 screens simultaneously—configured like a zoom meeting but consisting of all the big cable news nets; CNN, Fox News, msnbc and the BBC. In real time and side by side.

This morning’s 7 o’clock lead story on three of the four global satellite networks was the new corona variant running roughshod over the UK and the warning that we’d inevitably be dealing with the same mishegas over here before very long. It wasn’t any kind of welcome news, but I felt better psychologically-prepared to deal with it eventually, knowing ahead of time it’s coming.

The people who won’t see it coming are the poor folks who turned on their TVs this morning to be greeted by Fox’s scowling picture of the President-Elect’s surviving son, accompanying an extensive ‘package’ supporting a narrative the network has been trying to sell for a while now that just isn’t gaining any traction. Just this morning the outgoing AG said the narrative in question had no empirical legal merit. The American people now know a crook when they see one, and we just don’t see an unethical person in the President-Elect no matter how hard Fox tries to sell us one.

Ironic it’s the current POTUS who taught us the meaning of ‘malarky.’

It’s the whole right-wingosphere, not just Fox News of course. But like our lame-duck-in-Chief, Fox is the most prominent, influential member of their branch of the disinformation consortium, therefore like him, they own an outsize share of the responsibility for deliberately helping deliver us to this sorry moment in time. And if we don’t take corrective action (next week’s ‘year-in-hyuuurk’ column), there’s no reason in the world for them to stop.

In the couple weeks running up to last month’s election, I’d see locals out and about in red campaign swag, four-letter acronym proudly front and center, and I’d approach them to talk about it. (If I’m wearing a Def Leppard tour t-shirt from 1983 in public, I have to be able to defend “Rock Brigade” or pick a different t-shirt. Right? I want to talk about the cool stuff I’m wearing. Like, doy!)

Approached that way, everyone was amenable. I presented myself as personally disinterested in politics but I thought people were interesting; could they please tell me which accomplishments exactly they liked best about their man. And to a one, they all said the same thing: 2016 GOP talking points, verbatim. It was like the last 4 years never happened. Then I’d find some part of what they said that I could honestly concur with, respond to that and thank them for their time.

I learned two things from the experiment. One, if you approach people with an open heart and no stomach for conflict… they’ll feel it and respond in kind. Even when they know they’re preaching to the unconverted, and they’ve been trained for decades to distrust people with whom they disagree. It was frankly encouraging. It was proof-of-concept for a wild idea I’ve been noodling with for a while:

If we simply stop arguing about stuff we can’t do anything about anyhow… civil conversations will still spontaneously break out to fill the void. That’s the whole ticket back to any semblance of a civil, more unified, less-hateful day-to-day life. Stop letting ourselves get sucked into pointless online and/or verbal conflicts.

Repeat as necessary until life makes sense again. Name a national holiday after me and we’ll call it square.

I’ve seen the Promised Land. I’ve crossed that Rubicon off the list; I’ll circle back to it next week.

The other theory that these conversations confirmed was that people are still people. We haven’t gotten dumber over the last quarter century by accident or radioactive-spiderbite gene mutation; we’ve been—with malice aforethought—dumbed-down in order to make millionaires into billionaires.

As soon as formerly-legitimate media outlets discovered that making its audience poorly-informed was quite a financially sustainable business model, well-placed scoundrels did what they always do; whatever would make them the most money. Gosh darn the torpedoes.

Cut to this awful year and the Business Model isn’t just moving pillows and reverse second-mortgages anymore, it’s actively enabling and abetting the spread of a global plague that is killing a 9/11’s-worth of Americans every day. With new twists and turns still coming daily—what the hell, today there’s a ‘variant’?—all the real-world developments that Fox is demonstrably not adequately delivering to its audience makes the news channel and the people who work there actual, active participants in the ongoing bloodletting.

Targeting their own audience exclusively, no less. Brings to mind a paraphrase of the infamous Vietnam-era piece of earned wisdom, “We had to kill the audience to retain it.”

It’s objectively absurd. If Fox News’s coverage of the world in ruins were made into a movie, it could only be a pitch-black dark comedy; one that opened among the charred ruins of a near-future dystopia, then flash-backed to tell the story of the perfectly-foreseeable series of errors, schemes and miscalculations that brought about said dystopia. Jack Black would be involved creatively at some level.

The old saying, “Evil succeeds when good people do nothing,” implicitly depends on there being evil already afoot. To stand by and not render aid when you could have is complicity; what is it when you’re in a position to help but choose instead to add accelerant to the conflagration?

It ought to be what it is: downright criminal.


L Ron Brooks is an author, educator and repeatedly-rejected early vaccine volunteer, waiting for the TRO to run out to write about it.