The River

Thursday, August 24, 2006

What do I think?

(Frank asked)

I think I’m watching a TV show. I think all of us have watched so much TV that we have become TV. We have become watchers of others' lives, and these lives have no meaning other than – the asshole, the smart aleck, the evil mastermind, the goofy one, the neurotic, the hooker with a heart of gold. They've been slotted in their one-dimensional roles, but we have escaped their fate. We’re watching them, not the other way around.

I think the War on Terror is, for the majority of Americans, a TV show. Unreality is our reality. The United States of Fantasyland. This state of affairs gives enormous power and advantage to the owners of mass media. They do indeed control the horizontal and the vertical. The “TV show” frame excludes everything of importance and spins simplistic and increasingly fear-based yarns.

Do we hear about the obscene U.S. defense budget and what it buys? The military-industrial complex? The crimes of the CIA? Elections stolen? The Project for a New American Century?

Oh sure, details leak out here and there, but they are nothing compared to the torrent of American exceptionalism, if not fascist sentiment, underlying most of the mainstream media.

You’ve seen it written all over: have we learned nothing from the depredations of Nazi Germany? There are two answers to that question. The first is that yes, the principles established at Nuremburg illustrated lessons learned. And the second answer is, yes, lessons learned, best find ways to make this acceptable.

You listen a typical Israel-backing neo-con, such as Alan Dershowitz, and you realize you are listening to an insane man. The patter goes something like this: Whatever depredations I commit, I did it because I had to according to a threat that I imagined, and I did it for my enemies’ good, to civilize, democratize, and freedomize them.

Or to put another way, mass murder and torture is the highest path to societal improvement, which is needed to stop mass murder and torture.

The circular logic allows batshit people such as Dershowitz to stand up on the world stage and proudly crow: It’s not fascism when WE do it!

Why isn’t this idiocy exposed? Because the world situation is like a bad movie that we are fascinated with but don’t care about. Lives are either blown away cinematically or vaporized when you turn off the TV. For the most part, all these cathode ray and celluloid lives become our playthings, objects, hence no feeling for them one way or another. Luckily, the fine writer, director and actor can break through these limitations, but that’s the rare exception, hardly consequential and no one serious gives it credit, if I may slip into a Chomskian tic.

It’s like we’re caught in the one-dimensional glass. I read a “cute” review talking about how Snakes on a Plane was one of those so-bad-it’s-good movies. Glurge begets glurge. glurge appreciates glurge, glurge pops up everywhere and says, “haha, you know, I just play glurge on TV. And this is just a gig. And I do need to get paid, after all.” And the next thing you know, it’s a glurge world after all. Wait, was there something else? An alternative?


What's "glurge"?

Common themes in glurge are man's relationship with God or children protected by angels or cute animals. While most glurge is of a Christian nature, glurge may also be associated with other religions, atheism, patriotism or nostalgia.

Glurge sometimes contains a menacing subtext of fatalism or xenophobia. In such examples, happiness and success are linked to following the message's religious or social beliefs; education, hard work, and achievement are irrelevant or subversive. People not members of the favored group may be portrayed as sinister and untrustworthy, and the deaths or misery of such people ignored or even celebrated if it brings one of them to accept the beliefs of the missive.

-- Wikipedia


So why not torture someone or drop bombs on civilians? You do it, it’s done and then you go to the commercial. The screams aren’t real. The over-salted popcorn is. Then it’s bedtime. Another exciting day with new realities created, old ones incinerated

No time to think. Economies are huge, the number of people, the size of everything, the buildings, the corporations, the munitions and the armies – people sit atop these hierarchies with tremendous power but no connection. The captain of the Titanic probably had more feel for the ocean. It’s like a drug, I imagine. Or as Kerouac said, it’s just so easy and pleasurable to be a cretin. And it affects society all the way down.

Who among the powerbrokers has any on-the-ground control or feel for anything? Everything happens on screens for the top people. Didn’t Bush famously say he sees how hard the war is on the TV screens? Or was it the Internets?

They’re creating new realities which they then watch on TV in order to get clues on how to create and script the sequel. It’s war for the sake of control over programming. It’s “The New Iraq: An oppressed people find freedom and democracy with the help of the Americans. Staring the digitally animated corpse of John Wayne.”

The top-of-the-pyramid sitters, too, are victims of the warped TV culture, a repellent mixture of bullying, triumphalism, fear, and over-inflated self-regard. Moral cretinism is cool! Just ask the United States of Israel.

The human, natural, down-to-earth stuff just isn’t as exciting as the fantasies and the clever retorts, not if you’ve been raised without access to what might make it exciting – honor and respect for real contributions to society, honor and respect for the cyclical nature of life. But that’s being wiped out, warred upon, because it threatens. Pyramids crumble when alternatives and independence flourish. Didn’t Iraq and Iran have some alternative ideas about their oil, much like that troublemaker in South America, Hugo Chavez?

“They” (and they is defined as some fuckers who share this planet and have tremendous military and media power) find the power to shape reality intoxicating. Pretty soon they’re playing with lives, sacrificing hundreds here, thousands there, setting up oh-so-useful gulags, rattling the cages of all the little people who might not like this “new order.”

And as the power has grown more and more concentrated -- with the technology, the economies, the systems -- the fantasies have grown dark, which is reflected throughout our culture. Some day people will look back and say with awe, “they went and sat in dark theaters to be brutalized for two hours.”

In effect, the system is in control. The system and the uber-dominant system-culture empowers the rulers and people like them, who then find they have the power to keep feeding dark new realities into it.


Stop! Who wrote this shit? Rewrite.

Shhhh! David Denby gave it five stars in the New Yorker. And it’s the number one film. Five more like it coming out next summer.


Ah well, I guess we can still read a book or a blog. Preferably a book. Something hit me when I was reading Jerry Mander’s “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television.” I thought, “leaders are just as subject to the cognitive distortions of this culture as anyone.” It’s a closed loop, much like Dershowitz’s reasoning. It was a chilling thought.

I’ve come to accept that their sad ideas will play out. They’re fucking Nazis, and they use all their tools – media, concentrations of industrial capital, nuclear terror – to narcotize, brutalize and terrorize. It’s as hypnotic – for them and us – as Aliens 1, 2, and 3.

But I still wish I could kick in all the TVs, abolish all the channels, even the educational ones, and, ya know, set my people free.


Beautifully and passionately expressed.

All too accurate, too.

Great post.
Thanks, Lohmann.

Just for your and other reader's info, the "Aliens" link takes you to an excellent and very apropos blog post.
Yeah, we're all living with Stockholm syndrome, waking up every day to be mentally sodomized, and lovin' our tormentors for it. I quite like the Kerouac line on being a cretin. As well the leaders are as much subject to this grand mal seizure as the rest of us - we can't expect otherwise.

Excellent post. Chin up.
Excellent post... keep up the good work Bruce.
Thanks bmo and Shem.
Let me be original .. excellent.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but I'll bet you would find very interesting the book Mediated: How The Media Shapes Your World and The Way You Live In It.
Remember "driver's training"? No? Oh, well. That's what this is about, sort of...

I would like to replace American High School Driver's Training Simulators (which no longer exist in California, I think) with American High School Being Bombed Simulators.

It is not, in case there's any confusion, a simulation of the high school being bombed. No. It is a simulation of the high schooler being bombed in some rocky place marginally viable on the outskirts of empire's interests.

Being called on the carpet bomb, so to speak.

It may be more akin to those automotive mayhem flicks they show in traffic school and DUI repentance classes, but you get the drift.

Which suggests, of course, "Why limit it to high school?" Which, of course, absolutely not.

A very obvious idea, imo. Must have been thunk before. I wonder what would be the obstacles to something like that.

Not the technical, I'm sure. Not the economic, I'm pretty sure. Maybe the re-knotting of conscience into the tapestry of mind/heart/soul?

Maybe. Maybe so.
Jon, I will check that book out. Thanks.

Ahfukit, I do remember driver's training. I was one of the few who aced parallel parking on my first try. I didn't have any simulators but I did have the crash video. Perhaps it shaped me more than I know. But a bomb simulator,or even film, well, I dunno, seems like I'm back to the conundrum. Didn't that Jarhead author point out how the anti-war movies glorified the violence for the soldiers? But I guess it would be different if you were the one being bombed. Yeah, good point. I'd like to see it happen. I'd like to.
I just parallel parked today. I am a *genius* at it. Here: I started ACROSS THE STREET on a 1-way street. Can ya beet that?? No you can't. I have more to say on this subject, too, but will not say it. How's THAT for prudent. Yes, that's GOOD. I love the concept of blogging. It's the PEOPLE that get in the way... Gah! %^

p.s. (this has gotta be my favorite "word verification": mwptity, except squiggly. I donno. God.)
Can I just add to the appreciation here - a wonderful, powerful post, expressing much that I've felt too...

No time to think. Economies are huge, the number of people, the size of everything, the buildings, the corporations, the munitions and the armies – people sit atop these hierarchies with tremendous power but no connection. The captain of the Titanic probably had more feel for the ocean. It’s like a drug, I imagine. Or as Kerouac said, it’s just so easy and pleasurable to be a cretin. And it affects society all the way down.

This paragraph's beautiful and so true and encapsulates the danger of the situation.

Keep it up!
Over at Frank's, Johnno offers eloquent, elegaic praise with which we psychotic bloggers of the South fully align ourselves, Bruce. J Alva, as always, resorts to pictures. So, yeah, this is another for 'The Best Of The River...' More important, you again explain to me my immense admiration of the lunatic fringe now defending the US-ian homeland from hordes of crazed bastards with bombs and bucks in their eyes. You speak for many -- far beyond the usual cracklebrain visionaries cluttering this and other comment boxes -- but your voice is uniquely yours.... There IS hope (a tipping point or a critical mass of some kind, capable of swinging this the other way) and, although it remains unclear to us now, the blogs and entries like yours above are busy realising it. No time to think? I think not. These are indeed the Modern Times of our lives.
It is a Brave New World, isn't it? Now take your soma, enjoy the entertainment, and shut up...

Good post. And, I'm glad you posted the piece from the Tao of Spycraft, but I was surprised that you posted it w/o commentary; you obviously have a high regard for your readers. Of course, having read the comments in this post, I think thats justified.

See you Tuesday?
ob fusc, Golby, Rick and Anonymous, thanks for taking time to comment.

I let you know about this Tuesday. I may need to recover from what looks to be a busy three-day weekend.

remy's all alone on the world story comes true
let's give all earth-members their own county :-)
Yes. See ya there.
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