June 24, 2012

ADD: The Mainstream Media Disease

[Note: This is a test of your attention span. If you can't read all of this you may be infected by media-induced ADD. Seek professional help.]


Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind

- Eliot, Burnt Norton

The Short Attention Spans of Media Professionals Mean a Hyperactive Headline Glut for You

headtwist.jpg Recently I became acquainted with a young boy, just turned nine. He's a brilliant and happy kid, but he has a problem with cleaning up and organizing his room. It isn't that he can't do it, he simply has to be told about every five minutes to continue the process. In the course of picking things up to put away he discovers anew their potential to fascinate him.

The Gameboy? "Oh, here's where I saved that last stage of Turoc. Let's see if I can get the flame-thrower and..."

Any one of the 3,000 + Lego units? "Gee, I never did get the moon base hemi-dome set up, just let me put these 400 blocks in place and..." Books? "Sure thing and, hey, did Horton ever hatch that egg..."

On it goes until, after the sixth or seventh cajoling instruction, a path has been cleared for the vacuum cleaner. After which, he promptly begins taking everything he has put away out and strews it about the floor once again.

Today's pop psychologists, addlepated educators and the marketing departments of large drug companies are hard at work trying to convince me children who behave like this have "Attention Deficit Disorder" or ADD. But I know enough to know it is the companies who are obsessed, confused and greedy in about that order.

What this young boy suffers from is no more than being a normal, heedless and all around great nine-year-old boy. He doesn't have ADD anymore than I have an elephant chained in my back yard. (Yes, I just checked.)

The only group that I can see in the United States that, as a group, is seriously afflicted with ADD is a group of would-be adults -- the group we call collectively "The Mainstream Media." For members of this group ADD is not an option, it is a requirement. Far from being a means to informing and enlightening the public, the primary role of the MSM is to distract it. At this they are very good since they are "Distracted from distraction by distraction" by their very nature. They are "the ADD professionals." They actually get paid for doing this. Paid well for having a disease.

Let's review.

Professional Distractors

brain-fog.jpgNo section of our society exemplifies ADD more than the denizens of Big Media whose efforts in spreading fear, uncertainty, doubt and confusion go forward daily with no signs of stopping and fewer signs of shame. Indeed, it is the media, more than any other group, that is happy to spread the myth of ADD / HD (Attention Deficit Disorder / Hyperactivity Disorder) affliction among the young. They are happy to do it because, in a very real way, it protects them from being seen as the single profession in which ADD / HD not only runs riot, but also spreads a virus that threatens the lives and happiness of millions. For many centuries it has been unfashionable in the West to kill the messenger. This convention, along with so many others in the post 9/11 world, may have to be reconsidered.

The recent collective media hallucinations known as "All is Lost in Iraq Because We Won," underscore the fact that ADD/HD has infected and taken over the media.

It is not true that all the people working in the media are biased towards wanting the United States to fail all the time and everywhere (although there are more than a few who do). No, the terrible truth is that nearly 100 percent of media professionals are infected to the marrow of their bones with ADD / HD. And not just the "stars" but the whole pack of them, root and branch, right down to Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter, fresh from the laughable "Journalism Schools".

The Disease and the Afflicted

Before getting down to cases, let's look at the symptoms (with examples) of ADD / HD as listed at Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or "CHADD" (for those who just can't pay attention to long clumsy names struggling to become clumsy dangling acronyms.)

AD/HD predominately inattentive type: (AD/HD-I)

AD/HD predominately hyperactive-impulsive type: (AD/HD-HI)
AD/HD combined type: (AD/HD-C)

As Above, So Below

The examples above are only well-known personalities and other growths of the American Media Entity (AME). What is true for the stars above is also true for all those members of AME that labor in the mud below. They have all been infected with ADD/HD and very few are seeking to get well. What they are seeking is to become even more infected so that someday they might get some air-time or ink. Ambition in the media is so vicious because the stakes are so vacuous.

The truth is that most revel in their ADD / HD media jobs simply because these are the only jobs and careers open to them that promise both wealth and fame. Indeed, the AME has, over the years, evolved slowly into the only industry that would accept these hapless personality types as employees.

Software companies wouldn't use people with ADD / HD to write programs -- with the possible exception of the Microsoft Windows team. Transportation companies run rigorous background checks and random drugs tests on current and prospective employees; this means that those who labor in the media cess pits would have to spend six months getting clean before they could even hope to drive a FedEx truck. Not that likely, is it?

And would you agree to have your house designed and built by an architectural firm composed of Maureen Dowd and Anne Coulter? Not unless you were planning to live in an updated version of the Winchester Mystery House where every allegation and doorway opened into a cavern of twisted little mental passages all alike.

Jobs for the Hard-Core Unemployable

Media types are, by heredity and training, unemployable in any other industry you can think of except, perhaps, sanitation, politics and teacher in an ethnic studies department. It takes a special kind of team to design a program that requires the talking head to say: "In Iraq today, yet another innocent, much-loved American soldier was shot in the head by a member of the Resistance. Is this another step into the deepening quagmire of an administration with yellow-cake on its face? We'll interview the soldier's weeping grandmother in just a few minutes. But right now, is fast food fat food?"

One look at how the screens of the various news stations appear is enough to tell you everybody at the company has severe ADD / HD and wants to get you down into the hole that they're in:

And just in case that is not enough to turn your neurons into weeping jelly, let's have three "experts" on, split the screen into thirds, and have them all talk over each other at once.

Gaze upon this dog's dinner while there's a war on and you will have a terminal case of ADD / HD before a statue falls in Baghdad. Guaranteed.

ADD/HD: Dead Tree Editions

TIMESLOSING.jpgFront pages of newspapers are little improvement these days. They've been infected by the graphics uber alles syndrome too. "Above the fold" or "below the fold" or "across the fold." All these have some arcane meaning to the newsdroids that yammer among themselves. Toss in little graphs of infolets. Small factoids of this or that. And over all the pall of snappy fuzzed-up color photographs of the latest atrocities in Iraq, Niger, or Bakersfield attached to a few short teasing paragraphs that jump to somewhere inside where you will be forced to find the information somewhere in a sea of banal ads of all sizes and shapes for everything you do not need.

Magazines are worse still with the triumph of two magazine support departments that should never be given any power over a magazine: art directors and circulation departments.

It is well-known among magazine editors that most magazine art directors have not been able to read anything other than the figures on their expense checks for decades. Instead, magazine art directors, who have a lot of time on their hands between frantic periods of pretending to work, have fallen in love with video games, and transferred those elements wholesale to magazine layout and cover design.

The result inside and out are pages devoted to the unrestrained display of "Pix & Fonts Monthly." Within these garish displays the actual content of the article may be discovered by the dedicated reader, but he will have to take time for lunch while puzzling it out. In this brave new world art directors depend on readers being as functionally illiterate as they are, and treat them to page after page of jumbled images and typefaces that leave the eye satiated and the brain befuddled.

penis-magazine.jpgNow add to this second dog's dinner layout style the rise of the circulation directors who, sometime at the beginning of the 1990s were told of a study that said people like to see a lot of numbers on magazine covers.

This stupid claim was enough to enable circulation directors to palm off slumping magazine sales on the fact that there "weren't enough numbers on the cover." Hence, you now see, especially among women's magazines, the worst offenders, covers that contain no less than three and possibly seven sets of numbers on the cover. The theory is that if there are a lot more numbers than words, the potential reader's ADD will be overpowered by the HD of the cover, and they will buy the magazine safe in the assumption that they will not be required to read anything inside.

Dialing for Dolor

Talk radio on the AM dial is a classic case study in media professionals with severe ADD/HD seeking to reach out and infect the entire country. A few mind bending minutes listening to Michael Savage will establish this point with the force of a power drill being run into your ear at high speed. Then, of course, you need to stick around for the 15 commercials in three minutes that support this drivel.

We're here to put some shake in your shaker
Some quake in your quaker
And some rock in you sock.
Take the word from this rocking bird
And just tune out.

"And hey, what about that web site?"

badinformation.jpgThe Web is, of course, the Metropolitan Opera of Short Attention Span Theatre. You'll know you are not in the audience if you have read this far in this article. Most of those who started reading are long gone for one reason or the other. They clicked away long, long ago. They are infected and, as they say, "Once a bear is hooked on garbage, there's no cure."

Yes, on the Web factoids, links, brief opinions, quick takes and hyperlinks that open in new windows while pop-ups bloom above, below, to the right, to the left -- within you and without you -- are what we crave. Manic clicking is what we do and few of us are above it.

Few work in the long form while many just point to the next click. And of course, for those who just can't take it any longer there is always "Cntrl-Q." Yes, it can seem like the Web, the Net, the Infospace of a Billion Lies is the ultimate source of the epidemic of ADD / HD. You could think that. I have thought that. But, as usual, I could be wrong. You too. Unless you are stuck on the home page of MSNBC, CNN, or FOXNEWS which manages to roll everything above into a dense wad of crap. Then they make it all blink.

Lucidity from Above?

Seen from the surface, the Web is a vast uncountable, unsearchable and unknowable infinity of links and texts in which we see, for the first time, everything that we, as human beings, are.

We see the best of ourselves and the worst of ourselves.

We see the greatest works of art and the most degraded images of hate, lust and atrocity.

It is the first medium in which any number can play, which has almost no economic barriers to entry, and as a result becomes, in time, the perfect mirror of our souls at this time and in this place.

The Web can be, and most often is, the most trivial of our mediums. But it is also, at some times and in some way, the corrective to all the other mediums that have gone before and still exist around us.

And while it exemplifies the symptoms and effects of ADD / HD better than any other medium, it also holds within it, like the mold on bread or the pox on the cow, the cure for what ails us. As was said once a couple of years ago, the Web can "fact check your ass." It not only can, but it does, as the media moguls with billions invested in extending their ADD / HD virus to the population at large now discover with distressing regularity.

It is one thing to scheme and struggle and manipulate your way into an executive position or an anchor's chair at a major network, it is quite another to have your performance in those roles analyzed, criticized and eviscerated within 24 hours in front of an audience of thousands of your peers and thousands of critics.

timeaddcover.jpg Media Mogul, Anchor, or Pundit: they used to be such cushy jobs, such posh titles. Jobs for life. And for a fading few they remain so, but all can see that the age of the anchor, the expert expert, and the preening pundit are drawing to a close.

It may well be that the major media outlets will stagger on. In fact it is a certainty. What has changed is that fact that not every adult in the United States is ready and willing to submit to having their attention span shortened or their activity hyped by the now creaking theories of how major media can make its money.

That Big Media still believes there is money to be made by shoveling its ADD / HD into the collective consciousness of America is manifest in the continuing race of television, radio, and magazines towards the bottom of the social cesspool. But when they get there will they find the intelligent and affluent waiting to buy their sponsors' products? Or will they find themselves increasingly dependent on the mouth-breathers of Maxim magazine and applauders of Dr. Phil to chip in and do the Dew and buy the pickups that will keep their cash flow positive? That they've chosen to go for the latter is evident by the programming choices and editorial decisions that are clearer and clearer with every passing day. But sooner or later, like all those infected with addictions, they will bottom. And then they will know that they finally have to get clean. One of the great virtues of the Web is that it is hastening that day.

The smart part of their market, as the Web grows, is quite obviously moving away from Big Media on the one hand and demanding more substance on the other. This is the audience that is starved for substance, that is successful at their jobs, that is affluent, that wants information in depth and not just the latest sound-bite or factoid. They are, in short, one of the prime targets for advertising, the mother's milk of Big Media. They're not easily fooled and they have the tools, at last, to talk among themselves.

In short, except for backward glances that sneer at Big Media's infection with ADD / HD they've determined to look at the prime sources, to do their own thinking, to consult a number of background documents. They've left the youth market, with its towering debt and low cash flow, to those who want to sell soda pop and infosquibs. They've become, in a very real sense, awakened from the decades of increasing ADD / HD that make up the Big Media mosaic. They've taken the admonition of Scoop Nisker (" If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own." ) to heart. They are basing what they think and what they buy and how they feel on deeper sources than Big Media is capable of supplying. Like the truth, they are out there.


Posted by Vanderleun at June 24, 2012 1:27 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

know you are not in the audience if you have read this far in this article
Indeed, and proud of it, too! A great article, as always.

Last year I posted (with apologies for the shameless self-promotion) about Associated Press Deficit Disorder: the innatention of Associated Press and other news agencies to the actual words said by a person who doesn't fit what AP wants to hear. Your essay explains the subject in a much more coherent and eloquent manner.

Posted by: Fausta at June 26, 2006 9:03 AM

In any milieu, 95% of a population live well or poorly as heedless slaves of that 5% who fit society to their ideas. Largely subliminal, "ideas" in this sense are no less real... and they do change, often abruptly, unpredictably, but always reflecting what Keynes called "the doctrine of some defunct economist" (he meant Marx, but the post-1918 culture of defeat and pessimism built on nihilistic relativism will do as well).

Today's mass media is populated all but exclusively with radical 1960s narcissists (see Christopher Lasch, c. 1980). Under no circumstances will they contribute anything positive to anyone, or accept responsibility in trust for future generations. "Culture of death" is but a partial consequence... in the West what we have witnessed since 1918 is a Culture of Koolaid, Suicide, one with a collective death-wish for newborns and productive others pending the narcissists' long-awaited die-off: Their Final Solution to competition, risk-avoidance, indeed to solipsistic acknowledgment of any sentient entities other than themselves.

Nuanced enough? The test is simple. Hating life means to hate America. Hating America means to do everything in one's power to kill off the Founders' ideal of democracy within a federal republic. Killing the Ideal means aiding and abetting its barbaric enemies.

Born in 1920, my daughter's grandmother has seen a lot, but nowhere near what Ashley, born 1985, will have seen by 2071. I hope her burka's not too tight, and that purdah suits her well. She may laugh now, but sedition and treachery on the NYT's level will bring Shari'a faster than she thinks.

Posted by: John Blake at June 26, 2006 11:34 AM

Doctors feel free to drug up the children suffering from this "disease", without their consent and sometimes even without the consent of the parents. So how about the rest of us give the old media some involuntary medication for their illness?

I think about a cup of morphine each should do it for them. Let's start with those jackals over at the New York Times.

There, I feel better already.

Posted by: AskMom at June 26, 2006 11:37 AM

Bravo, Gerard.

All the way through in one lick for me - but now I don't have time to hit the twelve sites that are my daily news digest!

Off to work...

Posted by: TmjUtah at June 26, 2006 6:33 PM

As Henry James said, journalism is the criticism of the moment at the moment, which results in the violent fragmentation of time. Since time is the form of our inner sense, you can make people quite insensible by disrupting the organic rhythm and unfoldment of temporality, and breaking it into disjointed bits. It's not so much a passive deficit of attention as an aggressive assault on the qualitative aspect of time. As a matter of fact, it's what psychotics do to make sure reality doesn't happen to them. Muslims do a similar thing by insisting that Allah intervenes "vertically" to create each moment anew, without reference to past or future, thus assuring that nothing is learned.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at June 26, 2006 9:28 PM

I spent several weeks in Canada a couple of years ago, and was amazed at the difference in the newpaper that was part of the hotel hospitality. Unlike "USA Today" which can be scanned for anything worthwhile, should it exist, in a few minutes, I was unable to read everything of interest in under two hours, and I have a very high reading rate.

Canadian reporters actually expected everyone to have at least a high school level reading ability. What a refreshing change. Granted at that time the political climate was pretty sorry, but it was very well covered in the press.

Posted by: Bill at June 26, 2006 10:19 PM

9 year old boys don't multi-task, they're just really good at switching tracks. :)

That aside, I do agree with you. We are presented with information packaged so we don't really pay attention to it. Instead of focusing we act as scatter brained as a flibertigibbet on meth.

It's a pain.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at June 27, 2006 1:08 PM

(Taking a short clip out of the pile in the middle of the room...)

"A few mind bending minutes listening to Michael Savage will establish this point with the force of a power drill being run into your ear at high speed."

This is true. However, to pick Savage - and Coulter - as examples of the median is perhaps ingenuous.

I could cite Randi Rhodes from Air America, and retreat, having trumped all your cards.

Talk radio has many fine examples of reasonable people. Opinionated, certainly, but the fascination for wishy-washy types is somewhat minuscule, and defintiely disappointing to advertisers.

I only listen to talk radio while I'm in my car - maybe as much as an hour total a day. I give you Laura Ingraham (former USSC law clerk), Michael Medved (who happily takes calls from people who disagree with him almost all the time), Larry Elder, ...

It's a bit like blogs. The doubtable (as opposed to redoubtable) James Wolcott, among others, thinks that blog-land is all about people wanting to show their recipies and complain about the morning's commute.

American Digest, among many, prove that there is more real content and thought in today's blogs than in a year's worth of NYT files.

Posted by: ZZMike at June 29, 2006 6:41 PM

As a personal aside, as a child growing up in Dayton, Ohio, there was an afternoon talk-show, call-in show in the '60's hosted by...Phil Donahue! (We're talkin' over 40 years ago, folks.)
I was just a kid, but it was interesting, and Phil had years to go before he went off the cliff into the intellectual and emotional swamp he's in today (seduced by money and popularity and his own swelling ego).
There is a lesson in the seductive power of money, advertising and marketing to subvert the public display of intellegence on radio, television or the published word. Eventually, anything and everything that is mass-marketed can be corrupted, reduced to the lowest common denominator.
Like Gerard says, the Internet may be the cure. People of intelligence and judgement will seek out that which has quality, despite how it is marketed.

Posted by: David at June 29, 2006 8:16 PM

nice piece

Posted by: OhBloodyHell at July 2, 2006 2:16 AM

nice piece.

Long, but that's only appropos for something about ADD.

Posted by: OhBloodyHell at July 2, 2006 2:17 AM

Nice piece.

Long, but that's only appropos for something about ADD.

Hey, I just clicked "post" 37 times waitinf for this thing to post...

Posted by: OhBloodyHell at July 2, 2006 2:18 AM


Couldn't have worked it out better if I tried.

Posted by: OhBloodyHell at July 2, 2006 2:31 AM

Preach it, brother!
Stayed for the whole sermon. And feel the better for it.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at April 3, 2008 10:23 AM

As kids in the late 50's we tried Robitussin AC, Seconals, Tuminols, Doriden, Turpin Hydrate with Codeine. Talk about a deficit of attention. When we were kids we had to get all this stuff ourselves, now doctors give them all kinds of stuff. Kids today are spoiled.

Posted by: Dennis at April 3, 2008 9:42 PM

Another wonderful post! It seems to me, however, that one should consider... oh look! Something shiny!

Posted by: Clayton Barnett at April 4, 2008 5:26 AM

John Blake said:

Today's mass media is populated all but exclusively with radical 1960s narcissists (see Christopher Lasch, c. 1980).

John, I trust you're referring to "Revolt of the Elites".

Excellent book by a person who, along with Daniel Patrick Moynihan, falls into that VERY small group of what I call intellectually honest liberals.

Yesterday I heard a conservative talk show host promoting a book on the Middle East by a liberal journalist- he said something like

'While I don't agree with all of her positions, the facts and insights in this book are so impressive that I am compelled to tell everybody about it and recommend that they read it.'

You don't ever hear liberals recommend reading something that might expose them to ideas which are counter to their pre-established worldview.

Posted by: WWWebb at April 4, 2008 7:39 AM
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