Old (and far too festopodulent )Friend on the Phone last Friday: “I can’t take it anymore. I can’t take these lying fucks. I’ve been reading four newspapers a day for decades and it has gotten to such a level of lying I can’t take it. And the fucking tube is just a cathedral of worms and lies. I can’t watch them for a second anymore. It’s like watching worms move in their mouths. I gotta give it up. I try to be unbiased or at least look at all sides but all sides now are all lies. It’s a waste of life. I can’t do it. Why are all these “news sources” the way that they are? Why?”
Me (talking him down from the ledge on the cliff above his slough of respond): They can’t help themselves at this point. They are sick with a sickness bred in the bone.
Which is when I found this on an old archive shelf and brought it back into the light…
“If you tell someone they have a short attention span often enough, they might believe you enough to get one, but then they’ll forget what channel you’re on.” — TV producer, Fox News, 2002
[Editor’s Note: This is a test. A long test. If you can’t read all of this you may be infected by media-induced ADD / HD. Seek professional help.]
The Short Attention Spans of Media Professionals Mean a Hyperactive Headline Glut for You
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.) What he does have is a smart child’s ability to multi-task beyond a normal adult’s capacity.
As adults we are often guilty of projecting our frailties onto the young. We forget that they are more nimble in all things than we are, and are all too eager in this age of instant advice on any problem to ascribe to the young a malady confined to the mature. In this case, it is our media who suffer from this self-induced malady.
No section of our society exemplifies ADD more than Big Media whose efforts in spreading fear, uncertainty, doubt, and confusion go forward daily with no signs of stopping and less than zero signs of shame.
Big Media is happy to spread the myth of ADD / HD (Attention Deficit Disorder / Hyperactivity Disorder) affliction. In doing so they point only at 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 is a virus that threatens the lives and happiness of millions.
For 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; especially if the messenger’s message is brain death by mind-numbing media mulch.
The recent collective media hallucinations, aka “RoosianCollusionObstruction”,” underscore the fact that ADD/HD has infested Big 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. 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.
AD/HD predominately inattentive type: (AD/HD-I)
Fails to give close attention to details: Reuters
Has difficulty sustaining attention: National Public Radio.
Does not appear to listen: Ann Coulter
Struggles to follow through on instructions: Colbert
Has difficulty with organization: Dan Rather
Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort: Morning Joe
Loses things: The BBC
Is easily distracted: Foreign Press Corp in War Zone once checked into comfy hotels.
Is forgetful in daily activities: Fact-checkers across the media spectrum
AD/HD predominately hyperactive-impulsive type: (AD/HD-HI)
Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair: Chris Matthews
Has difficulty remaining seated: Geraldo
Runs about or climbs excessively: Acosta
Difficulty engaging in activities quietly: Fox News
Acts as if driven by a motor: The New York Times
Talks excessively: Maddow
Blurts out answers before questions have been completed: CNN
Difficulty waiting or taking turns: CNN
Interrupts or intrudes upon others: CNN in a trifecta.
AD/HD combined type: (AD/HD-C)
Individual meets both sets of inattention and hyperactive/impulsive criteria:
ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, FOX, CNN, MSNBC, NYT, LAT, WAPO, TIME NEWSWEEK, etc. and so forth ad nauseum.
As Above, So Below
These examples are only well-known metastasizing tumors 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 few are seeking to get well. Ambition in the media is so vicious because the stakes are so vacuous.
MEDIA = 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 student aide in an ethnic studies department. It takes a special kind of team to design a program that requires the blathering head to say: “In AFGHANISTAN today, yet another innocent, much-loved Afghan CHILD was shot in the head by an evil member of the TALIBAN! Is this another step into the deepening quagmire of WHITE SUPREMACY? We’ll interview the CHILD’S weeping grandmother in just a few minutes. But right now, “Is fast food fat food IF IT IS SERVED BY DONALD J. TRUMP!?”
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:
1) Main image in the center,
2) logo floating about somewhere,
3) caption identifying current blathering expert and current 30 second issue;
4) weather and / or time on the left;
5) promo for some upcoming BlatherThon on the right; and beneath it all
6) the ubiquitous crawl slips by giving you a bit of this story and a chunk of that story, neither of which has the ghost of a chance of ever being explicated in any detail on the main screen.
And just in case that is not enough to turn your neurons into weepling 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 slow civil war on and you will have a terminal case of ADD / HD before Nancy Pelosi’s head explodes (soon).
ADD/HD: Dead Tree Editions
Front pages of newspapers are little improvement over cable news. 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 small factoids of this or that.
Magazines are worse 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.
Now 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.
“And hey, what about that web site?”
The Web is, of course, the Metropolitan Opera of Short Attention Span Theatre.
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 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.
The Web 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.
And while the Web 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.”
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.
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 mouthbreathers of Vanity Fair 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.
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.
[March 11, 2005]