Drowning in Content

There is a famous story in Hollywood about a young director who approached a seasoned Hollywood producer for advice on how to complete a movie he was working on. The producer said, “Live for ten years and then do the movie.”

Most young people have no stories to tell. They have no context to shape stories and no depth to give them life. How could they? They haven’t lived long enough. Are there exceptions? Sure.  Wendy Shalit, who wrote her seminal book “A Return to Modesty” about sexuality, is impressive given that she was in her early twenties when she wrote the book. Or, Ryan Holliday who, at age 20, wrote his expose on the media in, Trust me I’m Lying. Its insight into the tricks used by the media to manipulates the public. However, Shalit and Holliday are the exceptions not the rule.

Generally speaking, lasting creativity require years of living and introspection to mature. Steve Martin’s autobiography “Born Standing Up” provides great insight into the journey of a comic and how Martin became a master of his craft. He spent years living in motel rooms while doing stand-up routines all over the country. He reworked and refined his jokes while performing in thousands of venues before he finally made it. When the public finally heard of Steve Martin, they called him an “overnight sensation” after appearing on Saturday Night Live. What they did not see were all the years of dedication, trial and error to hone his craft.

Most great work and analysis takes time. Yet, given the advent of the web, there is an increased demand for content the likes of which we have never before seen. Newspapers, blogs, media sites must produce insightful and relevant content for eyeballs, clicks and advertising dollars. I suspect that the administrators of these sites are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content they need to come up with on a daily basis. Combine this with an educational system that focuses more on political correctness than facts… and you have a recipe for disaster. An insatiable  demand for content, a Left leaning educational system and a lack of general history is the baseline for the content we see.

The pressure and rush to create content sublimates the need for truthfulness and accuracy. It does irreparable damage and is making us a less civil society.  Check out these three reports that got it wrong:

Story 1

A  few years ago, CNN reporter Erin Burnett did a huge story on the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage and the resultant decrease in church attendance as a result. Burnett’s position was that people like her would never join the church, and its former members would never return to the church, unless it became more modern and adapted to the prevailing culture. I guess in CNN’s mind it was a valid viewpoint and worth the resources to develop.

But Catholics with any religious foundation understood the juvenile approach to Burnett’s perspective. The Church does not endorse gay marriage because it believes marriage is a sacrament where a man and woman are joined in matrimony for the creation of life. It’s that simple. The Church has taught this for over 2000 years and continues to do so. Erin Burnett thought she had hit upon what reforms the Church needed to enact to become more relevant. Instead, what she displayed was a total lack of understanding of the Catholic Church. The Church does not care about change. It cares about teaching the Word of God. For the Church, the truth is not determined by polls or popular opinion, it is self-evident and found in Scripture.

Story 2

The last eight years was filled with reporting on the “do-nothing” Congress under former President Obama. The story was highlighted every day, ad nauseam, how handicapped Obama was due to Congress’ obstructionism. The obstruction got so bad that Obama’s only real piece of legislation, Obamacare, was passed only when he had control over both houses. Even then, the bill was never reconciled in the Senate.

To those who prefer to forget, Scott Brown was elected Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts solely for his promise to cast the one vote that would stop reconciliation of the bill. But Brown was never given the chance. Obama passed the bill by circumventing the legislative process.

The actual reason President Obama was barely able to pass any bills is because that was how the system was created over two hundred years ago. It had nothing to do with President. The Founding Fathers so mistrusted the political class, and career politicians, that they designed a system that gave all of its power to the people…not the politicians. Anyone with a basic understanding of civics knows this. However, the media did not report it as a systemic fail safe because they wanted Congress to capitulate its role and give in to Obama whose political agenda synced with theirs. For eight years, the media tried to convince the American public that Congress was at fault. To the contrary, under our  Constitution, the Executive branch simply failed to bring along the Legislative branch for consensus.

Story 3

We have seen the complete removal of the Confederate Flag from our national history. Southern war heroes, as well as Confederate solders graves, have been desecrated. The media has a narrative, lacking in subtly, that the Civil War was fought by the North against the South over slavery. Southerners were racist, had slaves and wanted to keep that way of life intact. Northerners were noble, pure and thought the cause was important enough to fight the South to abolish it.

The Civil War occurred between 1861-1865. Slaves in the North were not freed until 1863, or two years after the war had started. If the North thought it was so important, why didn’t they free their slaves prior to the war? The fact is that although slavery was a major issue,  it wasn’t the only issue that drove the Civil War. The South wanted to secede from the North over taxation and other states’ rights issues, including slavery, and the North was not going to let that happen. The Civil War was a manifestation of the ongoing debate over states’ rights versus a centralized government. That debate, which began in the 1700’s, rages on today. The issues affecting the Civil War are complex; but, the false narrative promulgated by the media pushes the narrative of a racist South while never shining a light on the culpability of the North.

Our youth are most vulnerable and easily manipulated because they lack the necessary perspective and critical thinking skills that come from an understanding of history tempered with one’s own life experiences.  When Al Gore tells young people, “There are some things about our world that you know that older people don’t know,” Why would that be? Well in a period of rapid change, the old assumptions sometimes just don’t work anymore because they’re out of date,”  is no different than handing democracy to a nation that has spent hundreds of years or more under dictatorship. You need a period of transition and perspective. Without those, a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Such is the damage done by a media driving people to civil unrest through revisionist history and misinformation. We are more connected than at any other time in human history. It is ironic that content for its own sake lacking truthfulness and integrity is doing as much harm, if not more, than when we knew less.



Trust Me I’m Lying

When the writer Tucker Max had a book launch he hired a marketing company to create some “buzz” around the launch to generate sales.

liarOver the course of a few weeks, Tucker’s marketing company plastered his face on billboards all over Los Angeles and in one one night made certain all of those same billboards were defaced!  The marketing company purposely wrote terrible things about Tucker on some of the posters and totally destroyed others.

Ryan Holliday, head of the marketing company, then called all of the local news stations and gave them a crafted and nicely wrapped story to run the next day: “Tucker Max Posters Defaced All Over Los Angeles.” As anticipated, the news stations and press ran with the story because it gave them ratings and sales.

Tucker Max writes a form of literature called Fratire, where Tucker describes his drunken and hedonistic lifestyle. Needless to say, he has many people who don’t like him as a person. Given the narrative that the media already believed about Tucker, Holliday gave them a credible and newsworthy story about how Tucker was so hated that his enemies would go to the trouble of defacing and destroying his promotional posters and billboards.

Holliday is a master media manipulator. He shares all his techniques in his illuminating book, “Trust Me, I’m Lying, Confessions of a Media Manipulator.” He later worked for various blogs and eventually became the director of marketing for American Apparel.

The point of his book is really about questioning the truth presented by the media. I wrote about this in a previous post about the things we think we know. The best analogy I can give is from Plato’s allegory of the cave. In that story Plato describes a place where prisoners live chained in a cave while puppeteers cast shadows on the cave walls. Those shadows constitute “reality” for the prisoners. When one of the prisoners is able to escape, he comes to understand that the reality was just a projection. He realizes that because he and the others were trapped, the only reality they understood was what the puppeteers showed them.

How is that any different from what is shown to us on television today? Both political parties manipulate the press in ways that promote their particular agenda. One of the strategies Holliday discloses that media manipulators commonly use is planting stories in the newspapers and having them reported as fact. In one example, former Vice President Dick Cheney was known to be an anonymous source for major papers. He would feed reporters stories they were quick to publish then Cheney would show up the following day and cite those same newspapers as the basis for what he was promoting. What a ruse! Neither the interviewer nor the viewer knew that the source of the story was Cheney himself as he used the credibility of the newspapers to further his cause.

However, many times it’s the media themselves who are knowingly doing the manipulating. Take the recent case of George Stephanopoulos,  lead anchor for ABC news. What most people don’t know is that he was the Chief Communications Director for former President Bill Clinton and before that he had worked for liberal Democrat Senator Richard Gephardt. Upon leaving the Clinton White House, Stephanopoulos signed with ABC news and has been a reporter ever since…supposedly reporting a major network’s news with impartiality. You would think that having been the former Communications Director for a former United States President one would be , prima facie, disqualified from working as a fair and balanced journalist…especially one that reports primarily on political issues.

Apparently not.

Stephanopoulos has always been a Clinton apologist. The latest revelation is that he recently made $75,000 in donations to the Clinton Foundation all the while publicly defending and thereby promoting it. His support has been for a money making machine for the Clinton’s whereby most of the donations have come from overseas investors buying access to the highest reaches of our government.

(Note: The Founders knew that foreign donors would have, at best, little regard for US interests and at the least interests that were hostile thereto. Therefore they made political donations by foreign donors illegal!).

What most people fail to realize is that the media is a business like any other. It needs advertisement dollars to stay afloat. When James Altucher, a noted entrepreneur, went to C.N.B.C for an interview the producer told him he was just “the filler” for the “real” business which is commercial advertising.

Once you understated this concept of media as business, much of what you see makes sense.The Clinton donations makes sense as well.  George Stephanopoulos made a donation to the Clinton Foundation for access. He was making a bet that if Hillary Clinton became President he would be able to call in a favor and get her to appear on his show or get first crack at scooping White House news.

Its no different that what NBC did by hiring Chelsea Clinton and paying her $600,000 dollars for a journalism job, a job for which she had no qualification for. NBC was paying for access to her mother, the Secretary of State. The network was “investing” in their future access to securing interviews with the Secretary for which NBC would recoup their “investment” in advertising revenues.

The media is commonly known as the Fourth Estate, the institution that is to be the watchdog of government.  Yet the sad but true reality is this institution has been sold and, for the most part, provides the nation with paid propaganda. As too many Americans continue to form opinions and vote based upon what they hear and see on “the news” we remain a nation of sheep being led..if not to slaughter…then surely to slavery.