You Are What You Eat

March 31, 2010

“Even the President of the United States chooses what he wants to hear.” –Ray Tuers

We live in the Information Age.  We are constantly bombarded with information, but we really understand little about our world.  Aside from the tiny portion of space and time that we occupy throughout the day, our knowledge of the world comes from other persons, organizations, and corporations.  We make choices about our information based on established thought patterns, preconceived ideas and political ideology.  In ways that are eerily similar to how we feed our bodies, how we choose to feed our minds determines so much about what we think we know and who we are.

Like the food we eat, the information we consume may be momentarily pleasurable, but ultimately quite harmful.  Prepackaged, processed information looks appetizing on the surface but further inspection reveals the presence of artificial ingredients and self-serving analysis, not to mention the omission of essential facts and historical context.  Sometimes we aren’t even hungry, just bored or tired; so we find ourselves munching on the media equivalent of fast food- it doesn’t nourish, or satisfy and may leave us more ignorant than we started. The information that is best for us often requires more effort: we must take the time to read, contemplate, challenge assumptions and compare different sources and opinions.

Those of us burdened with the knowledge of where our information comes from have grown very wary of whose interests are being served by the way information is presented and what information is selected for presentation.  It should be clear to everyone by now that you can find someone willing to sell you any idea you want to buy.  But before you go filling your brain with junk food, you ought to ask yourself, “Who benefits?”  Probably not you.

The TV doesn’t so much tell you what to think, it tells you what to think about.


If you’ve been wondering how we can overcome seemingly impossible odds to bring positive change to our world…

There are wise teachers who have been pondering these questions.   Francis Moore Lappe is one of these.

Don’t you wish your representative or Senator had the guts and the integrity of this guy?  The footage is a few years old now, but Bernie could just as well be talking to Ben Bernanke, the current chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Much like the Health Care Reform now and the Banking Reform to come, when you peel back the layers you find that the decisions are being made in ways that help all of us very little, but helps those that least deserve it very much.

The large print giveth and the small print taketh away.

The Oath Keepers are an “organization” that consists of soldiers, marines and law enforcement types who swear an oath to disobey any of a list of potential orders from the president that they deem to be unconstitutional.  So you may ask, “that doesn’t sound so bad, what’s the big deal?”  The problem arises when you also take into account the paranoid conspiracies that swirl amongst these erstwhile patriots.  Many or some at least are decent, reasonably well-adjusted individuals.  Others would likely have gotten on really well with Timothy McVeigh. 

Here’s the real problem as I see it: 

You’ve got emotionally unstable, heavily armed men who harbor hysterically paranoid fears about the impending totalitarian coup being planned by the Obama administration.  What happens when the impending disaster that these guys “know” is coming doesn’t come soon enough?  We end up with a situation where people who have already made preparations for the end of the world as we know it, and are in some ways looking forward to the coming battle get impatient and figure that they may as well start it and get the jump on things.  Mark my words, these nutty bastards are going to blow something up or assassinate someone- and who knows what these unstable crackpots are likely to do when the Feds come to manage the crime scene.  Hopefully they’ll scurry back under the rocks from whence they’ve come.

Here’s the link to the Mother Jones article:

Here’s the sanitized for public consumption promotional video, complete with inspiring patriotic orchestral theme music:

In light of the nearly continuous media coverage of the tragedy last week at Sea World in which Dawn Brancheau was killed by an orca, one might almost be excused for assuming that accidental deaths at Sea World are an ongoing crisis.  If the breathless media coverage were taken as any indication- this situation with killer whales is one of the most pressing issues facing our country today.  It is however worth considering that in the space of the last week at least 1069 people died unnecessarily due to events and issues that are a direct result of the apathy of the American people.  8 US soldiers died in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Approximately 95 servicemen committed suicide.  As many as 27 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in a NATO air strike.  21 Iraqis died in a suicide bombing. 17 died in suicide bombings in Afghanistan.  And approximately 901 Americans died preventable deaths for lack of access to health care. 

How often to you hear an expression like, “…it seems like every day on TV you see [whatever].”  What do we see on television every day?  We see a parade of useless trivia, a circus sideshow of dysfunctional celebrities, advertisements for products masquerading as news stories and endless rounds of talking heads giving us the talking points for whatever economic and political point of view they represent.  We are being manipulated not informed.  We are distracted by spectacle, confused by contradictions and deceived by those who promote the interests of the wealthy and powerful people who run this country (and I don’t mean the jokers we cast votes for every couple of years).

The freedom of the press was enshrined in the Constitution to safeguard citizen’s access to information so that Americans could make the informed decisions necessary to the functioning of a free and democratic society. In the early days of the American republic, the postal costs for newspapers were almost completely subsidized by the Federal Government.  Thousands of small, medium and large newspapers across the country sought to inform the American people.  Today, it is profit that drives news coverage not purpose. 

 The bottom line dictates two primary objectives for news coverage: viewers (or readers) and costs.  Sex, violence, scandal, famous people, controversy- these subjects attract the interest of consumers.  Cost is the other factor that dictates coverage.  Investigative reporting or extensive research takes time and costs money.  Exposing frauds and conspiracies, covering complex issues requires investments that cut directly into the bottom line.  From a dollars and cents perspective, coverage of the aftermath of the death of Michael Jackson is far more profitable than extensive reportage of events in Iraq or Afghanistan. 

Whenever possible, coverage of news stories requires little more than lining up a few talking heads or even “experts” who are happy to pontificate on television for little more than a 60 second opportunity for some shameless self-promotion.  Even on the most serious issues of the day we get little more than he said, she said with scant fact checking and even less historical context.  We get the expert opinions of retired generals with ties to defense contractors, political partisans and lobbyists who serve other powerful interests and academics (with who knows what actual qualifications) who work for corporate funded “think tanks.”  And we should know that whether it is news anchors or talking heads, each one is acutely conscious of the fact that if they say something that upsets the powerful people in charge, their services will no longer be required.

This he said, she said style of reportage allows the illusion of objectivity to be maintained without actually providing the viewers with anything more than the opinions that reinforce whatever preconceived beliefs they may already have.  One can disregard the facts or opinions that don’t coincide with one’s own values.  Facts have become a matter of opinion and ideology an article of faith.  Global Warming is either a serious crisis or a complete hoax.  Terror trials in New York are an expression of our values or a dangerous failure to take the “War on Terror” seriously.  Banks either need to be regulated or they have been over regulated already.  If you find all of this frustrating, perhaps you would like to watch some reality television.

Can I offer you some Wonderbread with you Circuses?