Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights
Title source: The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a 1984 novel by Milan Kundera.
The White House correspondent slot is a coveted perch in Washington, DC, media real estate. After landing an excellent job and a press pass, a select few of journalism’s crème de la crème get to march through the White House gates and mix it up with the president’s inner circle; they get the chance, to tell the truth to power at the highest level, or at least to sit in on White House briefings and go to the White House correspondents’ dinner.
Some news organizations have sent reporters to the White House gaggle who have endured fame for their journalistic rigor and iconic visual profiles. Others—like the right-wing television channel Newsmax—seem to have missed the reasonableness memo.
Emerald Robinson, Newsmax’s White House correspondent, was taken to task this week for spewing some of the wildest COVID-19 vaccine disinformation seen on planet Earth to her 437,000 followers on Twitter. Robinson could simply have claimed that highly tested, safe, and effective coronavirus vaccines contain microchips that the government uses to track people. That would have been nonsense, but not far removed from a standard anti-vaxxer line. But Robinson made a more bizarre claim: She implied that the vaccines contain something even more devilish than microchips. The devil himself.
“Dear Christians, the vaccines contain a bioluminescent marker called LUCIFERASE so that you can be tracked. Read the last book of the New Testament to see how this ends,” she wrote in a since-deleted tweet.
What the hell? Newsmax correspondent thinks Satan is in COVID-19 vaccines, Matt Field, Bureau of Atomic Scientists
News flash: Beelzebub is not in your Covid vaccine. I’ve had both shots of Moderna and the booster. I have not spontaneously combusted, levitated furniture, cursed people out in Latin, or regurgitated pea soup (see: Linda Blair, in “The Exorcist”).
The propaganda outlet’s title is Orwellian: nothing about it is “news,” nor is it superlative compared to all others.
If you’re a certain age, you recall the news by anchors like Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and Mike Wallace (Chris Wallace’s father). We had three stations, and a UHF channel on good days. The local news preceded the national news on ABC, CBS, and NBC. You had no idea who these gentlemen voted for. There was no “theme” to the channels: it was the news. Local and national news took ONE HOUR, it wasn’t on repeat or loop, there were no smartphones with alerts. There was a morning, an evening newspaper that filled out the rest of what you needed to make sense of the world (we were in a Cold War with Russia). After that hour, the sitcoms and dramas filled the evening and did what they were supposed to do: entertain. There was no merger, no invention of “infotainment.” It was what you needed as a citizen to make decisions about managing the republic. Every citizen had the responsibility of governance. Democrats could win one election, Republicans the next. The sacred text of the republic was The Constitution, it was sacrosanct.
Notice, I’m referring to our founding documents in the past tense.
Originally published in 1985, Neil Postman’s groundbreaking polemic about the corrosive effects of television on our politics and public discourse has been hailed as a twenty-first-century book published in the twentieth century. Now, with television joined by more sophisticated electronic media—from the Internet to cell phones to DVDs—it has taken on even greater significance. Amusing Ourselves to Death is a prophetic look at what happens when politics, journalism, education, and even religion become subject to the demands of entertainment. It is also a blueprint for regaining control of our media so that they can serve our highest goals.
“A brilliant, powerful, and important book. This is an indictment that Postman has laid down and, so far as I can see, an irrefutable one.” –Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Showbusiness, Neil Postman
Another book by Neil Postman and Steve Powers: “How To Watch TV News.” A summary:
An important guide to understanding what you’re getting–and not getting–from TV news. Postman and Powers warn that anyone who relies exclusively on TV for knowledge of the world is making a serious mistake and suggest ways to intelligently evaluate TV news shows.
Add to that: Facebook, Snapchat, Tik Tok, Twitter, et al. The sage advice is to read actual books, reputable sources of news, and maybe a course on critical thinking, and civics.
Emerald Robinson knew exactly what she was doing and probably knew enough to delete the tweet after it was sent. It’s the same excuse Rush Limbaugh used for his bombastic rants that were mantra from Budda for ditto heads: “I’m just an entertainer.” By stoking the rage-against-the-brown-boogiemen machine, Fox Propaganda, News Min, and Dumb Bart have made huge profits on what is arguably “white grievance minstrelsy,” previously known as “angry white men.” Neilsen ratings are another harangue, and television has one mission: product sales. It can be meal prep, travel businesses, or erectile dysfunction. “Soap Operas” was the self-pejorative of what are now the few daytime dramas that are left.
The Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial and the trial of the three murderers of Ahmaud Aubrey, miles distant from each other have the distinction of having ONE African American on the jury for EACH trial: 11:1. I was surprised by the Walter Scott murder trial verdict. I was surprised by the George Floyd murder trial verdict. For Briona Taylor and Trayvon Martin, the outcomes weren’t surprises, just infuriating.
There is a callousness to our discourse, as Carl Sagan once said “a celebration of ignorance.” There is a difference between true ignorance, willful ignorance, and gaslighting. Ignorance is from a lack of information, that can be remedied. Willful ignorance is when you’re speaking to an expert, reading a sourced document, and you willingly choose to combat the information, verbally, or physically, because it causes cognitive dissonance. Gaslighting is the tactic of an abuser, to make you question your reality. Emerald Robinson was gaslighting her Twitter followers, knowing it would get out into the Zeitgeist and fuel vaccine hesitancy, the main factor extending the pandemic her president bungled horribly. Gaslighting is abusive, but when you no longer question or resist the torture, you’re a participant. O’Brien broke the will of Winston Smith in Orwell’s “1984,” there are as many fingers as O’Brien says there are.
For example, the elections Tuesday were predictable: every off-year election in Virginia and New Jersey has elected governors from the opposing party in the White House. The news media pounces on it: “it’s a referendum on the current administration” they say, “it’s a wakeup call to Democrats” says Kevin McCarthy, who manages to look like a howler monkey in a suit. With the exception of New Jersey, where Phil Murphy held on by a thread, that paradigm has repeated historically. Yet for eyeballs and detergent sales, cue the handwringing and pontification. Nielsen ratings.
Emerald Robinson preys on the existential fears of “the end times” by evangelicals steeped in the folklore and having watched a recent clip from the “Left Behind” series. From Hal Lindsey to Tim LaHay, eschatology is a lucrative business, unless the Chicxulub meteor hits before your booking on Morning Joe. “Christ Returns by 1988: 101 Reasons Why” has obviously fallen out of favor. It was quite a sensation in 1982.
Emerald would have been the head of the spear if the Virginia Governor’s Race went Terry McAuliffe’s way. There was obviously no “voter fraud,” just bungling by McAuliffe, and defaulting to the comfortable by the DNC. McAuliffe is “known,” but the Democratic Party needs to acknowledge its future isn’t appealing to a dwindling white majority, but to constituents that look like “The Squad.” Pretending otherwise, or deferring to 80s-style Democratic Leadership Council orthodoxy is political suicide.
Ms. Robinson would have contributed to whipping their audience into a dangerous, armed frenzy. Death Santis has a voter integrity bureau patterned after the Ministry of Truth, to intimidate legitimate voters, more or less brown voters, from participating in the franchise. Any election Republicans win is by definition legitimate. Any elections Democrats lose, they concede gracefully. Any elections Democrats win in the future will be fraudulent, and “stolen.” The “Big Lie” is the only thing wanted from the previous occupant of the Oval Office. What they want is the obfuscation as a cudgel. That kind of propaganda leads to armed violence, and a failed state, not Florida: America.
This is not democracy. It is the fractured foundation of a crumbling republic.
I’m not sure if American companies, “woke” or otherwise, will come to our rescue. As long as the Stock Market functions, as long as product ships to customers, the one percent has always been socially distant with mansions in exclusive zip codes, in other countries, penis spaceships to visit Elysium, the investors, and boards will largely ignore societal collapse. The only devils are the architects of the “Big Lie.” The hell is our slide into authoritarian rule, “not with a bang, but a whimper” (TS Eliot, “The Hollow Men“).
“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” William Shakespeare, “The Tempest.”