Gossip columnists Hedda Hopper and Walter Winchell no doubt are envious (to the nth degree) of their modern versions and imitators. With the internet websites, Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest of our all-pervasive social media, gossip is big, BIG and profitable business. “Influencers” are suddenly newly noticed, very important, listened to, and even worshiped.
Indeed, more and more of the media seems to be nothing but gossip – the latest and best about celebrities. About politicians. About the strange people that we’ve always known live around the world, but now suddenly are revealed to us through clickbait headlines and 15 separate webpages, each with a half-dozen adverts and a short paragraph to entice us on.
What does that have to do with madness? Read on.
Along with everything else I discussed last, regarding the madness or insanity which seems to engulf the world of 2019, there is the media. It seems more and more insane.
Indeed, on many news and opinion pages, it is harder and harder to tell the difference between a “straight” news story, an opinion piece, a gossip column item, and an advertisement. When combined with the ever-more-noticeable English language skills of the writers of these things, and the changes in writing style (or their ignorance of such things), it makes it very hard to glean facts. And therefore, to make sound, informed decisions. To say nothing at all of intentional and unintended falsehood.
(To make matters worse, more and more websites leave off important things like the date of the story (or opinion piece). You often can’t tell whether the “related stories” were something that happened today, yesterday, last week or five years ago. The “clickbait” style of writing, interspersed with constant ads and links to those related stories, makes it even more difficult to comprehend. And to keep fact and fiction separated.)
But the real disservice is the perception we get from this mix of postings. How we view the world. And our community. It feeds our understanding that the world – at least our part of it – is going mad.
No, ALL Wal-Mart patrons do NOT look like the forty pictures of weirdos accessible via a sidebar on your local newspaper’s website home page. No, not every person who voted for Trump is a toothless high-school dropout and extra for the remake of Deliverance. And no, not every cop is a jack-booted thug who chokes middle-school girls. Nor is every middle-school teacher and priest a pedophile.
Even so, as Mama Liberty and I often discussed, we have to wonder. Is more rapid communications why we seem to find how nasty society and its institutions are today? When things have always been this bad? Or is society spiraling down into oblivion, and our media is just documenting it? Or even not sharing the full truth? Is civil society collapsing so quickly?
Either situation is scary.
For example, say John Kennedy or Bobbie Kennedy, in running for President, had been treated like the two-dozen or so Democrats running for President this year. With dozens of media types hanging breathlessly on every word, every gesture, every challenge. Would it turn out that JFK or RFK had made the same sort of rather silly if not stupid and tactless comments that O’Rourke or Biden or Sanders have? Would they have been made into the demigods they are for most people today?
Or DID they make those sorts of comments but the reports were squashed by the mainstream media? The way the New York Times apparently squashed the story about pedophile Epstein back in 2016?
And without the need to constantly feed the insatiable 24-7 news cycle (or 15 hours a week of Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity), would most of this stuff even merit squandering the elections and time to post?
Again, whatever the reason and the truth of what is being reported, and what is been hidden (or spun), it has a massive impact on us. On society, on family, on individuals.
We appear to be in a positive feedback cycle, in which everything that happens (or supposedly happens) triggers reactions which in turn result in more responses. Where matters spin out of control. Where madness feeds upon madness.
And therefore the world seems to be more and more senseless. More insane, less comprehendible.
Can we stop it? For society as a whole, each of us individually probably cannot. What we can do is step outside that crazy cycle by ourselves. And help family and friends to do the same thing. Instead of ramping up, we can recognize that what is reported in the news and on the web is NOT reality – but a carefully cut slice of it to promote specific viewpoints (and sell things). And we can therefore start to make sure that we are not being infected by this madness.
And figure out things. Like what is the cause or causes of this seemingly-insane situation, this world gone mad. So that we can address the insanity, mitigate it, or at least protect ourselves from it.