May 12, 2017 (Friday)

by Yule Heibel on May 11, 2018

I need to step away from the mainstream media news and from Twitter. Trump’s latest actions (particular case in point: firing Comey) have so enraged the pundits that it’s November election all over again. The speculation, the outrage, the forensic analyses, etc., are all so intense and furious – it’s like a manufactured maelstrom pulling everything along. Or a black hole.

Step away from the event horizon.

Reminds me of why / how I stepped away from Facebook after the election. There are other things to focus on, even though it feels like a betrayal of something (what?) not to obsess about this (Trump etc.). It has something to do, perhaps, with how news and social media present an amplification and an aggregation. Individually, each of the people on Twitter who might have businesses and other concerns besides Trump firing Comey and what it might “mean” for the country can’t shift the needle too much. But, aggregated, collectivized by the platform (…social media as enforced communism?), and amplified, one suddenly sees not just “Jane Smith” or “Joe Brown” tweeting about another stupid spat, say, between Donald Trump and Rosie O’Something (and I honestly don’t know who she is, nor do I care, but she must be “famous” and I’m guessing revealed her emotional state – horror? fear? sickened disgust? – over Trump’s actions), no. One sees seemingly everyone tweeting about it – and then (here’s where it gets really bad) you see it (the spat) appearing as a news item on your phone in the “News” widget. Fuck the hell off, a-holes! Why is this “news”? It’s not news, morons, and we shouldn’t care. But, oh no, it’s dissected and presented in all its constituent parts over and over in an increasingly abbreviated “news cycle.” Our “outrage” is manufactured, and once conjured we’re asked to spend it by clicking, clicking, clicking, and retweeting endlessly. It’s a fucking Ponzi scheme of an attention economy, with a pile of crap on top.

What’s horrifying is that the desperate mainstream media is so in on the game: anything to get a click-through, to convince the few remaining advertisers that it’s worth their while to keep paying for ad space – even though no one actually clicks on the ads, I’m sure. (Well, I don’t.) So the “newspapers” allow the ads to become ever-more “interactive,” i.e., intrusive and annoying, until entire sites become fucking hell to load. So then the headlines have to become increasingly clickbaity and lurid, tempting enough to prompt clicking on yet another slow loading page larded with more analytics and data harvesting “tools” than the NSA have at their disposal. How many times has a headline been far more sensational than anything the text actually presented? Too many times. In a worst case scenario, people, tired of loading the lard, just repeat (or retweet) the headline – which then also works for the media outfit in question (“our xyz was retweeted two thousand times! Proof!”). It’s self-perpetuating. “The Guardian had an article…” “The New York Times says…” “I saw [sic! not read] that the Washington Post said…” “HuffPo has an article…” It fucking doesn’t even matter anymore what the article says, only the retweets and buzz matter. And even if you don’t “stay on top,” you can’t help but notice the ambient noise, the buzz itself. We trade in cliches (“where there’s smoke, there’s fire”) and let our emotional brain set the tone.

Well, it’s Friday, and a completely dreary morning with not much expectation of improvement. The forecast doesn’t include rain for today, but it is drizzling. Perhaps a passing shower. A “nor’easter” is supposed to be in full swing by Sunday. Crap weather all around. This month has been exceptionally and unusually cold and even raw. Incredible to think that it’s Memorial Day weekend soon. But when the warm weather arrives, it will clobber us with its sudden intensity.

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