Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mean Sheeple

I'm flying back to Virginia on Hallowe'en - by scheduled aircraft and not by broomstick, but lately I've felt that the cybersphere was awash with covens of witches.

I should be looking forward to going home. Goodness (which has nothing to do with anything, in the words of Mae West) knows, I've certainly been homesick enough on this side of the Pond. I should be excited that, whilst there, I'm spending a weekend in New York, seeing Bill Maher's November 8th gig. Instead, it's all become an ordeal which I would toss aside in a moment, if my air ticket weren't non-refundable.

I'm overdosed on meanness.

I've spent almost three decades on this side of the Atlantic. I'm well familiar with cynicism, almost to the point that I'm worshiping at the altar of Voltaire. People, both in the UK and on the Continent, view the politicians they elect with a jaundiced eye. The attitude is that this or that politico is only out, in the long run, to feather his nest, and the hoi-polloi be damned. The politicos, from time to time, give award-winning performances of concern and connection; but once in office, the stark truth is that they really do not give the proverbial rat's ass. With attitudes like that, it's no wonder that the great unwashed give credence and kudos to z-list celebrities, enhancing their ubiquitous 15 minutes of fame; whilst their elected representatives seek benedictory approval from these selfsame self-promoters of sophomoric fame in an endeavour to heighten their own street cred.

In the words of Bill Clinton: Give. Me. A. Break.

I am sick of Bono, citizen of the world and tax exile from his own country (a country whose economy went from boom to bust in a matter of months when the Bank of Iceland capitulated), writing op-ed portents of doom in credible publications like the New York Times, all the while trawling the earth on a world tour with no less than 6 private jets and a veritable circus of fireworks, leaving a carbon footprint the size and depth of the Grand Canyon. I'm sick of so-called journalists labouring and slavering on his every word as if he were Christ incarnate, and then navel-gazing like adolescents caught masturbating when this jumped-up navvy pontificates that he's 'dismayed' at the direction in which the United States is going.

Who the fuck is this man?

I'll tell you who he is. He's someone who got lucky with talent. He's someone, who - had he not been in the right place at the right time - might have been mulling the problems of the world over a pint of Guinness and a Castella in downtown Dublin. Instead, his ass is the Blarney stone celebrity-worshippers line up to kiss. He's 'dismayed' at the direction in which the United States is going ... I ask you. This is the same man who took it upon his pompous self to lecture Brian Williams, on the even of the Inauguration, that whilst the U S 'invented' the concept of liberty, the rest of the world owned liberty.

I beg your pardon?

What was all the more galling, was Williams, a seasoned newsman, taking all that verbal diarrhea with the spineless demeanor of a whipped puppy.

It made me sick.

Maybe Bono's worried that the US economy is still tanking, which will mean people won't have the spare dosh to buy his latest over-rated CD; or maybe he's worried that the dodgy real estate ventures his songwriting partner is pushing in Malibu, won't be up to scratch in value, now that California is less than bankrupt. Or maybe, Bono just revels in the fact that he's famous and talks because he knows people are stupid enough to listen to his drivel and reckon him clever. He criticizes another country as not being to his standard, but he'd never dream of doing the same thing or even offering valid criticism of his own country, which could do with a bit of advice from a favorite son.

I'm sick of Arianna-Hump-Straddling-Huffington, picking through the political knitwork like Madame Desfarges sitting by the guillotine, ceaselessly looking for the next nit to pick about something Obama's done/said/thought incorrectly and what he should be doing, based on something Roosevelt or Lincoln or Edward III or Alexander the Great did.

Ms Huffington fancies herself an intellect, but there are those of us about who remember how she cravenly tried to push her way into the chattering class Islington media intelligentsia in the UK in the 70s and early 80s, until a little matter of plagiarism got thrown her way. She re-emerged in the US in the mid-90s, suddenly the wife of an up-and-coming Congressman. She, herself, was so deep in the pockets of Newt Gingrich that she may have needed kneepads; and she led the charge in favour of Clinton's impeachment. To say, Ms Huffington was a rightwing Republican would be too kind. She was the Sarah Palin of the 90s, with more than a soupcon of Martha Mitchell.

Suddenly, in the wake of the 2004 election, when it became fashionable to hate George W Bush, she pops up a dyed-in-the-wool Progressive.

Damascene conversion or self-promoting reinvention? All she needed to do was strap on a pointy Christian La Croix bra, and she would have rivalled Madonna as the Mistress of Reinvention.

I thought of this instantly, when I watched one of the March episodes of Real Time, when Keith Olbermann appeared as a guest. Bill and the panel had been discussing the phenomenon of Glenn Beck, when Bill, who realised Olbermann used to work at Fox some years back, asked him if he thought the Fox News people bought into the stuff they spewed.

Olbermann revealed that he'd just interviewed the author of Rupert Murdoch's biography, who had been given licence to interview various Fox employees. On condition of anonymity, one high flier had actually admitted that Rupert Murdoch was totally apolitical. In fact, he didn't like politics at all, but he was a businessman, who'd recognised a niche in the US news media for a conservative viewpoint. Beck, Olbermann reckoned, was the real deal; but the rest of the Fox names were salesmen; and if the world woke up the next day to a rightwing US news media takeover, Hannity and O'Reilly would become Progressives overnight.

It's no surprise that Rupert Murdoch and Arianna Huffington are best buds, is it? Just as it came as no surprise that the celebrated verbal tennis match feud between Keith Olbermann, himself, and Bill O'Reilly was all for show. A sham. Contrived. For the ratings and the rantings.

Christ on a bike. Please help me. Who said, "whoever controls the media controls the government," wasn't exactly right. Instead of controlling the government, whoever controls the media controls the gut reactions of the lowest common denominators of the Right and Left.

The Right goes mental listening to Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck ranting about reverse racism and the impingeing fascist dictatorship of Barack Obama, while the Left sucks in verbal garbage propagated by Huffington, urging Joe Biden to 'resign' and lead a protest party against Obama because of Afghanistan. The puffpo HuffPo dittoes are reduced to bobble-heading idiots in agreement with anything Huffington proposes or any piece of lazy 'undocumented source' of journalism her latent adolescent reporters shoot out as fact, second-guessing the President and criticizing his every move. Obama's for the public option. No, wait a minute, he's not. Yes, he is, but only for certain people. No, wait, he wants a trigger.

I used to really care passionately about universal healthcare being implemented in the United States. It is still my home, after all, and if I do eventually return, I'd like to know that I'd be covered. Now, I couldn't care less; in fact, I could care less if I ever return. I've successfully managed to adopt the quintessential attitude of the British working classes: I'm all right, Jack. Fuck you.

And that's down to the good old US opinionated infotainment industry.

There was a time when our news media was the rival of the world. Newsmen read news reports at six or seven o'clock each night, and you did your homework while your parents watched an tutted over the latest carnage in VietNam or the latest student protest on whatever college campus. Now the nightly news is lost in a welter of 'fair and balanced' reporting which gives relevance to the trivial and exalts the mundane. Bored with fact, the viewing public turns onto opinionators, verbal snake oil salesman, who spew out their own invective and present it as snarky sarky fact, and doing it with one thing and one thing, only, in mind: ratings. People listen to Olbermann and Beck as though they're listening to God. It must be true. Keith Olbermann said it. Rush reported it; it has to be so.

This comes at us in 24/7 cycles, with every Tom, Dick and Mary hungry for five minutes of limelight and a contract for a reality show. It drives people to hoist balloons with the fiction of a child inside. It makes otherwise sane individuals welcome cameras and networks into their home to watch their children grow (and that's paedophilia in some countries) and their marriages disintegrate. And we lap it up. And we want more.

And in the end, we become mean sheeple too. We latch onto an aura of celebrity plopped in front of us via the internet universe, and we run like pigs from a gun to climb that greased pole for one iota of recognition from the person we've made into a god to worship. We can share the fame for a moment and to do so, we chase fame with flame and jealousy. We speak from the posterior portion of our bodies of the inalienable right to freedom of speech, whilst all the time whispering invective into the ears of chosen disciples in an effort to stifle that selfsame freedom of speech by good old traditional bullying. After all, nothing hurts more than an actual bitchslap than one aimed at the psyche of another. The e-mail messaged word, the subtle innuendo, the nudge-nudge-wink-wink harassment, all in the name of cruel exclusion.

We revert to the high school mean girls' mentality - if, indeed, we ever left it at all - desperate for attention and recognition. Pardon me, but this isn't a virtual classroom; and the star of the show is anything but a teacher. The motivating force here seems to be jealousy. Considering that, it makes one wonder how much jealousy plays a part in the daily debatings/discussions which occur on the floor of the Senate or the House. There's a lot of vanity there, to be sure, and a plethora of ego; but if there's jealousy, it's either cleverly concealed or its debilitating energy is channeled into arguments or actions more conducive to the cause at hand - healthcare or climate change or something of that ilk.

The chosen leader of the internet sheeple cerebrally muscles or manipulates his way to the top of the greasy pole, where he becomes paranoid of his position. Woe betide anyone who, even unthinkingly, becomes a perceived threat. There's nothing more frightening for the being being stifled than a larger than life smirking dynamic of a faux sweet Death's Head, reminding one subtly of one's place.

Someone once divulged to me that whenever this person was angry, there was a need to write. Well, I'm angry too, and so I'm writing a thank-you diatribe to all those who contrived to make my much-anticipated trip home an abject misery and to make an event which I've eagerly awaited seem like an ordeal to me.

With Americans like that, I'm better off in Britain, where the sheeple are, at least, selfish but indifferent.

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