Thursday, November 1, 2012


Nothing Is Real - Goo Goo Dolls (mp3)

Sharks swim through the New Jersey streets... but not really.

Soldiers stand firm against the torrential downpour to protect the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier... back in September.

Scuba divers swim through the New York Subway system... thanks to computer editing.

Hurricane Sandy has become a real-time experiment intermingling the real, the inaccurate, and the false into a single narrative that even news outlets fail to accurately fact-check.

Pop music has become equally surreal. It is possible for a human being to record a hit song without once playing an actual musical instrument, without one shred of his or her real voice actually making it to the recording. Is what you hear in that song her voice? Are those real drums? Is that a guitar or a computer program? Had Milli Vanilli come to the scene in 2012, they could have "sung" their own songs thanks to autotune.

For seven years, the Tour de France has no winner. The original victor, along with most of his competitors, were performing in a competition based on bionics and biochemistry. Half of our sports records seem to deserve some kind of asterisk.

Politics, too, has become Photoshopped. Mitt Romney is nothing but an empty vessel into which each of us inject our own hopes or fears. He stands for nothing that can't be dry-erased and edited in a matter of minutes with a new presser in the hopes that enough people will superimpose onto him just enough of the qualities they seek for him to win the necessary 270 electoral votes.

In fact, if Romney wins the election, his first moment alone will be to look into a mirror and wonder exactly who got elected. Not even Romney knows what Romney will stand for as President; he only knows what he has to say to this crowd, that group, the next fundraising party, the Tea Party rally after that.

Barack Obama is hardly better. Just ask the boatloads of Americans who voted for him in 2008 only to feel like he betrayed their expectations of his leadership. Many of these embittered "NObama" voters are merely transferring their loyalty from one empty vessel to another, having no clue where their new USS Romney will take them or what they might encounter on the journey, only knowing it will be a different one than their current four-year Obama Cruise.

Even our news and information is Photoshopped. Fox News and MSNBC are nothing more than news organizations with an airbrush, morphing current events them into something more palatable to their target audiences. Our news has become barely distinguishable in its ethics than fashion magazines that long ago gave up verisimilitude to feed us the beauty we -- or the editors -- wish to see.

We are in The Age of Misinformation, an era where we're still getting duped even when we're not busy trying to fool ourselves, an era where the mission is to control the information not for any loyalty to notions of "truth," but for the ability to manipulate people.

If this seems unfairly dark, I beg someone to cite a single modern-day news source implicitly trusted by even half of Americans, a politician trusted by half of us. If you're thinking the name "Jon Stewart" to yourself, haven't you confirmed my fears?

In The Matrix, their fake world is an entirely separate construct inside a computer program. In reality, The Matrix is an airbrushed sheen covering our everyday real lives, constantly leaving us fooled or uncertain, wondering who really shoots our Presidents, who really blew up our buildings, who really decides elections, who really has their phones tapped by our government.

But at least we have each other, right? Real, normal people? In the flesh? That's real. That's true.

Isn't it?

UPDATE (8:40 a.m., 11/1): Media critic Eric Deggans has a new book, Race-Baiter aimed at some of these media challenges, specifically, it would seem, as it pertains to race.


Bob said...

I like how all of your examples come together to make a point. Well-done.

TommyD said...

Great post. however, Obama may have not yet fulfilled all of his 2008 campaign promises, but unlike Romney, he sticks to his word and his principles. His ability to fulfill that agenda hinged on a willingness by Republicans in Congress to put country before party, which they refused to do. Methinks the scales tip more egregiously one way than the other.

troutking said...

Agree with Tommy. Great post but I'm tired of the media covering every Romney lie and flipflop and then trying to be even handed and say "both sides do it." Obama has done many of the things he said he would do and many others (bipartisanship, for example) were not for lack of trying. Has he moved on climate change? No. Has he moved to get money out of politics? No. That's what the four more years are for.

Billy said...

@Tommy & Trout -- I mostly agree with both of you about Romney and Obama, but neither of your observations negate the undeniable truth that I've had direct conversations with at least a dozen people who voted for Obama in 2008 who said they regretted it and felt like he didn't lead as they thought he would.

I'm not saying their opinions are valid, and I'm not saying Obama and Romney are equally duplicitous; I'm only acknowledging a very real part of this campaign: that Obama has lost a not-tiny amount of voters from last election to this one due to a perception of betrayal.