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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


WereBear: "Media Training"

They control the horizontal....

Thanks to WereBear for this great post!

What led to the hole we are in has a lot to do with the way our media outlets, specifically television, work. Some of it is corporate control, some of it is sucking up to those in power, and some of it is just dimwittedness fueled by money. But the real answer is that the Media is training us to be Passive Believers. Their real goal is to blur the line between their offerings and reality so much that people will lose the ability to distinguish between the two.

The Republicans are cynically reaping the benefit right now. But it will be a hurdle for anyone trying to get any word out, be it in the realm of science, politics, or public health. The Media knows no loyalty but to itself. And it will continue to distort anything it touches, the very shape of our world, until we realize how they are manipulating us.

They take great pains, with ratings and demographic talk, to make it look the other way around. We watch the shows, they watch the ratings demographics, they give us what we want.

But it's not that way. It's judo. If you were ever fond of a show that got yanked, wondered why that satire everyone you knew was talking about isn't even in reruns, or wished there was, dear heavens, something on you'd like to watch instead of settling, you might realize they are giving us only what they want to give us.

Look at demographics. Early Nielsen setups were predominantly in the homes of white middle class families. Thus, minorities, older people, and single people were vastly under-represented. The Big Three networks were all anyone had, and they drove relentlessly towards the bottom, with lowest-common-denominator programming that competed with each other for the biggest numbers of audience. As more channels, and finer discrimination of viewers, developed, one would think there would be ever finer targeting of sub-groups. There would be the minority family with the interest in science, the older single man who is looking at health concerns, the vast numbers of single moms desperate for fast acting cleaning products.

But that's not what's happening. Science channels don't have thought-provoking shows like "Connections." They have people building custom choppers. History channels go for controversy with "Tomb of Jesus" specials. You can find the latest celebrity breakup on "E," and on network news. While the channels are blurring the lines of what they are supposed to be about, inside the channels are just as blurry with their distinctions. It used to be the the "shows" had some markers; you watched a comedy, you watched the news, and there was some definition between them. Not anymore. The television is a constant flood of mockumentaries and reality shows and staged photo ops. The entertainment is like the soaps and that's the news.

It's all designed to make you not think. To give up on discerning what is real and what is not. They don't want you to make your own discriminations. That's why Anna Nicole Smith is "still dead" and while the congressional hearings into the Attorneygate scandal go on, very little of it appears on the network news. It's not that people prefer watching the Anna Nicole Smith story. They don't have a choice.

And the reason isn't to keep the Republicans in power. That's an unexpected side benefit for the Republicans, because they fit right in, manipulating and distorting and lying, but television prefers that. They're going to support that, no matter who is doing it. That's why honesty, of any kind, has a hard time getting onto television and getting its view heard. Cynical, manipulative, and lying Democrats get more coverage than honest ones. Don't they?

I think our current media is deliberately cultivating this gap, this "reality gap" in their audience. It's not just that they are heartless shills that go where the money is. They want a confused audience that believes what they are told. The more they cultivate the suckers, the more impact their commercials will have.

People already think a pill can make them lose weight, that an infomercial gadget will get them to cook, and that terrorists attacks are more to be feared than their lack of health insurance.

They would rather believe that, than actually change their eating habits, change their cooking habits, or realize the depth of the chasm that might loom before them. They want the audience confused. They want them to not be able to tell the difference between a rigged reality show and a rigged election. They don't want the audience to be aware.

Because a confused, cynical, and desperate audience will grasp at the straws held out by their commercials.

Because "gullible" is going to be the new demographic. It's supposedly about the "young and rich" or the "disposable income family" groups, whoever they may be. As the population ages in this new economy, the young will be poor. The older people, with bank accounts fat with actual pensions, savings from a time of living wages, and covered by Medicare; they will be worth going after. Why is Bill O'Reilly still on the air, when his demo skews to the over sixties? That's why. But that's not all.

As a more affluent, more seeking, group of people turn to the Internet, television has to offer up a different audience to their advertisers. Look at this November, 2006 article:

This must be scary news for TV execs, who would like to believe that the Internet video boom won't steal their most valuable viewers. In recent years the TV industry has had to deal with rapidly declining viewership in the 18-34 age bracket, and now it is clear that the ages of people turning to the Internet for entertainment are much, much broader. In fact, a unrelated study in the UK that was just released says that 43% of viewers who watched online video said that they watched less TV as a result.

Yes, it's scary news for TV execs, and for all of us. If the smarter audience is leaving, it might be smart of the television people to emphasize what they do have in their shrinking audience. A group that's less acute, less aware, more gullible. And it's in their interests to make that audience, more so.

Until the audience has become helpless to distinguish between cunning artifice and actual reality.

We laugh, now, looking back at Orson Welles's production of War of the Worlds on the radio. All those people streaming out of their homes, fearing the alien invasion.

But we shouldn't laugh. It was a warning.

- posted by WereBear