Sunday, December 04, 2005

Entertainment: Where The Real News Is

What is going on with the television? Turn on the news and there is no news there, but turn on everyone’s favorite television crime show, Law and Order, and they are playing out the dark side of the Patriot Act that allows for the federal government to effectively steal information from local police and cover up crimes if it serves their purposes. The pundits tell us that America is a Christian nation as if that alone explains why George W. Bush is sitting in the Oval Office, but then we see a clip from a reality television show, Trading Spouses, that exposes evangelicals as the crazies they are. What the hell is going on in this place?

If the culture wars are on, it’s clear which side is in the lead. Yes, there are many complaints in the music world about the lack of musical protest going on, but the liberal opinion seems to be everywhere else in entertainment right now. With George Clooney acting as a one man army bringing truth to the American people with his pet project “Good Night and Good Luck”, which highlights the fight of newsman Edward R. Murrow who dared to speak truth to power, quickly followed up by “Syriana” that tackles the very serious subject of peak oil, Hollywood does not seem to be content to take a backseat this time around.

Starting in the 1930’s Hollywood, fearing censorship from the federal government, decided to self regulate with the Production Code, which effectively put an end to social commentary in the film industry, except by the ingenious few who were able to disguise their meaning under layers of innuendo. This self-censorship paved the way for social steering films such as “More Dates For Kay” and “Are You Popular” that were fed to schoolchildren in the 1950’s. Entertainment was used to corral young people into the mold of what society wanted, boys do this and girls do that, and no one should partake of sex before marriage or drugs under any circumstance. It was important to the social and political order that young people fall in line rather than blaze their own trail. But the children of the 50’s gave way to teenagers of the 60’s so I guess the powers that be learned their lesson there. With the evening news showing body bags returning from Vietnam and war protestors wreaking havoc at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, those with their necks on the chopping block weren’t going to sit idly by, waiting for their ticket to Saigon.

Bush and his bagmen have taken it upon themselves to carry out the wishes of the neo-cons by muzzling news in this country and using the mainstream media for quick and efficient delivery of their propaganda. Fox News does their due diligence every day in packaging the undiluted White House talking points into easily digestible sound bites for the American people and CNN and MSNBC have unquestioningly followed their lead, but without thoroughly cleansing entertainment, Americans may still be getting the news that matters via their favorite prime time shows and weekend date movies. We may be in the midst of the information age, but Hollywood still rules.

There are few recession proof industries, but booze, cigarettes and entertainment are among them because the harder things get, the more people need their vices and diversions. Sure, booze and cigarettes are fine by this administration as they dull the senses and kill us off prematurely, but their biggest mistake may prove to be their laissez faire attitude toward our entertainment. We may be anesthetizing ourselves in front of our idiot boxes, but some of the messages will still seep through. By blurring the line between what is news and what is entertainment, this administration and their foot soldiers at Fox, CNN and MSNBC may have shot themselves in the foot. There is a lot more talk at the water cooler about the movie or television show that was on offer the night before than there is of the current legislation being passes in the Congress awaiting the signature of the President.

Infotainment may have seemed a good idea in theory, but tarting up the news has allowed for seepage of real information into our favorite TV shows and blockbuster flicks. Bush and company may rue the day that they didn’t follow the path laid out before them by Joe McCarthy and friends. The unintentional side effects of force-feeding us news about Lacy Peterson, Teri Schiavo, The Runaway Bride and a missing girl in Aruba, is that when we watch Law and Order, it looks a lot like news. This blurring of the lines may very well prove to be the downfall of this criminal enterprise perpetrated by half-witted zealots.


Anonymous rkelly said...

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8:01 AM  
Anonymous roberta kelly said...

I almost forgot since I almost never, ever, watch TV. I took a vow of television-celibacy after the election of 2004.

But, I have been told that the "West Wing" with Janeane Garofalo is also excellent.

I do watch, from time to time, Bill Maher and of course, George Carlin. These are only weekend treats that I spend my time soaking stuff into my visual memory, off the idiot box.

8:11 AM  
Anonymous hunley said...

Hi! Enjoyed your piece on the Smirking Chimp, but wondered if you'd been watching C-SPAN yesterday? There was a live, 3-hr. hearing aired during which the very entertainment segment of TV from which you seek solace was under attack by the fundies. Not content with the V-chip, "PG" etc. ratings system, and 'must carry' status for their networks in order for cable suppliers to operate, they now want to PRE-determine what reaches the air in advance, by establishing some sort of 'decency' standards. You can likely access the tape in their archives. For a comprehensive debate on that subject (and to learn who all the players are), it is invaluable.

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

In The Los Angeles Times it is getting harder to find real news in their news section. But they have a media columnist, Timothy Rutten, who is putting out the best journalism at the paper in their Calendar (entertainment) section: Burying The Lede

9:11 PM  

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