Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Cat in a Tree

Ok, I’m pissed. I wanted to watch Boston Legal last night, which I love but don’t get to watch very often, and Channel 7 here in New York had pre-empted all it’s programming for several hours to cover the Roosevelt Island Tram being stuck. THIS IS NOT NEWS!!!! A stuck tram is not news! If the tram falls and everybody aboard drowns in the East River, then it’s news! Until then it’s a cat stuck in a tree!

Or a cat stuck in a wall. It is in the nature of news organizations to manufacture news, to make a tragedy out of an everyday occurrence. The cat stuck in the wall in the Village last week was a good example. The stuck tram was a better one. I mean, we all saw Nighthawks. We know how the Roosevelt Island Tram works (interestingly, the rescue system they use in Nighthawks apparently does exist, but this one time when the tram was stuck they didn’t actually use it. Apparently the passengers didn’t like it. I don’t get people some times). Everything in America is a melodrama. The heroic police and firemen are going to rescue the poor trapped passengers or the poor trapped cat, unless they don’t, when it becomes a tragedy, and then they sell more papers. Except that it isn’t really a tragedy, it’s a tragic melodrama, which is a different animal.

If there is one thing I’ve come to understand studying media, it is that the melodramatic paradigm completely dominates American news. We don’t want information, we want entertainment, suspense, and a feeling that good triumphs over evil and that somebody out there will rescue us from the terrorists or the stuck tram (or both, and we’re back to Nighthawks). We want tabloids! And it’s all crap. This administration shovels this crap at us and we are happy to wallow in it because it doesn’t force us to think about anything. All we have to do is (a) be afraid and (b) believe that the President will protect us. It’s in everything he says in every news conference. “My number one job is to protect the American People.” And with a ready made permanent boogie man in the form of international terrorism (a better boogie man than communism, really), the government will have an excuse to lock people up without trial, suspend civil rights, and bully their critics right through the end of GW’s administration and probably through his brother’s first term as well.

What I wouldn't give for Howard Beale right now.

And that’s why this cat in a tree syndrome, and the fact that Channel 7 pre-empted Boston Legal last night, pisses me off so much! As long as we keep accepting this crap as news we will have the society, and the government, we deserve. Plus, I like Denney Crane. Sue me.


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