Stop Feeding The Beast Of Useless Distraction

I have become quite fond of a fellow on Youtube who calls himself “The Amazing Atheist”. Contrary to what the name may seem to say about the content of his channel, it is not SOLELY dedicated to the ripping apart of all things theistic, biblical and otherwise faithful (but its there, if you so choose to view it). He takes on many other issues and topics in his videos (I first discovered him though a hilarious video on feminism).

In his massive library of videos, he has one on the phenomenon that is  Justin Bieber, and another on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Actually, he has many Bieber vids, but only one is relevant now. The Justin video I reference for this piece is focused on the media orgy of all things Blieber. And the Honey Boo Boo video  is not only a VERY accurate review of the show itself, but also  a reality check to all those that watch it, and alike reality programming.

Ill post the 2 videos below, followed by a letter that I submitted to the editorial section of a local newspaper (that was printed in full).

When it comes to the up and coming mayoral race, there are a few names that interest me. Rick Chrest brings both business (financial) and political experience to the table, an asset that voters are likely going to be considering, knowing the events of the last 4 (if not longer, depending who you ask) years. Drew Caldwell could also be an interesting name to consider, despite his affiliation with the unpopular NDP party and the strand theater (I don’t recall him ever being caught in a lie, or with an unpaid tax bill after cracking down on that sort of thing).

Names I would like to see running?

Mike Abbey is a name I have not heard in awhile. And of course, Deveryn Ross. I went with SDH last time around, but having read many of his pieces in this paper, I think he could bring some interesting new ideas (and common sense) to the council chambers.

Now to the topic that is far more important than ANY political race on the planet. The topic, of Justin Bieber.

Yeah, like everyone else, im starting to mildly get fed up with hearing about the shenanigans of Justin and Miley, just as I got fed up with hearing about Britney and Charlie, just I am going to get fed up with whatever new names will be next. But the only thing that I am slightly MORE fed up with, is the public feeding the beast by paying heed, then complaining that it is everywhere.

Being I like to stay connected to news and social media sources, I have seen many of these links to embarrassing Bieber, Miley, Sheen and whoever else stories. But most of the time, I have refrained from clicking on them. Just scroll on by (you do have a choice!).

The reason why Bieber is all the rage now, and even popping into typically more progressive sources of news, is because of the demand. Even though everyone is saying “Just go away already!”, were collectively sending a completely different message. More mouse clicks (and viewer ship) means more ratings, and advertising dollars. More air time, means more exposure for Bieber (more $$!!).

And worst of all, attention wasted on such distractions, is attention that does not focus on more important stories. Like the L’Isle-Verte nursing home fire (primarily the reason, lack of sprinklers), or the on going senate scandal (speaking of scandal, what ever happened with the Robo-calls incident?).

The letter to the editor above was meant for local consumption, so the first part has names that only people from the Brandon (or Western Manitoba) region will recognize. I understood that. But rather then editing that out, I decided to leave it in, as it illustrates more or less, what I am writing  about in this entry.  The Honey Boo Boo video may seem out of place but I will tie it in, in due time.

My letter to the editor was ordered in the way it was, because in the previous weeks publication, the said editor had written a piece which started off with some talk about the Brandon mayoral election, but then ended with a mention of Biebers then  recent shenanigans (the whole car chase thing). Rather then pick one or the other (I had something to say on BOTH fronts), I decided to have some fun with it. And to my surprise, it was printed (editorial #2 for that paper so far).

Today, one does not have to look very far to get information. With high speed Internet,  and all the devices that can connect to it both in the home and on the go, new information is only a click, tap or a button push  away. News sources are available for consumption, most now in more mobile friendly formats. But the majority of the information seen by most people, is on social media.

These social feeds can be tailored to the tastes of people. My twitter page is awash in news and information, due to my choice to follow mostly only news sources (awash is an understatement. An endless flood is more accurate). And my facebook has a nice mix, but mostly only news articles, based on the fact that most of what I share is news articles.
But when it comes to most feeds, there is often very little to do with anything news, or current events.

What there is is an endless sea of memes, vines and other pointless information. Sure, it is ones choice to surround themselves with such information if they so choose. But it bothers me, because TO much concentration on such pointless non-nonsensical noise, takes focus off the real issues in the world.

But we will get to that.

There is some news mixed in with all the pointless crap that makes up the majority of the social media information flow. Some of it breaks though. But much of it is news that is very valuable, in terms of being informative.

I speak of, those news stories mostly focused on single people and entities.

Some of the names that you have likely  seen in these stories (most recently) are Justin Bieber and Miley Cyress. But the list isn’t over there. Two other names occur to me that should make this list, those being Rob Ford and George Zimmerman.

It seems that not a week, or a fortnight, goes by without hearing about one of the 3  somewhere in the media. Be it though an online article, in a newspaper, on the news or where ever else. And one of the sadder aspects of the whole situation, is the amount of weight (in terms of screen time/coverage) placed on the shenanigans of any of the above, by various media sources, at different points of time.

We have all seen the frenzy of Bieber (and to a lesser extent recently, Miley) in the media. At one point, even more “progressive” and informative media outlets were starting to let Justin slip into their news flows. The whole world had heard about Toronto’s (allegedly) crack smoking, hard partying mayor by now. And then there is George Zimmerman, who continues to flaunt his “innocence” in the face of all his opposition, by STAYING in the cross hairs of the news cycle (I may not believe in karma, but hey, one can never know! Asshole).

One of the common things that I hear in regards to the domineering of most of these stories in the media, is, enough already! Most of that is reserved for Justin Bieber (rightfully, since he tends to make the biggest waves), but it also exists for the other 3 on the list. A list that is ever changing (the trend stays the same, only the names on the list change).

I have,  I admit, at times fed this beast.

I have commented on all of the above names at one time, only adding to their status in the limelight of the public (view my past Rob Ford ( 1 and 2 ) and George Zimmerman pieces, 1 and 2 ). I have not had any recent commentary on Justin Bieber, but I did do a piece last year, about the publics weird fascination with him (long before he, shall we say, went off the deep end).

But as I wrote in my letter to the editor above, that is the problem with the situation. The more we view, click, chatter about or otherwise willfully seek information on these people, the more that we will see them in the media at large. News networks want good television ratings and lots of internet clicks, so the best way to get that traffic or ratings, is focus on stories that are sure to get the attention of many.

So, if you are TRULY sick and tired of hearing about and seeing Justin, Rob and George on TV and everywhere else, stop consuming the information (in particular, in the online world. Its easier to measure clicks then news broadcasts. Not to mention news broadcasts are likely heavily weighted to what is trending on various online sources).
The next time you see that article that tugs at your curiosity, just scroll on by.

Just know that no matter what is contained in the article, you will gain NO personal insight WHATSOEVER from it. The only thing that may happen for you, is a negative reaction. Your life will not be any better if you click the link. In fact, it may get just a little bit WORSE after you click the link (depending on your current world view).
So do yourself a favor, and just cruise on by.

Which brings me to the next scourge in the media today, reality tv.

Once again (for the sake of honesty), I did have a soft spot for some of these shows. I used to enjoy a marathon of storage ways, a bit of Amish mafia, and the occasional episode of extreme couponing (the show sparked an entry about it HERE ). And there are likely a few that I am forgetting (Gene Simmons Family Jewels! Used to love that show. And Ozzys version, prier to that). And I like an occasional dose of The Peoples Court and Judge Judy.

But while these shows can indeed be entertaining, they are essentially the same as the endless social media chatter of the internet. Its just useless information, devoid of any educational value.

Now, that is not to say that I am against the idea of pointless entertainment in general. I enjoy a good movie, just like most others. I have some favorite TV shows that are in the fictional category (Revenge, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad (previously) and Desperate Housewives (in the possess of watching the series),  just to name a few).

When I watch a show like Desperate Housewives or Revenge, I know that what I am watching is not real.
Wisteria Lane, and the city of Fairview itself, is clearly a figment of Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry’s imagination.
Just as the whole idea of Amanda Clark/Emily Thorne’s “Revengenda” is a figment of Revenge creator Mike Kelly’s imagination.
We know that going into watching the show, and process it as such.

Which is where some of these so called “Reality” TV series’s, can get a bit muddied.

Sure, at one time, they may have started out as exactly what they claim to be. I remember American Idol season 1. Not to say that American Idol has become any different to what it already was (its hard to tamper with that format), but for me, it marked the beginning of this flood of “reality” shows. Next in line was Survivor. And today, almost everything on the air, is in the format.

Reality talent shows may be just as utterly pointless as the rest, but at least its not as easy (nor as useful) to attempt to pivot them in a certain direction. Drama is irrelevant to talent (either you have it, or you don’t). Simple.

But when it comes to any of those shows that are “following” anyone in their day to day life, that is where I get suspicious.

As noted by The Amazing Atheist in the 2ed video at the start  of this entry, it might not be as brazen as handing the characters a script. It could be as simple as, encouraging a certain behavior or line.

The public does not want to see their family on television, so lets give them a shit show. The more rowdiness, the better the ratings.
Then there are the Ghost Hunting/Medium type shows. Alike with the other variants of the format, boring does not get good ratings. Its the drama (or “paranormal evidence”!) that brings the people in.

So one has to ALWAYS watch these shows, keeping that in mind. Even in the show Extreme Couponing, I spotted potential meddling (the “stockpiles” of many of the shows participants  seemed suspiciously new, clean AND untouched, for having been the fruits of months of labor).
This could be my paranoia spotting things that are not there, but given that some of these series’s have been tarnished  by the real “reality” suddenly coming to the surface, anything is possible.

A & E is no stranger to this sort of thing.

A few years back, it was because of a racial slur uttered by their then flagship reality  series star Dog the Bounty Hunter. Then came the anti-gay rhetoric from Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson.

But it was not this that bothered me. One thing that did catch me a bit off guard however, was the shock expressed by the audience (and people at large). Were talking about a person who has lived there entire life in the deep south. Adding a bunch of cameras, and a nice fat pay check, does not change the content of ones brains.

To me, A&E did not even have to take the show off the air. It may not have been an educated opinion, but it was still a personal opinion. And being I respect ones right to freedom of speech and expression, I would not discipline him for speaking his mind.
That is not to say that I agree, its still a crock of shit. But if my side starts to dictate what can and can not be said, then the other side will (rightfully) get to have the same say in the argument. The end result, being not a pretty sight.

That being said, that is not the biggest controversy surrounding the program. The biggest one in my eyes (and the one that goes along with this entry), is the whole problem of it all being fake.


Imagine that!

The whole pretense of the show, is a sham. No more real then the  plot of an episode of Desperate Housewives. And yet, many fell for the illusion.

Bill Maher was correct when he addressed this in the closing monologue of the first 2014 episode of Real Time. He told America that it needs to “Be more cynical”.

One argument for these kind of shows, could be that it is interesting to have a glimpse of how other people in other areas live. To see how people of various different backgrounds, go though daily life.

But (as noted by The Amazing Atheist, had you watched the video though to the end), this is not even a good reason, because the picture of “life” as portrayed in the shows, is likely  not even all that accurate. Its molded and twisted around what will get good ratings, what will make people watch, and keep watching.

It is for this reason, that I have never watched (nor do I ever plan on watching) Duck Dynasty, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, or any of that other pointless garbage. The only thing that bothers me more then this programing itself, is the networks its being aired on.
Discovery, Out Door Life Network, History, The Learning Channel (HA!), A&E. This programing has NO educational value what so ever. All it does, is distract and retard us.

What I said above, applies to all of this useless information that is coming at us from all angles, during all hours of the day.

And I am not just pulling this out of my ass. Well, I guess I sort of am, to be perfectly honest lol. I can not give you anything solid to back up my claims. But what I can give you, are my observations of the world at large. In particular, of my generation, and the generations that are growing up after me.

Frankly, all you need to do, is go to any social media portal. Twitter, Facebook, any of them.

Or, there is  the way that I got a lot of my insight, which was though working in customer service for awhile. In places where everyone of all walks of life stops in by necessity (gas bar, c-store, super market etc). Running the cash register, is the best way to do this.

You will meet all kinds of people. There will be nice people, who you will enjoy serving. But then are the ignorant, and the stupid. Stupidity abounds, when you work in jobs like this.

The stupid people tend to be easy to spot, because they tend to be elitist.  They act like spoiled, entitled morons, and treat you as such, be the hostility deliberate or unnoticed.
I know that I am slapping the label of “stupid” on a great array of people. But it is because I see no reason why someone of any intelligence, would go out of their way to disrespect  someone that they do not even know. Its just a pointless power trip, a bullying tactic. Its just, STUPID.
I have enough stories of customer abuse from my time in the service industry (my entire 7 year long career thus far) to fill a book, but I won’t tell them here.

I remember a reoccurring thought process that came up in my mind whenever I would be in these situations. It was how clueless and idiotic these people really are. Without industrial civilization to sustain, nourish and otherwise fulfill their every want, need and desire, they would be NOTHING.
While the main status symbol tends to be ones money, ones cash, that is useless without resources to back it up.

While I always looked at this in a more vengeful manor (Karma assholes! See how far your stupid gets you when the supermarkets are never replenished!), when one looks at the state of affairs in the world, this might not be all that far from the truth.

Climate change. Peak EVERYTHING. Ubiquitous pollution. These are all huge problems, that are going to affect all. Its equality at its best, in that if we do not ALL take action, we are ALL EQUALLY FUCKED.

Which is why this predominance of useless information abound is not just distracting and annoying (to those like me anyway), to a degree, its also dangerous. When consumed in small doses, with a healthy understanding  for whats going on around you, it is not so bad.
It is when this garbage is dominant in  your life (blocking out almost everything else), that the problem lies.

I see the affects of this, pretty much  everywhere (though I admit, I am unable currently to tie my observations to my hypothesis. May as well be honest, before you read on).

I see it in many not wanting to read any block of text that exceeds 120 characters.
And then there is the fact that, hardly anyone wants to pick up a good old fashioned book anymore.
Hell, even I call bullshit on myself for that, being I can hardly find any time to just sit and read (well, I never think of it. I am almost always starring at a screen. Like now).

I am unsure if the problem of shortened attention spans is correctable, but what I do know is that the human race has almost no chance of overcoming the adversity that is headed our way in the coming years and decades, unless we get our collective shit together. We are headed for nothing but hardship and dispair, if we do not learn to prioritize education.

While this solution (I will propose now) will not be an end all to this, I have to ask that networks which tout themselves (by name) as being educational tools, go back to that framework.

I am not saying that shows like Duck Dynasty or Honey Boo Boo have to come off the air (they have as much right to be in the public domain as this post of mine does), but stop insulting peoples  intelligence by having this shit on the air, seemingly as “educational” programing. There are plenty of specialty networks that will gladly buy this crap, for the ratings. And if that isn’t an option, change your name.
A network that prides itself on almost 100% reality television shows like Honey Boo Boo and Extreme Couponing, does not deserve to be called “The Learning Channel”.
And while were at it, rock the boat of the cable industry, and get these channels out of rigid “packages” sold to subscribers. I am thinking that a whole lot of these channels are funded by people like me who may not even USE them, simply because they are in a package you had to order to get another channel or 2. So get them out of your home, save some money and speak with the only voice that counts in todays world, your money.
And if you run into trouble, consider a service like Netflix.
The Canadian version leaves much to be desired due to copyright restrictions, and I am unsure about other international variants, but the American variant has a lot of selection. For more then 75% less then your average cable bill (keep in mind that you have to factor in your broadband expense into this to).

But most importantly, learn to look around you. Learn to see more then just, your personal bubble that is your life, and your local. Use the wondrous and awesome tool that is the Internet and modern mass communication, for something other then just looking up trivial and useless information.
The first step in finding a solution, is knowing that there is a problem in the first place.

Take the Sochi 2014 Olympic games.

At the best of times, I do not care about the Olympics. Many do, but like sports in general, it is just not of any interest to me.

But this years games, have been (I admit) more ridiculous then anything.

If one of the IOC’s goals/requirements/targets is for the games to have as small an ecological footprint as possible, Russia sure as hell dropped the ball on that one. But due to the tight control on the flow of information out of the country, and the VERY tight gag on environmentalists in the nation, I have not seen it much in the media (certainly not much in the mainstream media). And of course there was the rampant corruption,  and the countless Russian families dislocated and poorly (if at all) compensated, as their homes were demolished to make way for new venues and infrastructure for the games.
Personally, I question even some of the environmental affects of the games, as we speak. For example, what is happening with the huge increase in sewage. Though most would assume (and I would hope) its being treated in a nice sparkling new treatment plant, I can’t forget that some places had yellow tap water near the beginning of the games. If clean water was not prioritized for the visitors arrival, I can’t imagine that sewage treatment is being cared for any better.

Another thing that I wonder, is the fate of the area and the facilities, once the closing ceremonies are over and all the cameras and visitors go home. The ecosystem of the area was heavily damaged by these games, so will the facilities be at least utilized?
Or will they become an attraction for youtubers that like to explore abandoned and decaying  buildings?

But most do not see this. In fact, I would think that most do not care about this. All that is important, is who takes the Gold, Silver or Bronze.

Not to mention, other important news that has happened since the Olympics commenced (at least 3 different hazardous waste spills, just to start) does not filter though. And its not just the Olympics that is distracting (the Olympics is just the biggest one at the moment).

As I draw this entry to a close, something I want to stress is that I am not saying that ALL useless information, should be dropped or avoided.
Social media memes, chatter and other stuff can be amusing, connects people, and passes the time. Reality (and otherwise) shows are entertaining. And Sports, and sporting events, are a good bond for many people.
But like everything else in life, it is all about moderation.

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