There was a slight spring mist in the air and I decided it was time to visit my local pub for a cold one. As usual, my buddy Dickie was at the bar, watching the all-important news on the television.
“Did you hear the latest?” he asked? “Everybody is talking about it.”
“Dear Lord, tell me. I'my dying to know what is going on today. I’ve been out of touch for 12 minutes.”
“Here is the summary:
-The Republicans are now in charge, and say they’ll fix everything, unless they actually have to explain how they’re doing that. Then they give answers no one understands.
-The Democrats are having the time of their lives blaming the Republicans for everything; they wish they’d have thought of this let-the-other side rule thing sooner.
-Chuck Shumer has the best job in America, just picking a topic and explaining how it will screw over the middle class; Sean Spicer has the worst job in America, trying to explain what the hell is going on in a White House filled with ex-CEO’s who know the cardinal rule of corporate management; when all else fails, cut the hell out of everything so it looks like you’re doing something; unless, of course, it affects your contributors, or has anything to do with defense spending.
-The Democrats are fighting against the new health plan, even though all of them agree they never understood - or read- the Affordable Health Care Act anyway. However, they are glad the new version is shorter.
-We’re going to build lot of new ships and planes because our leaders don’t think spending 57% of our discretionary budget on the armed forces is enough; less than 60% and you’re a pussy.
-The NRA is taking a new approach. Without Hillary or Obama to use as a way to sell more guns, their new ad campaign will feature Meryl Steep and her Hollywood friends trying to break into your house.
-The under-employed and young people in this country can’t wait until all the Mexicans are exported so they can get all of those great jobs in the fields of California and the back warehouses of Chicago, which pay $7 an hour with no benefits. Plus they won’t have to take drug tests.
-Melania Trump is now the most popular person in America, even though she doesn’t say anything, which she learned from Jackie Kennedy. Just shut up and you can become a legend.
-And Donald Trump says that whatever happens anywhere, it’s not his fault. Everything he does is great, he knows more than anyone, and anyone who disagrees is a liar, a crook, under-rated, or so sad.
"That’s about it for now,” he said. “Although I could throw in that terrorists still like killing innocent people to bring peace to the world, and the guy in North Korea seems nuts, has bad hair and a lot of bombs, which could be an analogy, if one used their imagination.
"And also there is the other, actual news that a lot of people who were forced out of the middle east have nowhere to go because no one wants them; and it appears that the Earth is heating up, with one side saying it’s caused by the last 120 years of the industrial revolution, and the other side saying it doesn’t seem that hot to them.”
“Sounds about right,” I replied. “So excluding those few, last real stories, you’re saying that 95% of the news is nonsense.”
“I don’t know a percentage, but think about it. I absolutely love the news, but in large part it has become the NFL draft coverage; there are about 10 minutes of things to talk about, but the story goes on for weeks and months, with most of the conversation being meaningless.”
“Why is that? There has to be a lot of stuff going on out there? Good Lord, there are a hundred news websites.”
“Look,” he continued, “the news now consists mainly of three to five stories a day that may actually matter - storms, murders, attacks, bad guys.
"Then we have some nonsense thrown out by someone, somewhere that everyone gets all hyped up about. Trump is the king here, but if it wasn’t him it would be another politician - Democrat or Republican - screaming with rapturous, righteous indignation about something. Then everyone has to analyze this for days, weeks and month.
"Then we get to the all-important stories about Snuggies, mold in our shoes, oiled pubic hair, Beyonce and Blue whats-her-name, and the latest celebrity who died who changed everyone’s life, but whom we haven’t heard from in 20 years.
"Since all of this has been going on so long, the only thing I can deduce from this is that overall, there really isn’t much going on. Things here are generally ok. No real wars, other than Syria. No depression. No plague. The crazies are kept under control, mostly. Most people have enough money to pay for cell phones and big trucks, new golf clubs and spa treatments.”
“Or,” I said, “maybe the people who bring us the news just aren’t looking hard enough…”
“Well, that could be,” he replied. “But I think there are three main reasons actual journalism is dying.
"First, the news agencies are now owned by small groups, or rich white guys with agendas. This means they’re in the business of not just reporting, but making money, which generally means to entertain people. Also, it’s harder to make money with an agenda because you lose half of your audience.
"Next, newspapers and agencies have gotten rid of most of their reporters, especially on the local level. That’s why so many good reporters have either gotten fired or jumped shipped. Now those still working close their eyes, swallow their pride and write corporate horseshit about nothing to pay the bills.
"And third, the constituency - the huddled masses - either don’t care about the news, or they don’t want to hear anything that counters their biased opinions. They love believing they’re right so much they can’t hear, or won’t accept, anything else. So they just chalk things up to liberal bias, or right-wing rantings.
"So what we’re left with is not many stories, with coverage that isn’t particularly good, because there isn’t as much to cover, the news industry has changed for the worse, and most of all, because people don’t care, or can’t handle the truth, as Jack Nicholson said In A Few Good Men.”
“To you, then,” I replied, “the good news is that there is less news; the bad news is that the means for covering anything in depth has gone away. Does that mean we’re living in good times or bad times?”
“I truly don’t know,” he replied. “It’s good we have eliminated a lot of nasty things in this world, but if our attitude is crappy all the time, and all we hear is whining, crying, blaming, bitching and moaning, then it can be kind of a self-fulfilling prophesy - we can forget to look on the bright side.”
“And,” I followed, “start to believe that what passes for news these days - the nasty opinions of a selection of people - is actually true.”
“As someone once said,” he replied, “the greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves.”