Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Say What You Mean!

Conflate. There’s a word in popular use lately, although I’m not exactly sure its utterers are aware of its ambiguity.

“I think you’re conflating the issues.”

Wait, did you mean confuse, combine, or commingle? What about blend, mix, or merge? It seems that by using conflate as some sort of derision, the user attempts to avoid their exact thought because it might hurt someone’s feelings. It doesn’t quite sound as bad as confuse or mix(up). Worse, they won’t use more exacting verbiage because it potentially demeans themselves.

“I am confused.”

Yes, we all are.

Before conflate became popular, I was quite all right with confused. And what happened to combine or commingle?

“I think you’re blending the issues.”

Why yes, I did. I take it this is a problem?


Then say so!

“Well, you don’t like the word conflate so…”

Exactly, but I was not confused when I combined the issues.

“But… “

This is the state of our expressionism: We can’t say what we mean without suffering some sort of consequence. In other words, we’ve collectively and voluntarily become a neutered society of miscommunicators.
C’est la mort. 

Now, after some inevitable ad hominem heckling, on to a more depressing rant sure to make you close this window…

The Death of Objective Journalism

Well, it isn’t quite dead, is it. Almost dead, maybe. Or perhaps one could parse what I mean by “dead” or death in the first place. Let’s call it the death of respectable journalism. No, wait. There’s still some of that out there, it’s just that it’s died off to the point of being rarer than a quality mullet haircut. When you do see it, you look the other way. No point in rambling on about the state of that; let’s get to the meat.

Social Media. Many of us knew long ago that the dawn of the Information Age also brought with it the Misinformation Age. Fake news has been around forever, and it that’s because it works. No, I’m not going into the footworn canyons of atheists’ arguments—that’s not me—but society has in fact been the victim of untruths, half-truths, cons, ruses, conspiracies and other grand-scale nonsense since the first monolith landed and the apes stood up. Wait… never mind that last bit.

My point is, we’ve been played and continue to be played like David Oikstrakh’s violin. Don’t know him? Okay, maybe I should have used a recent celebrity. Itzhak Perlman? No? How about Joe Bonamassa’s guitar? Surely you’ve heard of him! Alright, I give, but you might notice how a lack of information goes a long way to foment false perceptions.

Behind the Curtain

Take a look at this debatable video a reputable friend recently posted to their Facepage.

(source) https://www.facebook.com/actdottv/videos/770297793160789/

Its purpose appears to codify our reasoning to blame our dear old adversary for not just the 2016 election, but also the current state of extreme polarization in the U.S. Um, no. Russia does not deserve as much credit as it’s receiving. The lion’s share of division emanates from our own media outlets. Not just news organizations, but many of the top TV shows, and the reason for this is quite simple. Yep—money. Well, that’s the endgame but not quite the modus in play here.

You’ve heard the maxim, “If it bleeds, it leads.” It was as true then as it is now. More to the point, the major media outlets are, and have been since the mid-‘90s, in a state of panicked flux. No broadcaster can survive without revenue. That’s a fact. Now allow that fact to guide your logic.

Mark Zuckerberg recently defended Facebook against a rigorous Senate panel grilling. When asked about the primary goal of his business, he posited a curt response. “We sell ads.”
He sells ads, ABC sells ads, FOX, CNN, NBC, CBS, you name it. If it’s on television, it’s paid for by advertiser money. That also goes for government-backed outlets such as the BBC. Facebook would shutter in a moment’s notice without ad revenue. They all would. It’s just that simple. Given this, there are only two things you need to remember: (1) Ad revenue comes from individuals, companies, lobbying groups and other organizations seeking an audience. (2) It is up to that media outlet to generate the largest audience possible for greatest ad revenue. Now think about those intended audiences for a moment. Why do you believe there are so many drug ads during the evening news, or beer and trucks during football games, or feminine hygiene products during daytime TV? The outlets know who’s watching (via Neilsen), and they know what ticks their boxes. So do the news outlets.

Not too long ago, a news organization could only be slightly politically biased if it hoped to gain the largest audience. Sure, they were still biased long ago, but it wasn’t as extroverted and obviated as it is today. You can thank FOX News for that. They pranced through the pearly right-wing gates back in the early 1990s and never looked back. Just like that (and you can use Gump’s voice here) most folks in 40 or so states stopped watching CNN. Ad revenue plummeted. Heads rolled.

“Do something!”

The gloves came off, and for the most part, it was FOX against the left-leaning urban America. The liberal outlets were market savvy as well. More so, in fact. They have the wealth of Hollywood’s production engine on their side. Sides? We’re on sides now if you didn’t know it. At least, that’s what the outlets want you to believe until something occurs wherein no political capital can be gained. Then it’s “we’re all Americans after all.” Sure we are. That never changed.

Perishable Newsprint

And so with the internet, most (not all!) traditional print newspapers are gasping; fighting over the last chunks of interested subscribers by the production of monkey-edited click-bait tabloid, intentionally targeted at easily-riled and gullible dullards. Wait..sorry. Too harsh. Pontificating a bit and demeaning what might otherwise be groups of nice, well-meaning Americans. You knowthe kind of folks Heddey (Hedley!) Lamarr endeared. Education is a choice. Comprehension, however…

Ultimately, the internet outlets also, in fact, require the means in which to operate. For an effective professional and profitable organization, it takes mountains of cash. That means they have carefully researched their target audiences with every given headline, painstakingly crafted the verbiage, and measured the effects of it all after publication. More clicks. Must have more clicks!  Yet, those clicks are dwindling and the belts have tightened. You can see it in the increased grammatical errors (yes, I look in the mirror), lack of research, vetting, verification, and missed facts. Now it’s devolved to such a point that the outlets are trashing each other over a laughable entitlement to moral superiority.

Talk about misdirection…

No ghosts in the BBC's closet. Nooo...

I envision we’ll all be tuning out soon. It’s either that or some miracle occurs by way of a truly-objective news outlet coming to prominence. Never happen. Too boring.

On Tour

In case you missed it…

My favorite editor and I have been extensively traveling out west for the past few years. Some of it retracing steps not taken since DUST’s prepublication research days. (We’re talkin’ before 2009 here). Reno, Tahoe, San Francisco and the heart of Silicon Valley were breached, along with the communities that inspired Sonno Dolce and Amerimem. We also tumbled into Crow Agency, MT and some national monuments in the Wyoming/South Dakota border region. They presented themselves as I remembered, just more traffic and a bit more weed wafting about. Quite a bit. Suffice to say, we might have enjoyed the visit more than we anticipated.

More Soon,

T. Nelson Taylor | Official Site | DusT | Bolita