Once, before children, there was this beautiful, sunny Sunday. There were no clouds in the sky, the temperature was perfect, there was no reason to be in-doors. Except, one after another, good movies were playing on the television. Movies that I owned on DVD but, for some reason, when they come on all by themselves, I can’t help but watch them. Commercials and all. So after noticing the sun going down and realizing my error in blowing a perfectly good Sunday on the couch, my wife and I decided to cut the cord. Forward to April 2008. I scaled the roof of my house and installed an antenna. Me, slightly afraid of heights, strapped it to the chimney and haven’t been on my roof since.
Initially, my palms sweat when a few days went by and I hadn’t seen a World War II documentary on the History Channel. And I might have had a slight fever when The Learning Channel wasn’t available anymore. Then there were the news channels I could stare at for hours so for awhile, I felt like I didn’t know what was going on in the world. And then a few weeks went by and I forgot about all of it. Six-years later, I still don’t miss the nine-hundred-smörgåsbord-channel offering that is cable.
Why anyone has cable television these days is beyond me. Unless, of course, you’re a sports fan. Then I see why. But as a non-sports person (unless you count fishing), I don’t get spending that kind of money to watch other people have fun. The cheers of “We Won” are more accurate as “We Watched”. Yawn. Now get a game of volleyball or baseball together with friends, I’m in. But a spectator, I am not. I’ll take skinned knees over chicken-fried-greased-fingers.
Spectating in politics is just as boring. If you watch debates, others voting and others voicing their opinions, you have no more stake in the game then, well, the outcome of a game. Yet, unlike a sporting event where, at best, you might lose a few dollars and gain a few pounds, in politics, failure to engage means the end result is you being governed by someone else’s ideas. At least if you play the game of politics, you have the right to complain. Failure to engage, and you have the right to eat cake.
I find the same joy (if you will) in literature. Avid reading is great but I also enjoy writing my own. My own opinions in essays and, although lacking as of late, in fiction, is another form of participation. Voyeurism is a fine fetish. But the real kicks are in Exhibitionism.
I’ve been away from Freedom Cocktail for longer than usual. A cyst on my liver, that my doctors had been watching, finally grew and needed to be taken out. But no worries. I have good doctors who are paid well and wish to keep their reputations solid. You see, if you pay a doctor an extraordinary wage, they’ll do extraordinary things. Anyhow…while away on mutation leave, I spent seven nights, six days hospitalized. There is nothing to do in the Intensive Care Unit but piss in a container, monitor your blood pressure and watch cable television. I was able to see what I’ve been missing. I spent most of said time finding out that the History Channel has turned into an advertisement for a pawn shop. And the news channels aren’t doing any, ANY investigative reporting. The drone of what passes for twenty-four-hour news bores me to tears. Fox and Friends is less informative than Michael and Kelly and O’Reilly still interrupts his guests (and published a terribly inaccurate book on Jesus). I made such a right decision in 2008 to cut the cord. I can’t believe anyone is still paying for this.
Government to the rescue!
The Federal Communications Commission is going nose-in on the Fourth Estate. Plants are being placed in major news networks to find out what and why said networks decide to report on. Why does one network hammer on whether Hillary is going to make a run and the other nails out who Kim Kardashian is filming sex with? The FCC wants to know. And the purpose is to, supposedly, make sure the American public is getting proper, critical information. This isn’t the first time the feds got into dictating public information. A few decades ago, we got passage of the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act which set out to increase educational programming, again in the interest of the American public. Note: This does not mean the public is exposed to all sides of an argument. This means programming is determined based on a few individuals who make up the deciding cabinet. And although this is already true, as corporate news executives are currently the ones deciding what to report on, at the moment, if you don’t like said programming, you can simply change the channel. But if government begins to dictate on every channel, you won’t have the choice. Just as every car must come with an air bag, every television newscast may come with a public service announcement that cigarettes are bad.
In a prior piece, I noted how poorly the Fourth Estate was handling the real problem that we call Benghazi. I argued (and will continue to argue) that in that case, the real problem was Muslim Fascism and it was swept aside to avoid being offensive. Now, put a government agency in the Fourth Estate and…volia, you might not even hear the word Benghazi. Especially if someone doesn’t want you to. I really hate using sentences like that. Makes it look like I’m wearing my tin hat, spinning conspiracy theories. But when the FCC infiltrates news organizations for the purpose of making sure the American public is getting the proper information to meet critical needs, we can only assume that government dictated non-critical material falls by the wayside. And, of course, in a situation like this, it is never you who decides what is critical or not.
And if all that wasn’t bad enough, it appears the news networks are giving the government every reason to step in, and the public may welcome it with such poor professional oversight. As of recent, two fake news reports got spit out without any investigation by the news agencies. Late night comic, Jimmy Kimmel, put one over with a fake video of a wolf wandering its way into a hotel in Sochi. And an Atlanta radio station faked a protest about Justin Bieber allegedly moving there. Both stories were picked up by the major news networks and run as if they were real. No fact checking. Just regurgitation. If this continues, the networks may hand government all the reason to want in.
So I’m afraid (and slightly pleased) that you will have to become your own reporter. You will have to do fact checking. The Internet can be useful here although it is sometimes used for evil. Whereas prior to the InterWebs we, in the United States, were locked into the papers that made it to our doors, now, we can review International and freelance work. That is, if you care to take the time. If it’s important to you, I encourage you to do so. But don’t just watch, DO. Share your findings especially if they differ from the “official” story. Become an Exhibitionist. The more speaking up we can do in defense of getting all the information, the less Snopes has to do. Plus, quite simply, spectating is just plain boring. Jump in to the world. Go exploring and don’t be afraid to show off what you found.
As I mentioned, I’m on a mutation leave of absence from work. With no cable television to clog up my day, I have all the time in the world to chat with you, dear readers @ericwojo via Twitter if you wish. Oh, and I have a little petition that’s not getting much love over at Change.org. Maybe pop on over, sign it…free speech and all.