Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lighting A Candle

I loved CNN's coverage of the recent presidential election. My fondness did not spring from any specific manifestation of journalistic excellence, so much as the hysterical performance the network provided for those of us who, for some odd reason, actually prefer to think about the sources of the information we're fed.

I first tuned in sometime in '07, or whenever it was that Hillary launched her foamed-mouth attack on Barack for his real estate dealings with an associate who, it turned out, was a convicted felon. She actually used the word "slumlord". It was better even than 1996-era Ricky Lake. But ultimately, it didn't matter what views one held of the various candidates. The excitement of campaign events often paled next to the amusement brought by the general tactics and sources used by CNN in the reporting itself.

I refer specifically to the ultimate sources of my ire, "Bloggers", and similarly newfangled "iReporters", whose remarks now provide the primary fodder behind an astonishing number of segments on CNN.

"Blogger", it seems, has become a job title. Suddenly, adding the label to one's name automatically suggests substance, ala "Professor," "CEO", or "Research Team Leader". In these modern times, nobody knows whether the person in question has a PhD from Cambridge in Theoretical Physics or is, rather, an escapee from a nearby ward for the clinically insane. Nobody cares.

Back in the dark ages, a journalist preparing a story on, say, nuclear energy, might have spent time in a power plant or - gasp - could even have interviewed an actual physicist. Not necessary now, if we follow CNN's example. Why commit to the footwork when one's story can be researched on this week's flashiest Wiki, and substantiated with a choppy webcam chat with "Milwaukee Blogger Jack Noodorshitz"?

Now, any chimp sealed off in some musty basement with a keyboard or cell phone, a sufficient combination of sleep deprivation and Starbucks swill, and a desire to light their own candle, can submit their unique brand of vital and well-informed jabber to all the world - and maybe even CNN. It's brilliant. To hell with credentials. What matters is having an exciting opinion.

When did the United States enter a recession? Let's hear from "iReporter Jill Kwackpot from Omaha." Never mind that she, a) has no background in economics whatsoever, b) was recently fired from the local Dunkin' Donuts after misunderstanding a directive to "put the dough in the drawer" - leading to an explosion that nearly blinded three elderly Croatian customers - and, c) lacks the skills to balance even her own checkbook. Such minutiae are secondary to the fact that she can successfully operate a cell phone camera while looking interesting. Her desperate cries that the government "do something!" will elicit sympathy and nosh the ratings.

Speaking of which, I hold Apple responsible for the pandemic of "iNouns" currently infecting the English language. A spectacular stroke of marketing genius, the scheme relies upon posing as the underdog or hero of the downtrodden everyman, while simultaneously reaching out for the consumer's latent egotism, and then insidiously dousing it with Miracle Grow. It originated with "iMacs" and "iPods" (particularly infernal devices that have rendered entire generations incapable of discerning the difference between high fidelity stereo recordings and garage-side rippings from 1960's-era, monaural reel-to-reel tapes) and radiated from there. This is MY collection of faddish, pretty electronic devices that I'll probably throw out next week even while working myself into utter hysteria over the contemporary American carbon footprint. This is MY blog, MY mindless, compulsive materialism (and ensuing, mind-blowing credit card debt), MY intellectual narcissism. Oh, poo. I forgot to breathe.

Welcome to 2008. Here, in the age of the mouse potato Pulitzer laureate, news media capitulate to new media. And a great show, this certainly has provided. So, if the election and its fireworks have passed, we need not lapse into intellectual stagnation… In fact, the world should set itself into supportive cheers, for I, too, have decided to dive into the realm of egocentric cyberspace.

This, my friends, is that effort. I claim no subjects as my exclusive domain, and make no pretense regarding political correctness or the frequency with which I will share my essential commentary. I can, however, certainly pledge that my verbal pyrotechnics will, one way or another, reflect my trademark skepticism and (I sincerely hope) a humorous edge that will make them worth anyone's three to five minutes. Perhaps my remarks will even be plucked from the "Blogosphere" by CNN. Hell, if a 300 pound Doritos addict from Tulsa can be a "Blogger", than why not Joey from Brooklyn? Consider my candle lit. And keep your iPhone cameras handy, in case you spot me lumbering around on the streets.