Could CNN Kill Us All?

WaPo Columnist Gerson Scores Laser-guided Bullseye with Comments on would-be Qur’an Burner’s Canonization by Corporate-owned, Internet-dreading Journalists. But first: GIANT SCHMUCKS ARE PLANNING A MEGA-BUDGET, FEATURE-LENGTH VERSION OF THE FALL GUY!

Ok, wait: I urge you to read Michael Gerson’s column, but in case you’re too busy or drunk, here are select quotes you can use the next time some fool in-law starts blathering about who should burn which King James edition of the Qur’an or where in Dubai Afghan President Hamid Karzai spends his U.S. taxpayer dollars.

[R]adicals have [long] talked of the “propaganda of the deed” — the use of dramatic, usually violent, acts to inspire the masses and topple the existing order. The method — targeting symbolic landmarks to create powerful images — is now familiar. The killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The first World Trade Center attack. The Oklahoma City bombing. And 9/11 itself. These events required murder and suicide to gain the global media stage. But the Rev. Terry Jones achieved something new, something that will be studied for generations: the propaganda of the idiotic gesture.

I love that, “the propaganda of the idiotic gesture.” And how much more idiotic is that the good Reverend’s gesture actually caused violence and disorder in Afghanistan? The things we do to cement ourselves in history these days…

In the Internet era, attention for stupidity is a democratic right, rewarded for audacity and timing alone….The old media enable this trend. A competitive news environment drives saturation coverage. Saturation coverage confers legitimacy — even as reporters themselves feel guilty in their complicity.

This is distressing in view of how much news conglomerates rely upon saturation coverage to drive ad sales. “If it bleeds, it leads” has never been more true.

A second enabling condition is the pressure on political figures to respond to the manias of the news cycle. In this case, coverage was being exploited by jihadists in Afghanistan. The U.S. commander on the ground clearly thought confronting this matter would be helpful. But a failure to respond also would have resulted in a judgment from the media itself: that the administration was flat-footed and behind the curve. And so an American president felt compelled to denounce the views of a single, pathetic, irrelevant citizen — a form of elevation nearly as effective as throwing Jones a state dinner.

This is just sad when you consider how few Americans view our President as “one of us” as it is. The guy badly needs a way to connect to everyday folks, and he could have turned this into an opportunity to do so; a little anger or even some name-calling on his part would have shown voters that he actually could pick a side and tell it like it is for once. But no. He had to go off on the constitutional rights around book burning (zzzz…) without even throwing in a “hate-mongering peckerwood” for good measure. Isn’t this the guy who called Kanye West a “jackass?” Oh, right…that was when he thought he wasn’t on camera.

The idea that an unbalanced pastor with an Internet connection and a poster can cause our nation’s highest military and civilian leaders to respond is an invitation to global crackpotocracy — rule by the most creative and outrageous lunatics…At some vanishing point of stature and influence, provocations need to be marginalized instead of confronted. We could begin here: If a pastor has fewer than 50 congregants, and his daughter says he “needs help,” perhaps he should be ignored.

Which brings me to ABC’s God-awful primetime turd, The Fall Guy, and the fact that industry skanks have been dropping George Clooney’s name as a candidate to reprise Lee Majors’s “Colt Seavers” in a movie reboot. What in hell does this have to do with Michael Gerson or the Reverend Peckerwood, you ask? Ah, saturation coverage, that’s what! The same thing that drives the dissemination of events by every news outlet and strident freak show: the mass media reaching critical mass. That is to say, at the same time that the media oversupplies us with the knowledge that we no longer accept each other for who we are, we’ve also reached a point where our societal lack of creativity and curiosity is too insidious to disregard. Plus we’re fat now, too, way fatter than we’ve ever been. And we’ve got fat kids and big fat health needs and heavy attitudes and enormously bloated senses of entitlement.

Simple physics decrees that when material gets too big for a box, specific results will occur: the box will burst; the universe will regurgitate; our luck will run out. We’re gonna’ explode, people. We’re all getting a bit too crazy and pitiful. And we make more excuses for surrendering our and our children’s self-respect than all the pixels in cyberspace.

Will it be the hate for each other that does us in, or one too many in a long string of unimaginative confections that will represent the tip of the needle that pops the balloon? Or will the media kill us? Will CNN declare the end of the world too soon, I wonder, like so many election night results, causing us to lose sight of everything but our worst?