The Distraction Game
New technology and arrogance continue to be a dangerous mix. Particularly when it comes to new communication technology and the spreading and sharing of information. In the 20th century the metaphorical double-edged sword was taken up and blindly swung around. The radio was utilized by not only the Nazi regime but the United States and Great Britain as well. While it was a great tool for citizens to gain information, it was also a superb tool for governments to abuse information and create a specific narrative. The great powers of World War II all used this technology to further their missions. Moving into the Cold War, America was spreading the good capitalist word in Eastern Europe with Radio Free Europe. The youth of many western nations began tuning into off-shore radios, similar to the one depicted in the movie Pirate Radio, to listen not just to new music but to the new ideas that were purposefully being kept from them. Even leaders of the western free world at the time were trying to down play and stop such ideas from spreading. Even with the radio, the spreading, sharing, and management of information and entertainment was complicated. Denmark had the first radio station from international waters in 1958. However, before anyone even had a chance to distinguish the bullshit radio waves and talk shows from the plausible ones, the 50s came and brought with it the next wave in communicating technology; the television.
In the West, networks took off running. Each of them trying to get the most viewers for their advertisers so they could stay profitable and afloat. Video killed the radio star and didn’t stop there. Television went on to slowly bludgeon the truth to death in the name of profit. The actual information stopped being important. “An entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube!”, says Howard Beale from the 1976 movie The Network. After this generation stepped up in the world we saw, what was in the 50s, the unthinkable. The fear of atomic war landed us with the cutest rosy-cheeked President we have ever had. Reaganomics took ahold of the nation and we grew further and further away from the ideas of the New Deal. Greed is, of course, good. And insane amounts of concentrated capital are a water basin of wealth just waiting to be distributed to the work-willing masses, or so that old story goes. This story coupled with the fear of the Cold War was distracting people from certain realities. Since 1980, homes, rent, healthcare, education, insurance, and don’t forget petrol, all increased in pricing while wages stagnated and have remained the same. Economics became cruel, workers became disposable and social programs were now looked at in the same disdain as a swastika. While people were watching Dallas, Cheers, and the NFL, the future of America was being outsourced and indexed. The country that held up a banner of freedom for the world was slowly but surely leaving most of their own minorities in the dirt and no one at the networks blinked an eye.
The networks of the 1970s played on their viewers fears, Vietnam was on the television, nuclear war an ever-present danger and before they knew it Ronald McReagan was being sworn into office. An American TV and Movie personality. At the time of the election he was accused of delaying the release of American hostages in Iran with the help of Ayatollah Khomeini to make sure Carter lost. These scandalous events happening right before Presidential elections are not uncommon in the second half of the century. So much so that they have come to be known as October surprises. Clinton and Donald were both hit by these. Perhaps what is more unsettling though is the surprises that don’t make the list. Regardless, it seems that the ambition to use new technologies like the radio in the World Wars, the television during the Cold War, and the internet during the War on Terror, is always used to mislead and misrepresent rather than what it could be used for; creating an informed public debate. It was through these terrifying and desperate times that people lost the energy and power to think for themselves. The motivation was always there, but something was distracting them.
Today, the internet and personal computers are the greatest distraction machine ever conceived. It may have the ability to better connect and understand the world, but a tool is only as good as its master. During the past election, Hillary unfortunately offered no real amount of change for most Americans and her understanding of our newest technology bit her on the ass. On the other hand, Donald and his twitter account, well he offered us the greatest reality TV show of all time. This cringe worthy train-wreck entertainment is an insult to 20th century activist movements. However, insulting it is, it doesn’t make it any less effective for manipulating a generation of people who grew up on the tube and then shuffled over to YouTube. For every step taken forward in advancing a decent, fair, and just America, our new president will take us leaps and bounds backwards. Or perhaps his ineptitude will just bring us to a screeching halt, if we are lucky.
With every new wave in technological advancement brings both new hope and new concerns. The information age has already proven to be the ultimate Panem et Circenses. This is the idea of superficial appeasement for luring the general public into service that dates all the way back to the Roman empire. With public access to the world’s well of information how is it that people are being distracted so easily? How can we take a stand against the age-old excuse of ‘fake news’? And perhaps most importantly, what are we specifically being distracted from?
Perhaps, we may never know what it is that we are being distracted from. Maybe it is the downgrading of regulations on banks even after, yet another, economic down turn. This would entrench private interests in our political and economic system even further. Then again it could be a resurgence of the failed drug war that they are going after, as Sessions recently moved to lengthen sentences. It isn’t insane that the Russia scandal itself might be a distraction from taking away millions of Americans healthcare. With Planned Parenthood and the EPA being targeted; women are losing their right to choose and we are all losing our right to clean air and not being slowly poisoned without consent. Still, while all this is happening and our president is tweeting out either hateful rhetoric or complete gibberish, he is simultaneously destroying the future of America’s environment by opting out of the Paris Climate Agreements.
If this is the America we deserve, we will soon find out. If there is to be any chance for the next generation to have any semblance of a good life three things should happen:
A continued focus on real issues
Investigate Donald’s campaign for ties to Russia
Don’t give them an inch; write, call, protest
Other than that, well, just sit back and enjoy the show. Get the laughs in now. There might not be too many left to go around.