Every time one of these media feeding frenzies sweeps across the land like the shadow of a predator in flight, it reminds me of how symbolic the response to a tragic event can be.
The response becomes the new event and the people who win are those who stoop lower than others to pander to fears, emotions and our prurient desire for sordid and squalid details. We the observers want to soak up as much of the sadness, misery, horror, terror and despair of others, not so much from Schadenfreude but from a sense of making our own miseries seem small. We feed on it.
It makes millionaires out of someone in the press corps; it makes careers out of politicians who give the “most inspiring” speeches. In short, it’s like a market windfall for everyone. Except the dead of course.
Possibly the most interesting facet of the Norwegian tragedy is how it illustrates how little accountability exists in this system.
Media. They fan the flames of tragedy, and then return with an appeal to our pity and lots of stories about Muslim immigrants “just trying to make it” in Europe. Then when riots break out in the cities (because diversity of any form doesn’t work) they pander to our fears. They are like a neurotic aunt hovering over our every move, waiting for us to act so she can offer sympathy, then criticism, and manipulate us with our own insecurities. Yet they are never accountable because in the West we have this illusion that words cannot be poison, and “voluntary” decisions like turning the TV on like everyone else cannot have conseqeunces.
Voters. Not only do we not have accountability, but we do not have access to the decisions we would like to make. We are offered political dogma, and we pick the best response; however, that dogma is constrained by Political Correctness, which means most of our choices are off the menu. As a result, we vote, and things happen, and then we live with them. When something goes wrong, we all pretend that we have no influence beyond our individual spheres, and we just shrug and say, “Well, it’s nobody’s fault.” The voters aren’t accountable; the politicians aren’t accountable; the system isn’t accountable. We treat it like something out of our control and watch it fail, then work around it, much like we drive faster than the ludicrous weenie limits set on our roads.
Politicians. Politicians are not leaders. They are celebrities. Their goal is to go on television, look good and attract attention, so that 51% (or so) of the distracted know-nothings out there vote for them. In 1939, they used patriotic fear and anger to win votes. In 2011, they use pity, compassion, and other soft emotions to lull us to sleep. They promise no consequences, but when the consequences come around, they’re no longer in the office that made those decisions. They’ve moved on, like any other career path. For them, the company is the nation, and they get promoted by how many people they fool. There’s zero accountability for what they do actually decide, and plenty of accountability for random stuff that happens. We blame President Bush for Katrina, blame President Obama for the housing bubble, yet neither of those are their fault (both are Clinton screwups). Democracy is terminally myopic in this regard.
These ideas shock us because we are told that we have freedom, that we are in charge of government, and that government is accountable. None of these are true. Even our freedom is in doubt because we’re strapped into a failing system that plunges downward.
Granularity is what ultimately creates this. Each person is an island, voting for personal interests, which means that bigger issues are not touched upon — and are assumed to be out of range, thus ignored. We are all agog over celebrity news and details of tax law, and oblivious to the road ahead.
We view it as imposition on the freedom of another to say “I want society as a whole to have this attribute,” yet placing that kind of thinking out of reach means we can never fundamentally alter the direction our society is taking.
As a result, we thrash like a blind man, tormented by something can cannot recognize yet certain it cannot be within “us.”
Again 9/10 are covering the massacre that Glenn Greenwald was sure would drop off the radar since it was a white guy and not a Muslim (by which he means non-European). It’s not unpredictable that the Houston Chronicle downplays this as it has won a loyal readership by putting local news first. Texas, after all, is just waiting to secede again.
Apparently, Andrew Berwick/Anders Behring Breivik liked one of our essays here enough to cite it in his research and manifesto (thanks to JHB for spotting this).