Plenty To Go Around

« January 2008 »

Memo to the media: YOU GET A PASS.

Just for today, you get a pass. I'm not going to slam you for being the 24-hour, fact-free engines of rampant baseless speculation that we both know you are. Because today, I'm going to take that awful "three fingers pointing back at you" aphorism, no matter how much I despise it, to heart.

Because you really are giving people what they want, aren't you? Sure, I could argue that the job of journalists is to give people what they need, and if what they need doesn't sell well enough, the answer is to hire better marketers, not Glenn Motherfucking Beck. That maybe it's a bad idea to use the news to turn a profit in the first place.

But there's no denying it's what we want. And nothing drives that home like the death of Heath Ledger.

Looking at it objectively, rationally, and in retrospect, the impact of Ledger's death and the cause thereof on my life is nonexistent. I wasn't a fan. I don't own Roar on DVD. He didn't have some upcoming project I was looking forward to. Obviously, I didn't know him personally. Heath Ledger's continued existence, or not, is a complete non-issue.

Yet there I was, 30 seconds after hearing that he'd died, hitting the major news websites to see if they had any information. When they didn't, I moved on to the next one. And when they did, it was hearsay, speculation, and mostly wrong. Which is nothing new for them, and nothing I didn't know on an intellectual level. But I still kept looking, even though I should have known better.

And I bet a lot of you looked too.

Even assuming I had a reason to care about how Ledger died, which I don't, it's not exactly time-sensitive information, is it? If I find out today or this weekend or next month, it's all the same to me. Even if he was killed by some new species of sewer gator, I'll probably find that out long before the gators make it from New York City to the outskirts of Minneapolis. There's no rush.

But I still looked. Despite being unconcerned about sewer gators. Despite not being worried in the slightest about a serial killer working in reverse alphabetical order. I don't know if it's human nature, or conditioning from living in the Information Age, or some mix of the two, but the irrational need to know, and know NOW, is there even in the most high-minded of us.

And that is what the news exists to feed. They have to shove something into our mindholes, because if they don't, we'll just change the channel or hit the net until we find someone that will. Sure, they could be more responsible in the face of our madness, but there's no profit in that.

At least they're getting paid to lie, spin, speculate wildly, or just sit there and tell us over and over again that they don't know anything. We're getting lied to, told wrong things, and wasting our time trying to find stuff out we don't need, and nobody's paying us squat. So what's our excuse?