Media and the Brain

December 31, 2010

(Note: This post first appeared here Oct. 29, 2008. I’m re-posting because…I really don’t know why. Maybe it’s because this is the end of 2010, and the piece is just hanging, but that doesn’t make much sense. Maybe…I’m just too lazy, overworked, harassed by too much life — maybe…anyway, just read on).

  • Voice-over:
    I’ve decided to kill Peter Griffin.
    A last, deadly resort, no doubt about it, but the only realistic plot-line I can follow to have Lois Griffin.
    In the last few weeks, I’d discovered a deep, abiding love for Lois.
    Not only for just the way she climbed from that pool in 1984, 18-years-old, throwing that gorgeous, wet, red hair all over the place, and not only for loving J. Geils, but as the pure symbol of the pure mother/sex fiend image of the greatest wife in the history of the world.
    Only thing I can’t fathom is what the hell she sees in Peter Griffin, a fat-ass, dumb-ass sonofabitch if there’s ever been one.
    He needs killing.
    Thing is, I’ve got to plan very, very carefully, got to be sure of every step, not like that time I tried to kill Rocky and Bullwinkle, that was a disaster — FLASHBACK SEQUENCE — and I’ve got to kill Brian.
    Brian loves Lois.
    He always has and always will. Once Brian discovers Peter dead and Lois gone — he’ll hunt me down like a dog…”

Popular culture has become as sulfur-smelling shit hitting the fan — specks of bad yuk all over everything.
Spreading across the face of modern life like a thick, wet blanket, obscuring vision, hampering and dominating, culture is just a waste product from the engine that’s the media — and media the word carries a definition created from an almost-endless list of particulars from TV, movies, books, art, anything written, spoken or sang, to science and engineering.
A whole shitload of shit.

(Illustration was found here).

Modern media’s nefarious influence originated the day before Halloween, Oct. 30, 1938 — 70 years ago Thursday.
Reality and fiction became one and the same for a big chunk of the US public when Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre on the Air created a radio-induced panic by adapting H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds as a news broadcast.
Welles and his group adapted all kinds of literature for its weekly radio show — just the week before, they’d presented Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days — but War of the Worlds turned out to be more than just another production.
A shit-fire erupted. Listeners who failed to catch the opening disclaimer about it being a radio play, had to wait 40 minutes before another explanation was made — more than enough time to panic and become irrational.
Although there were stories of mass panic — people cowering in basements, roads full of cars, fleeing a horrifying Martian fireball landing near Grovers Mill, New Jersey — it has all proved to be highly exaggerated by newspapers the following days.
The big mess came from tons of panic telephone calls to police, fire and radio stations, newspapers, hospitals and the like.
A good account of the incident can be found at National Geographic.

In the wake of the Munich, Germany, bullshit with Hitler only a month before and Welles’ efficient use of realistic-sounding news operations put a naive public quickly on edge.
As noted journalist Dorothy Thompson wrote at the time, Welles’ little exhibition had political consequences:

  • In a prescient column, in the New York Tribune, Dorothy Thompson foresaw that the broadcast revealed the way politicians could use the power of mass communications to create theatrical illusions, to manipulate the public.
    “All unwittingly, Mr. Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater of the Air have made one of the most fascinating and important demonstrations of all time,” she wrote. “They have proved that a few effective voices, accompanied by sound effects, can convince masses of people of a totally unreasonable, completely fantastic proposition as to create a nation-wide panic.
    “They have demonstrated more potently than any argument, demonstrated beyond a question of a doubt, the appalling dangers and enormous effectiveness of popular and theatrical demagoguery….
    “Hitler managed to scare all of Europe to its knees a month ago, but he at least had an army and an air force to back up his shrieking words.
    “But Mr. Welles scared thousands into demoralization with nothing at all.”

No, the mega-talented Mr. Welles did have something at hand — the great, unknown fear factor in human nature.
Media attacks the brain.
Joseph Goebbels had a knack for using media to fearmonger, or manipulate media to scare, to obtain a certain goal, the media a vehicle/means to an end, so to speak.
In fact, Goebbels founded and was the principal editor of the official Nazi periodical Der Angriff — “The Attack.”
And nowadays, we have Karl Rove, who really was an inbred follower of Lee Atwater.
Bush’s brain attempted to manipulate America, and in some cases, and for awhile, did just that, twisted and kneaded facts from lies, half truths and just plain plain bullshit.

And, despite all the techno-marvels available nowadays, silence can be more than effective.

Indeed, silence on the most-all-consuming of all media — TV.
Television’s affect/effect is enormous, its influence on everybody pretty-much total — no one is immune, nobody gets out of this one alive.
Dreamy, fantasy-fueled kids, such as I in the late 1950s (and still today in grown-up form), are the easiest victims for TV’s long-lasting, potent and enchanting facade, which by now has produced a twisted-madness view of life.
One doesn’t have dwell in the ethereal, however, to have succumbed to TV’s wiles — sons of insurance salesmen and sons of farmers or teachers or big-rig drivers, all have been stamped in the brain by a television set almost all the time somewhere in the near vicinity.
Fiction and reality are practically fused nowadays with cable, satellite, blow-back online TV like YouTube, subtly blended and seamless, patched together in the twinkle-blink of an eye.
TV is an apparatus so much a part of life this past more-than 50 years, it’s taken completely for granted. Albeit the TV screen might cover a wall, it’s still an appliance so-well-blended, so-always-there, it’s near invisible.
The instrument of TV, in itself, is just like a toaster, but way different.

Despite all the chatter, all the options on TV nowadays, bullshit is still bullshit even when spoken with less than a whisper.

Case in point: Ignorance by a huge chunk/swath of America to the New York Times much-detailed expose of the Pentagon’s propaganda program.
The huge Times piece (11 pages) outlined how Donald Rumsfeld and his Pentagon created a legion of retired military types to hype the war on TV.
Of course, in the wave of hyper news the past three months, especially with the worldwide financial blow out, along with the politics, Sarah Palin and like junk, the revelation of Pentagon mouthpieces on TV news shows lying about how the Iraqi war was proceeding has slipped far, far afield.

Although the story appeared in April, and there was much play online, television went total black on the whole affair — TV was a co-conspirator.
Only one TV network, PBS, reported on the Times story and the Pentagon operation.
As Think Progress noted in early May;

  • Judy Woodruff: And for the record, we invited Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and NBC to participate, but they declined our offer or did not respond.

The Pentagon has apparently gotten away with it — at least for now.

Another media quiet moment is the back-story on John McCain.
Rolling Stone magazine earlier this month presented a description of a self-centered hardcase McCain — a lifetime thing.
And if even a third of the article is true, McCain has very serious mental problems.
And this:
In September, published a letter describing an encounter a woman had with McCain while on vacation in Fiji prior to the 2000 election.
I made mention of the incident on my blog and continued on my way.
Last week, I spied another story on HuffPost which sounded very similar, but different.
The first story can be found here:

  • My final encounter with McCain was on the morning that he was leaving Turtle Island.
    Amy and I were happily eating pancakes when McCain arrived and told Amy that she shouldn’t be having pancakes because she needed to lose weight.
    Amy burst into tears at this abusive comment.
    I felt fiercely protective of Amy and immediately turned to McCain and told him to leave her alone.
    He became very angry and abusive towards me, and said “don’t you know who I am” and I looked him in the face and said “yes, you are the biggest asshole I have ever met” and headed back to my cabin. I am happy to say that later that day when I arrived at lunch I was given a standing ovation by all the guests for having stood up to McCain’s bullying.

And this from HuffPost:

  • “McCain immediately turned to the woman and said between clenched teeth: ‘DON’T TOUCH ME.’ The woman started to explain…McCain interrupted her: ‘DON’T TOUCH ME,’ he repeated viciously.
    The woman again tried to explain. ‘DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU’RE TALKING TO?’ McCain continued, his voice rising and his hands now raised in the ‘bring it on’ position.
    He was red-faced. By this time all the action at the table had stopped. I was completely shocked. McCain had totally lost it, and in the space of about ten seconds.
    ‘Sir, you must be courteous to the other players at the table,’ the pit boss said to McCain. “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? ASK ANYBODY AROUND HERE WHO I AM.”
    This being Puerto Rico, the pit boss might not have known McCain. But the senator continued in full fury — “DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU’RE TALKING TO? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?” — and crisis was avoided only when Jeff offered to change places and stand between McCain and the woman who had touched his arm.

The problem is we didn’t know who he is — apparently a badly deranged individual — because the news media, the mainstream news media, never told the truth, never revealed McCain’s problems.
Apparently reporters covering McCain looked upon him as a granddaddy or something akin to that as witnessed by a story Tuesday in the LA Times:

  • By July, I had covered McCain for almost seven months.
    I could recite many lines of his stump speech by heart, dreamed about his events at night and spent so much time scrolling through campaign e-mails on my BlackBerry that my fiance joked to our friends about the other man in my life.

The reporter, Maeve Reston, then hit McCain with an awkward moment as seen here and the sweet, Straight Talking Express went into the cold, ugly gulping ‘Do You Know Who I Am?’ bullshit.

  • On a recent Sunday during a brief stop at a Virginia phone bank, I got unusually close to McCain in the line of people waiting to shake his hand.
    Tape recorder out and within a foot of him, I asked if he could talk about his new economic plan, which he was to unveil that week.
    The man who once asked me about my wedding date returned my gaze with a stare, shook the hand of the strangers to the right and left of me and continued out the door.

Does Tom Brokaw know McCain’s real persona?
Mainstream journalism has become way-lucrative for some that past couple of decades, just look at Ted Koppel’s estate jumping.
Control is to govern the TV.

Technology has shifted the TV from just the so-called ‘living room’ to practically anywhere.
The Internet and all the little gadgets associated with it has caused a revolution in how we view the boob tube, maybe rearranging the impact of TV’s influence.

Last March, Seth MacFarlane, the creator of “Family Guy,” a Fox animated comedy that ranks among the most popular online shows, told the International Herald Tribune a long-time familiar fixture might soon be gone from our lives.

  • “I think what we’re seeing right now is a great cultural shift of how this country watches television. Forty years ago, new technology changed what people watched on TV as it migrated to color. Now new technology is changing where people watch TV, literally omitting the actual television set.”

(Illustration found here).

An idea evoking nostalgic sadness for an inanimate object.

My first TV memory is of the set itself — an image really, really faded of this enormous cabinet-looking thing with a small glass front sitting on the back of a delivery truck, circa summertime, 1955.
I was a bit younger than seven — I hadn’t started to school just yet — and the set belonged to neighbors, owners of a hardware store in downtown Enterprise, Ala.
My family didn’t get our own TV for another two years, and after that, always had one.

TV appears a product of a near-obsessive desire to eliminate distance between people, places or things. No one guy invented TV.
A shit-load of brainiacs over near-two centuries, probably starting in 1837 with studies on electromagnetism, contributed in one way or another to advancing the product further toward the TV system we have today.

As a perception, this technological wonder most likely completed its purpose on April 7, 1927.
On that day the first long-distant television signal was broadcast between Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover gave a little speech at the event.
Hoover was a rich, progressive, too-big-for-his-britches nit wit.
A mining engineer by trade, he was elected president the following year, but blown out of office in 1932 by not understanding, and thus failing to figure out the Great Depression — his name now synonymous with an era of catastrophic disaster, as back in “Hoover times.”
In his comments at the TV-signal exhibit, Hoover lavished lofty words on the significance of the occasion, but also inadvertently revealed the inherent disaster of human-evolved technology:

  • Today we have, in a sense, the transmission of sight for the first time in the world’s history.
    Human genius has now destroyed the impediment of distance in a new respect, and in a manner hitherto unknown.”

Human genius…?

(Illustration found here).

Television today is a morphed-marvel of a medium.

In digesting TV, a human uses primarily the senses of sight and hearing.
The core of this is the sensorium, where all this shit comes together.
According to Wikipedia, sensorium (plural: sensoria) refers to the sum of an organism’s perception, the “seat of sensation,” where it experiences and interprets the environments within which it lives.
The term originally enters English from the Late Latin in the mid-17th century. In earlier use it referred, in a broader sense, to the brain as the mind’s organ.
This so-called mind’s organ — the brain — contains a person’s total character, which is based on an awareness by the individual of the unique and changing sensory environments around them. Our senses gives us sensation, perception and also provide interpretation.

Communication has always influenced cultural society.
A gaggle of experts, from Harold Dwight Lasswell and Harold Adams Innis to most likely the best-known of the media-studies-writers, Marshall McLuhan, sometimes referred to as the “Oracle of the Electronic Age,” predicted the onslaught of media and its effect on humanity.
McLuhan was a serious student of the inherent problems with media.
In fact, his most studious work, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), warned “there can only be disaster arising from unawareness of the causalities and effects inherent in our technologies.”

However, McLuhan is perhaps most popular and a semi-cult icon for his phrase turned into book title, The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects.
He believed just about everything was “media” — including even a light bulb, that “creates an environment by its mere presence.”
He was so well known, Woody Allen used him as a rebuttal prop in Annie Hall.

In this modern age with a near-overload of information, the human brain is toiling overtime to digest and understand it all, a near total barrage of shit thrown as if from a techno fan and striking everybody between the eyeballs.
As this insane, unprecedented presidential election rockets to its conclusion, now only days away, the Wall Street shit-storm seems to never end, wars and way-more than rumors of wars keep nerves on edge and the global warming meltdown gets worse by the hour, just remember the words of one, Homer Jay Simpson:

  • “How is education supposed to make me feel smarter?
    Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain.
    Remember when I took that home wine-making course, and I forgot how to drive?”

Yeah, but sometimes I feel like them folks in 1938 New Jersey: Freakin’ shit! Now it’s Martians!

  • Voiceover:
    After some thought, maybe more than just a few thoughts, well maybe an hour’s worth of thoughts, not very long, though, I’ve decided not to kill Peter Griffin.
    He’s still a complete, absolute-full-blown asshole, don’t get me wrong, but the fat-ass shit does have a redeeming side — he works hard to make everything work in the end, no matter who gets slaughtered.
    And Lois loves him, really does, why, I’ve not a clue.
    Not a bad guy, I guess, but…
    You know, on ninth thought, I sure as shit hate the way he treats Meg, as a parent I find that so vile, maybe I’ll just re-think this whole killing-Peter-Griffin-thing more-than once again.
    What’s the worse that could happen?
    Some Internets geeks catch me? Hahaha, stop me in the middle of a wo

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