Thursday, 12 July 2018

CNN 'Shock' or 'Outrage' Factor

Maybe it's just me, but it just seems like that in a 30-minute period while watching typically get at least three journalists or 'guests' who seem to be shocked or outraged. 

I admit, I try to limit myself to no more than 60 minutes a week of CNN.  Part of the problem is that they are mostly a Trump-network now....owned by the President and the bulk of the news delivered has to be Trump in some fashion.  Another problem is that they bring on so many guests to be 'experts', and they are trying to drag you along to some conclusion....rather than just laying out the facts.  Finally, I'll admit that CNN of not the CNN of 2001.  I'm one of those people who think their better work....was over a decade ago.

So onto the the topic of shock or outrage.

When I typically worked (yes, before retirement)....about once a month, you would walk into some situation where you were a bit shocked or outraged.  It typically would involve some soap-opera event where Lieutenant Joe was arrested for indecent drunken behavior or Airman Snuffy had accidentally destroyed a $3,000 piece of equipment.  You'd typically stand there with the associate, contemplating how this incident occurred, and the consequences that would follow.  Maybe you'd have a follow-up discussion the next day over the event, and then it'd all be forgotten.

So over my thirty-six year career of work....I probably saw around 500 moments of shock or outrage.

The problem with the CNN usage of shock or outrage....if you were watching eight hours a day of their'd reach the 500 number in approximately two weeks.

That would be like comparing a guy who drinks a Pepsi a day for thirty years, making for 10,950 events with the a guy who drank the 10,950 sodas in six weeks (meaning that he had 260 Pepsis per day).

The long-term consequence?  Well....once you get on the CNN program, it'd only take a couple of months to 'train' you on shocks or outrages being less of a big deal.  Maybe in a year....nothing much would really shock you or outrage you anymore (even if your wife threw out all the beef in the freezer and put you on a vegan-diet).

So you start to look at 2020 (18 months away) and wonder....if all your shock and outrage is maxed out, what exactly can CNN market or sell if Trump goes for another four years?  Yeah, that's a long pause for folks to ponder upon that little issue.

Then you start to look at regular people, who live in quiet spheres of life.  You go to some Iowa farmer and his biggest shock or outrage is when the bull finally found the weak point in the fencing and escaped.

Or you have some housewife who woke up to realize the neighbor is doing a $2,000 landscaping job with four hefty and chunky Mexican guys who all go shirtless in the summer heat.

Or like my brother....waking up to realize the fifty-year old freezer in the back of the house finally 'died', and spending an hour of time sipping coffee and expressing 'shock' that it didn't last another ten more years.

At some point, CNN will have to reset the shock/outrage factor, and cut about 80-percent of the 'RPM'.  Some doctor will come a Doctor Phil-character, and chat for sixteen minutes on how to survive without all the shock or outrage.

Then we will realize.....there just wasn't that much to be shocked or outraged over.

The Fragile Nature of Democracy

About five years ago....the Pew Research Center did a survey, and found that fifty-seven percent of  adults in the youth range (18 to 29).....had no real memory of Roe versus Wade (the Supreme Court case on abortion), which dated back to 1973.  The general belief was that even though they had a total lack of understanding over the historical event.....they just felt it was "right" to stage a position.

This would be kinda like having a national discussion over making all cars stick-shift, or automatic....but having a majority admit that they'd never driven a stick-shift in their life, but they wanted to participate in this national cause because they felt it was "right".

I sat in a class recently with a fair number of Syrians and Iraqis, and the topic of Elvis came up.  In German society, 99-percent of Germans will say they know of Elvis (even though he's been dead for 40 years).  With the Syrians and Iraqis?  Maybe two out of the dozen had heard of Elvis.  The rest?  Elvis was a total mystery.

You could go out today and ask a hundred adult Americans how the depression of 1929 started up, and if you were might have five people who have a basic grasp of the historical event to give at least a marginal answer.  The same would be true if you asked the same group about the 2008 financial crisis, and if they could give a simple three-line explanation as to what happened. 

I won't say that people are's just that they have a random memory scheme, and if something doesn't seem important.....then it's erased from their memory in a matter of seven days.  Go ask a hundred people to describe the basic script to Star Wars I (the original), and the vast majority will rattle off a 10-line description....even though they haven't watched the movie in thirty-plus years.  It was important in their mind to remember the Skywalker kid, the lusty princess, the Chewy-guy, and the Obi-dude with mystical powers. 

Most people by age thirty will readily admit that they've forgotten more than half of what they learned in high school.  I think if you tested fifty-year old college graduates....more than half of their knowledge base....which they paid $90,000 for....has evaporated. 

But in the midst of all of this....a political dynamic is at play.  The two parties and their 'gate-keepers' are busy trying to hype you up....over something that may not really be significant in your mind. 

For get forty people to show up for a pro-Mexican migration rally, against the evil Trump.  You might discover if you talked to the forty folks.....that more than half of them have never met a Mexican in their life, except at Starbucks, or Burger King.  You might even discover that only three of the forty have some type of friendship with a Mexican, on a first-name basis. 

Another get a hundred people to get hyped up over the Supreme Court nominee.  So you ask the hundred to name the nine current members of the find that only six can name all nine members.  Then you find that forty could name five members.  On Roe V. Wade?  Well, you might find that five of the folks think Roe V. Wade is a rapper out of Detroit, and Roe is short for something but they can't remember what. 

In the end, our fragile democracy is dependent....on a bunch of forgetful folks.....not remembering much, but being all fired-up over something (they just don't know what).