Headlines With a Chance of Substance

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Image via Pixabay.com

I began collecting headlines*

2017

Why Does T Remain So Witless About the World?

Will T be the Death of the Goldwater Rule?

What Did DT learn in  Texas?

What Would War With North Korea Look Like?

Could T alone kill Obamacare?

2018

The Beginning of the End for T?

Will T Fire Rod Rosenstein?

Is T’s Vanity a Threat to the Economy?

Will T Abandon a Reckless Saudi Prince?

Is Fraud Part of T Organization’s Business Model?

Does T Think The War on Terror Is Over?

Is Optimism Dead in the T Era?

2019

Can T Invoke Emergency Powers for the Wall?

Does Congress Care About T’s Emergency?

Is America T’s Banana Republic?

Are We In A Constitutional Crisis?

Is T Provoking A War?

Will T Outsource the Border Crisis to Mexico?

 

Headlines have a several functions: they should grab our attention, give us the gist of the topic, and make us curious enough to keep reading. In the digital attention economy, the most successful headlines elicit a flurry of clicks, followed by hungry eyeballs. That’s the goal. Hijacking the amygdala or viscerally activating your mirror neurons can all be strategically planned. Platforms that draw crowds know well what it takes to move the masses to click, comment and keep the attention machine running at high speed.

We’re tied up in this business model. In our attempts to stay informed, up to date, critically aware, we also click, click, click our way from one data mongering platform to the next leaving our digital breadcrumbs that will make others well off. Meanwhile these same platforms heap more oil on the dumpster fire of liberal democracies, and we all watch our precious civil liberties disintegrate before our very eyes. Somehow the profitable 1% will survive every political weather – they own our media, their power will not wane anytime soon.

And those headlines, increasingly designed “for your eyes only”, play us one song in 10,000 variations. It’s the song of inevitability, of market forces, of the End of Times. We listen over and over again because it’s ubiquitous and to be honest, it’s kinda catchy. Like the crime novel we can’t put down, we keep turning the pages of this ever unfolding horror story that doles out these pin prick closed questions: Will T do this? Can T do that? Each query a stab at our previously held beliefs about governance and decency and legality.

 

 

Here’s what we can do: Listen to folks who know these ropes. Take their advice, learn from their example.

Take the headlines for what they are: Click-bait with a chance of substance. Read carefully, astutely. Follow Mike Caulfield who is my go-to expert in all things media literacy, especially fact-checking and avoiding disinformation.

Above all recognize that there is no need to go it alone. There are good people all over the internet doing good, meaningful things. There are helpful resources and we can support each other in finding and applying those resources. I resent the complicity of mainstream media in surrendering so fully to the tug of the attention economy and away from shoring up democratic norms through transparency, critical reporting and by countering bigotry. But I see this is where are and not elsewhere.

My illusions are no more. The scales have fallen from my eyes. The trouble is deep and so are our resources if we get our act together.

 

*2-3 times per week since mid 2017, I have consented to The New Yorker sending me updates to my mailbox on their latest editions. And through the headlines, I noticed patterns. The headlines above are a selection of e-mail headers that I received.

Because Someone’s Listening

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The sign that’s not on my fridge but should be:

“Don’t go there.”

Of course, I go.

Damn social media. Damn me.

The time I spend in my own head is no longer solitary.

I can hear myself think (still)

but

my voice is tempered for your possible reception;

my words carefully tested for palatability

before they can be released.

And I keep writing, writing, writing

straight onto the screen, so few

filters between this thought

and what you might make of it.

 

But let me say this:

I have an Alice Walker T-shirt from the Writing Project and the quote says:

“Writing has saved me from the sin and inconvenience of violence.”

And every day that I come to terms with concentrated power

in the (tiny) hands of a federal administration bent on

harm, revenge and unmitigated selfishness,

I thank God for writing saving me from the sin and inconvenience

of violence.

 

My moral outrage is but a drop in the bucket of

untold suffering among

too many.

Some of whom understand what is in the making and many more

who have no inkling that they will not be spared

the pain and humiliation

of being discarded, dismissed, and annulled.

 

I regret to inform you that

I have spent time reading the incomprehensible

transcripts of a figurehead

who struggles to express one thought

coherently.

 

I regret to inform you that

these elementary and primitive

patterns of speech

appeal to some,

to many, in fact.

The joke that was now lays like detrimental oil spill

over the gulf of what we thought

was a semi-functioning democracy.

 

The bill for the clean up will be paid

by our children and grandchildren

But the spill is ongoing,

widening its toxic reach

seeping and tumbling past each new measure

designed to contain it.

 

I can be angry about social media

about myself on social media

and I can write

because someone, somewhere

is listening.

and sometimes that is just enough

of what is needed.