Everything that’s cool and counter-culture gets co-opted eventually. If Tupac can become a transubstantial hologram, resurrected from the dead for someone else’s purpose, then it’s only a matter of time before Kurt Cobain appears in an Apple Commercial. He’s already a playable character in Guitar Hero. It happened to Gary Numan’s “Cars,” complete with hipster ennui, when Oldsmobile used a song about the dehumanization of urban culture for an ad in 2000 selling cars. Ronald Reagan used Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” a protest song against the demise of the working class, for his 1984 re-election campaign. It’s the cultural epoch we find ourselves in. Nothing is truly sacred unless that outrage can be focused in a way that requires minimal effort. Truth, what few capital T’s that remain and Fiction blend together into something loosely defined as Reality. People who notice the way of things throw up their hands and despair. They lament for a past that didn’t exist, and curse the present.
The Internet hasn’t changed the Truth, it’s merely enlarged the scope of the Bullshit. I haven’t had cable television for a few years now, and I don’t miss it. Not even a little. This isn’t an admission of angry, old man cloud yelling. I’m not there yet. It’s that cable tv’s model is superfluous. Like the garlic butter sauce for a Papa John’s pizza, it’s just extra mass produced, fatty filler that I don’t really want or need especially after eating all those “fresh ingredients”. I’ve got the Internet and anything I want to read, or watch is there. I can see it on my whim, not the cable provider’s.
We’re not entering an age where our collective conscious has been dimmed, moving away from enlightenment. This is progress. We’ve never been here before as a species, and because of our technological advances, we’re suffering from information overload. Remaining ignorant about societal problems is becoming an actual challenge. Turn on any social media you’re subscribed to and you’ll probably see a post about some macro socio-political-economic problem. When historians look back on this era, they’ll actually have too much information to create a coherent narrative about who we are as a culture. Wading through all the copious bullshit will require a herculean effort if the goal will be to come close to anything resembling authenticity, especially if they look through Upworthy or Salon.com’s servers.
With so much information, it’s tempting to create a reality of your own. The American Right has done so with a modicum of success. Don’t like the historical analysis from most history textbooks? Change ‘em!Can’t get certain people to vote for your policies? Stop ‘em from voting! You can’t come out and say that’s what you’re doing, but you can spin it. When you have a whole cable news network at your disposal, most of talk radio, and a nice slice of the internet you can create your own reality.
“(Karl Rove’s) aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore.’ He continued “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do’.”
We’ve moved into the Hyperreality age, what Umberto Eco called “the authentic fake”. 2013 was a year for fake scandals, The IRS tax scandal, Benghazi, and the Healthcare.gov rollout, just to name a few. The mainstream media gave up on holding the actual offenders accountable. If you lie, and people believe it, then you’ve “successfully messaged” your position. If you fail, it’s not Chuck Todd’s fault! Everything is boiled down into a sports metaphor, a horse race, who’s up/who’s down. The corporate-owned mainstream media’s job isn’t to provide you with access to the truth that cuts through the bullshit. It’s to provide color commentary.
It takes effort to reveal any truth. You have to be willing to place your own sacred beliefs, pieces of you, upon an anvil of skepticism. They’ll either be hammered into a toughened form, strengthened from refinement, or shattered, forever unrecoverable except by delusion. It’s that insidious delusion that hamstrings us. It forces one to say “The Fundamentals of our economy are strong,” just before they collapse. It demands that you scream “I want my country back!” when you’re closer in economic status to the people you despise, rather than the ones you venerate. It causes you to reject anything that might get you to notice a truth. Instead you debate the semantics rather than the actual problem. Instead of talking about the intrinsic value of each human being, and that they deserve healthcare as a right, we’re discussing website glitches, and what it means for President Obama’s legacy.
That’s probably why we’re so busy clicking on fluff stories, worrying about a waitress who suffered through a nasty comment (even if they’re fraudulent), or turning some jackass South African woman into a global pariah for a day or two. We care about the minutia, because tackling the actual plagues seems overwhelming, or worse, because of so much information we retreat into false hyperrealities, wrapping ourselves in that authentic fake. When we do that it allows false prophets to operate. They swindle us, make us indifferent, and thereby complicit, in others’ suffering, or even take our lives.
It’s not that we’re regressing from some fanciful golden age, but that we haven’t fulfilled our potential at the rate we should.
Then again, maybe we should give Miley Cyrus more cultural relevance in 2014?