Media Mayhem

Napoleon once said, “Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.” Thank goodness Comedy Central has been making big decisions easier (and therefore less precious) for young Americans trying to decide how to approach this election season. For instance, more adults between the ages of 18-34 watched The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report for this year’s GOP convention coverage than any of the other “hard” news broadcasts in the 11 p.m. to midnight time slot.

Although the possible reasons for this phenomenon are legion and mostly beyond the scope of this discussion, a few bear repeating. Some analysts claim that as children of the third great revolution in human history, the Information Revolution, we struggle with a surplus of Internet mind viruses that replicate beyond our neural pathways’ abilities to process them. In short, maybe we’re suffering from information overload. Add to this the sobering fact that the service sector accounts for 80% of the American economy, and you get a culture of consumers who want information fed to them as quickly and conveniently as possible, without too much labor or complication.

However, this doesn’t explain why so many young Americans reject what now passes for conventional news in favor of comedy shows that seem to masquerade as newscasts. To some, the answer is simple: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report represent a more unadulterated and therefore realistic vision of the world than several of the offerings on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. Six major companies control 90% of American media. GE, News Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS will protect their vested corporate interests by controlling whichever flow of media information or disinformation that best serves their ability to increase profits.

Hence, freedom of the press, one of the First Amendment’s five tenets, is in danger of being atomized, and once we lose any of these tenets, we run the risk of losing what is left of our representative republic / democracy. Perhaps this is why Stephen Colbert created his own Super PAC, called “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow,” to underscore the absurd ease with which any corporation or individual with enough money and imagination can control election funding and votes. In light of what people like Colbert and Stewart might actually be telling their audiences, watching an unctuous newscaster from Fox or CNN moderate a shouting match between a pair of strident lackeys who have been paid to manufacture consent by the corporate overlords of the global economy makes about as much sense as putting sunglasses on a dog.