Media Shark Dinnertime

The media feeding frenzy grows as more Trump confidants “flip”!

Maybe I’ll draw a follow up cartoon with blood in the water – no blood from Fox News, though; they may just deflate a little as scandals grow.

 

Remember the cartoon below? This shark cartoon was easy to draw because I had already gathered all of the logos!

 

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Of Junk Food and Junk News

Once on a flight I ate a cheeseburger-in-a-bag. It was a wonderfully microwaved beefy dough ball of cheesy-type goo. It tasted amazing! Of course, it’s designed to taste amazing. Mission so accomplished. The sandwich had the right amount of fat and salt to appeal to my ancient binge-to-survive-winter DNA. It was laced with artificial scents, laboratory flavors and synthetic colors. It had the proper “mouth feel.” The right size. The perfect temperature. My cheeseburger-in-a-bag was like a friend who had been paid to be nice to me: comforting, as long as you don’t think about it too much.

Cartoon by Nate Beeler - Washington Examiner (click to reprint)

Cartoon by Nate Beeler - Washington Examiner (click to reprint)

In short: The meal was manipulated by years of food science and marketing research to manipulate me. The “taste to actual health benefits ratio” was way off. It was more appealing than life sustaining.
It was the definition of junk.

Which is an apt metaphor for the state of cable news in America.

Watch your average for-profit 24-hour station for one hour. Your pulse will start racing. Something horrible is going down! Something that will kill you and your family and everyone you care about is close and imminent! You MUST stay tuned! There’s something outrageous! That’s why people are yelling at each other!

Cable news starts with a story, removes the grain and nuance then mainlines the fury. It’s all high-fructose hyperbole all the time.

Originally there was one 24-hour cable news channel, CNN. Then there were three. Now the three have spin-offs and there are by my count nine (CNN, HLN, CNN International, CNN en Espanol, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network and Bloomberg) all vying for attention. That’s 216 hours of programming to fill with the news of just one day. It used to be the formula of Fox News to be a parody of Howard Beale in The Network, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Now all the channels are guilty of the same schtick – doing whatever they can to fling themselves to the top of the heap to make their respective Faye Dunaways happy.

In short: The shows are manipulated by years of psychology and marketing research to manipulate us. The “entertainment to information ratio” is way off. It’s more appealing than illuminating”¦which also makes it junk.

The literal translation of what locals in Somalia call the man on the BBC who reads the news is “He Who Scares Old People.” For the higher-on-the-dial news shows this moniker is a selling point, if not a requirement.

Because if you’re not afraid, you’re not watching.

Just as an experiment – instead of cable news watch PBS or listen to NPR. Try it. It’s like going from Oreos to oat bran. There’s a sudden withdrawal. You keep expecting someone to yell, shake their fists and proclaim “We’re doomed!” but it doesn’t happen. It seems as if the world might go on – that we have some problems, here they are and here is the context for said problems. No one calls anyone a Nazi”¦unless they actually served in the SS. It’s very novel and foreign when you’re accustomed to “loud equals accurate.”

A study released at the beginning of the year by Shawn Powers at USC and Mohammed el-Nawawy at Queens University found that the more their subjects in the study watched Al-Jazeera English, the less dogmatic they were in their thinking. Participants retained their opinions but were more open to the views of others. It’s like all the studies that find a diet of real food consisting of vegetables and fiber makes you feel better in every way. It’s interesting”¦and ignored.

We have too much over-processed junk food available round the clock, and we are fat. We have too much over-sensationalized news available around the clock, and we are miserable. More importantly a giant chunk of us are incredibly ignorant. Just as obese people are often malnourished, there are people who watch the “news” constantly and are horribly uninformed. It’s overconsumption of junk.

What’s the result of an uninformed, frightened and hysterical populace? As the saying goes, we get the government we deserve: shortsighted, petty and trend-obsessed. Which in fairness”¦is great for ratings.

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Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer, editor and columnist for Cagle Cartoons. Follow Tina on Twitter @TinaDupuy.

Want to run Tina’s column in your publication? Contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail [email protected], (800) 696-7561.

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Stuck in the Spin Cycle

Rhetorical spinning used to be good sport. Think back on the scenes following Presidential debates, when high-powered advocates for each candidate pounced on reporters to spin every syllable so it seemed to favor their team’s point of view. It was unabashedly biased, and usually entertaining.

Cartoon by Daryl Cagle - msnbc.com (click to purchase)

Cartoon by Daryl Cagle - msnbc.com (click to purchase)

Nowadays, though, we’re stuck in a constant spin cycle, and it’s enough to make most of us dizzy.

The Internet, cable-TV, talk radio, all provide forums for differing voices to publish and be heard. In theory, this broadened exposure to wide ranging perspectives makes us better informed and more receptive to opposing points of view. Yet, just the opposite is happening. In many respects, what’s referred to as the digital information explosion has proved to be a time bomb.

Say you favor lower taxes for people driving red convertibles. Then you undoubtedly bookmark the Lower Taxes for People Driving Red Convertibles blog. There, every news report, every quote, every snippet of polling data is spun to reinforce your views. Those with opposing beliefs, folks who happen to support higher taxes for people driving red convertibles, are demonized and mocked. Of course, they’re too busy to notice, since the spin is quite different on their favorite site: Higher Taxes for People Driving Red Convertibles.

During the hostile health care debate, if you watched Fox News Channel and MSNBC side by side, you’d have thought they were covering entirely different stories. One camp calls the other “socialists”; the other refers to its philosophical opponents as “wackos.” Token appearances by weak-kneed guests, who dare spin in the opposite direction, rarely put dents in the dialogue.

It’s even worse on radio. Advo-casters, some of whom host both radio and TV shows, tend to spin more recklessly when it’s audio only. Radio rants are frequently more outrageous and blatantly biased, yet, despite vast audiences, go largely unheard by those with opposing views.

Rather than stretching our minds with new media, we spend an inordinate amount of time these days doing what is indelicately referred to as drinking our own bath water.

Occasionally the process is thrown a curve – a pitch that is hard to hit precisely because of its spin. Such was the case when the Obama Administration announced a revamped policy to allow some exploration for offshore oil. Anti-Obama spinmeisters, who tend to favor offshore drilling, deemed it too little too late, and probably some sort of socialist ploy. Pro-Obama spinsters proclaimed the move shrewd politics aimed at winning conservative support for more important environmental issues.

The most popular guy on cable-TV, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, decided early on to spin the entire spin situation to his advantage by labeling his show a “No Spin Zone.” That’s quite clever because it acknowledges the spin problem without actually doing anything about it – much as Fox proclaims itself “Fair and Balanced,” while striving for little of either.

When you freeze the frames on our media and our politics, it’s difficult to tell which is currently exerting the greatest spin on the other. Media have become more fractionalized and focused on singular points of view. Politicians and their supporters have grown intolerant and less inclined to compromise.

Conventional media whose goals, at least in theory, are to provide generally spin-free perspectives, are suffering. The evening newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC; the entire CNN cable network; magazines such as Time and Newsweek, and most general-interest newspapers, are losing out to competitors who specialize in spin.

Today, the hottest blogs, radio shows, and cable-TV channels are those for which fact is merely a starting point.

It’s worth noting that mainstream news distribution remains huge in the U.S., with as many as 25 million viewers for the three network newscasts; over 40 million newspapers printed each day. And opinion pages, like this one, continue to provide a healthy range of views.

But the nation’s spin cycle is gaining speed.

Spinning too fast makes you dizzy, and being dizzy causes you to lose your balance.

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Peter Funt may be reached at www.candidcamera.com.

©2010 Peter Funt. This column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Cari Dawson Bartley at 800 696 7561 or e-mail [email protected].

Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker. He’s also the long-time host of “Candid Camera.” A collection of his DVDs is available at www.candidcamera.com.

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