My New Year's Resolution
Why are we so enthralled by tragedy? Everywhere we turn, there's some shocking account of murder, scandal, or corruption. We feed on the news like insatiable animals. Being civilized animals, we don't actually participate in the carnage; we spectate over a bag of Doritos and a soda.
Unfortunately, our demand for tragedy has created a beast that is growing uncontrollably. We call it The Media. The media presents to us our most unspeakable acts and we watch every night, mesmerized. It is a supply-and-demand phenomenon that will continue as long as there is gore to grease the machinery. For the media, utopia looks a lot like L.A.
But I would like to point at a more frightening mutation of this phenomenon: In its frenzy to report the trauma, the media has begun to dictate its outcome.
I know a whole lot more about the President than I need to. I don't care what the man does with his nether parts. I don't want to know what brand of cigar he smokes. To me, a Presidential indiscretion would be a nuclear mushroom cloud on the horizon. If Clinton lied to us, it's because we placed a camera in his underwear.
Funny thing about the American public is that we always need a scandal, someone or something to persecute over dinner. It satisfies some perverse need to say How appalling... Show me more. The media has been commissioned to stalk our celebrities, politicians, criminals - anyone whose story might alarm us. I always felt that Diana was famous just for being famous, but she didn't deserve to be driven to her death. Even if Di hadn't perished in her car that evening, she would be the same woman who couldn't enjoy a bowel movement without a camera man jumping out of the medicine cabinet.
How about the Trial of the Century - Would the verdict be the same if the trial hadn't taken place in our living rooms? Would the Race Card have meant so much or the public dissension have been as formidable? The media continues to pursue the late-breaking disaster. Every day we see a car chase live on television. Announcers in Baghdad promise more bombs if we're only patient. We want to know everything there is to know about the Unibomber, Heaven's Gate, Jon Benét, Wackos in Waco... We demand depravity.
I apologize if this column seems cynical (it would be the first time I've been accused of that). It is actually a happy thing. It's a declaration of independence. I would like to share with you my New Year's Resolution, which is to liberate myself from the madness once and for all. I hereby vow to turn off the news because it has nothing more to offer me. I don't want to know where the gun was found, who molested whom, or what food is going to kill me this week. I don't even want to know what the weather will be like. If dark clouds gather in the sky, I'll just figure the gods are angry for some reason.
This column is a testimony to the freedom that awaits all of us who forsake the media. If we no longer participate, we can live in peace from the beast. Someday we may even speak to each other on the street again. I'm not proposing that we turn our backs on the issues for which democracy is responsible; I am proposing that we face those issues like adults instead of watching tabloid t.v. like a bunch of children who are afraid of the bogeyman.
There is a song John Denver wrote before he got his pilot's license. It's called "Blow up the T.V." and is quite about today's column. John prescribed an evening of music and wine in lieu of the television. He submitted that following the initial awkwardness, human contact will prevail. He's right. I've seen it happen. And I hope to see it happen regularly after the new year. The alternative is to live in a world where the President is impeached, Diana dies, and O.J. golfs full-time.