The New York Times just had an article about search engine optimization. Apparently my headlines are all wrong. I need Taylor Momsen, though I have no idea who she is. I need “Jon Stewart Slams Glenn Beck.” At least I know who John Stewart is. I’ve never used Google Trends or Omniture or what have you. I know it’s old fashioned, I know “news” is just code for advertising and propaganda, but, still, I’d like to at least maintain the pretense. When you have Sears partnering with AOL to create a news site that only runs good news, called Good News Now or GNN, that’s a Disney dream — not just because it’s sickly sweet, but because that sweetness is always a wrapper for advertising. As TechCrunch writes, get ready to barf.
A commenter says perhaps that’s a welcome relief from the current “you’re surrounded by terrorists and child rapists panic Panic PANIC NOW!!” news system, but media like Fox News seem to have blended them into an algorithm, ten minutes of panic panic, ten of the world’s getting worse, and ten of “elderly couple tie the knot.” Who’s left to confront power?
Madison, the 4th US president, said: “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
The world is not getting worse, at least not in terms of violence and safety, the things that are most often cited by the panic-now crowd. Every century has had significantly fewer violent deaths from the previous century, going back to the dark ages. Yes, the famously violent 20th century had far fewer violent deaths than the 19th, which had fewer than the 18th, etc. But in terms of what it means to be human, I’m not so optimistic. Call me old and conservative, but Taylor Momsen with her three million Google hits seems a bit of a step down from Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Bach, or even from the New York Post’s famous “Headless Body in Topless Bar” headline.