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CSotD: Living in Willensky’s World

 

“We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.”  — Robert Wilensky

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Jen Sorensen)

(Tom Tomorrow)

A simple start: Sorensen mourns what we tried to have, but which failed, while Tom Tomorrow lays out what the manipulators have learned from this reality.

Both are working in the world Robert Wilensky described, and the final panel of Sorensen’s piece provides a seamless segue into Tom Tomorrow’s commentary.

Every media breakthrough seems hailed for its ability to elevate mankind. As noted here recently, translating the Bible from Latin was expected to free people from the selective theology of priests, while moveable type would allow nearly unlimited duplication of thought, spreading the growth of learning far and wide.

Four hundred years later, drill sergeants were sticking straw in the shoes of recruits who could not master the concept of “left” and “right.”

In the 20th Century, we hailed the invention of moving pictures as a means of educating the masses, as we hailed television.

As we hailed the Internet.

 

As Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal points out, the most visible result of the Internet was a quantum leap in salacious trivia.

And it’s not just that people know there’s a fruit fly with six-centimeter-long sperm. It’s that they know Mama June hates mayonnaise.

It’s that they even know there is someone named “Mama June.”

They know this because “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo” was a major success for TLC, which, as Sorensen notes, at least has the self-respect to no longer refer to itself as “The Learning Channel.”

I remember when A&E — The Arts & Entertainment channel — first appeared on cable, heavy on the arts, not so much on the entertainment. It had a lot of ballet and concerts and felt more like homework than television, but they gradually picked up some better programming and it became both intelligent and entertaining.

It could have stayed that way, if endless growth were not our Prime Directive. In a rational world, certain advertisers would have been happy to support programming that targeted a smaller, but perceptive and intelligent, audience.

However, when I was in local TV advertising, I found it impossible to explain to golf shops why the lower ratings — thus lower ad rates — of “Meet the Press” represented a better investment than the big ratings and big price tag of “Little House on the Prairie,” where the vast majority of the audience had never held a golf club except when standing next to a windmill.

Those golf shops couldn’t figure it out, but you can turn on daytime television and see the advertisers who can.

Michael de Adder points out where universal suffrage has led us at the moment.

I have no idea how any of these people honestly feel about mayonnaise, but if dangling crazies in front of the masses were not an effective campaign technique, they wouldn’t succeed in gaining office.

Clay Bennett (CTFP) offers a bit of hope, but my shrug is not based on cynicism. It’s based on, first of all, the fact that the loonies have already seized a major chunk of power, plus something I read that said if Bannon claims he was following his attorney’s advice, it would be a positive defense against contempt.

Meanwhile, as several observers have suggested, Bannon and Meadows and anyone else subpoenaed to testify about the January 6 attempted coup can simply file appeals until after the midterm elections.

And hope de Adder’s loons have gained a clear majority.

Meanwhile, here’s the challenge for cartoonists:

We can’t tell the cowgirl from the cowboy

Molly Ivins was a political commentator. Will Rogers was a comedian.

Ivins was hilariously funny, but she was also deadly incisive. Her columns made screamingly hilarious jokes about specific, factual examples of farcical political stupidity, and, while she certainly emphasized that stupidity, she reported on it before mocking it.

Rogers simply traded on a shared sense that politicians were lazy and dishonest, without being all that specific about any of it.

Ivins was a wiseass, but the element of “wise” was always part of her wisassery. Rogers was more like Jay Leno, relying on shared wisdom, which is an oxymoron.

 

As an Establishment Liberal, I’d like to see more Molly Ivins and less Will Rogers, because “shared wisdom” is the coin of the realm in, as Jack Ohman (WPWG) might put it, the Church of the Orange God, where we do not seek revelation but, rather, confirmation.

This cartoon being an example of Ivinsism, since it lampoons a real event that ought to make you either weep or break out in laughter.

But, for all the tut-tutting it inspired from the usual corners, it is part of a wider movement, so take yet another look at de Adder’s cartoon and see if you think it’s funny.

 

I generally like Clay Jones’s cartoons, but this isn’t a Molly Ivins commentary. It’s a Will Rogers joke, particularly given that Jones is, if not a cheerleader for Biden, vehemently opposed to Trumpism.

Jones even concedes, in the essay on his website, that inflation isn’t Biden’s fault, that the problems he faces are the result of Trump policies and that it is unfair to blame him.

But the newspapers who pick up his cartoons don’t publish his essays, so who’s going to realize that this is an ironic comment rather than an attack?

 

It reminds me of when the New Yorker featured this Barry Blitt cover before the 2008 elections. A lot of Obama supporters wanted to know which side the New Yorker was on, or, to put it more succinctly, “WTF?”

It was defended as an ironic commentary on the stupid things that stupid people believe.

That explanation might have carried more weight if the piece were inside the magazine where people who understand the magazine’s sense of irony would see it, rather than on the cover where passersby — voters — would see it and not know the context they were expected to grasp.

In this world, you need to be plain, and keep your expectations low.

 

As David Horsey notes, it’s not about what you mean.

It’s about what they hear.

Community Comments

#1 Paul Berge
November/16/2021
@ 8:26 am

Bravo was another channel that used to show quality programming. Now even the Sundance Channel, formerly home to outside-the-box movies, wastes its time with reruns of NCIS, Columbo, Hogan’s Heroes and the Law & Order universe.

#2 Fred King
November/16/2021
@ 8:44 am

Not only was Molly Ivins an amazing wiseass, she fought for truth, and when she wrote something that was wrong, she acknowledged it. (“Major crow eaten here.”) I miss her.

#3 ANDREA DENNINGER
November/16/2021
@ 9:14 am

. . . and I’m sure the grifters are already figuring out their ways to get their hands on some, if not most, of that infrastructure money. As they did with the money meant to help those affected by the pandemic.

#4 Bob Harris
November/16/2021
@ 10:00 am

No youtube link today (sad). I thought you might link to Bob Newhart’s short infinite monkeys skit:

#5 Mary Ella
November/16/2021
@ 10:28 am

I still remember when MTV played music videos!

#6 Robb McAllister
November/16/2021
@ 11:24 am

Just about the only cable / satellite channel that has stayed true to its mission is TCM.

#7 Fred King
November/16/2021
@ 1:59 pm

I’d add the Hallmark Channel to the list of networks that has stayed true to its origins. My wife keeps it on most of the time and although I make fun of it, it gives viewers exactly what they expect: two hours to ((save the (farm, bakery, winery, school) OR (find out that the person who bumped into you is actually a prince and you’re going to work in his castle) OR (plan to leave the (village, school, farm) for a successful life in (a big city) and discover that’s right where you belong)) AND (fall in love with someone OR reconnect with (a childhood sweetheart OR family OR (assorted horses, dogs, and other animals (extra points if a puppy is involved)) AND (have the entire plot wrap up with a happy ending in the last five minutes).

I think I have all the Boolean operators nested properly, but I won’t guarantee it.

#8 lee k
November/16/2021
@ 2:11 pm

Who are the two middle people in the loon race?

#9 Janet Ober
November/16/2021
@ 3:45 pm

Gohmer and Gosart?

#10 Mary McNeil
November/16/2021
@ 6:23 pm

A and E has ceded its slot back to PBS.

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