THE NEW REALITY
By Roland Watson
Through the behavior that I have described, the media have for all intents and purposes brought about the death of "objective reality." (There are no longer any confirming objective sources!)
"You believe that reality is something objective, eternal, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you ... reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes; only in the mind of the Party [read Media], which is collective and immortal. What the Party [Media] holds to be truth 'is' truth."
- George Orwell, 1984
Throughout history we have seen a marked evolution in belief about the nature of "truth." And in this process the idea of the existence of one objective truth has given way to the possible existence of many individual truths. And with the misinterpreted "support" of Einstein's theories of relativity, and the ideas of modern philosophers such as Descartes and Berkeley, this tendency has now reached its logical, and extreme, conclusion. Everything is considered to be "subjective," or relative. There is no one reality, no one truth; only your perspective, your reality, and your truth.
As to Einstein, while he did prove that space, time and motion are relative to the observer, he also demonstrated that between any two specific observers (precisely, between any two "events") they are "invariant," or absolute. Indeed, great confusion remains concerning the nature of reality, of what aspects of it are relative and hence variant by the perspective of the individual, and of how and in what ways it is objective.
(There is an underlying neurological phenomenon to consider as well. As our brains reprogram themselves, this effectively changes our memories, if only slightly. However, our memories never fully grasp reality in any case. They are never complete, or exact. What is important is not the memory, but the actual objective reality being recalled, which our memories can only ever approximate. Indeed, in many cases our appraisals of objective reality, and hence our memories of it, are incorrect. Subsequent modifications to the memories may represent the availability of new information, and hence increase their accuracy.)
To return to the media, they have capitalized on this confusion, using it as the justification for presenting anything, any view, no matter how extreme or ridiculous, as reality. The media have in fact co-opted reality; they have remade it in their own vision, and this is what they sell us.
So, what is this new reality? What is it, precisely, that the media are trying to sell? Well, we know that the media sell products: television programs, films, songs, newspapers, magazines, books, even internet sites, are all products. In addition, with few exceptions, their purpose is to make profits. (The creators might not look at it this way, but it is definitely the view of the publishers.) And, we also know that they have to hold our interest. We will not buy their products if they do not do this. However, for the most part, the media do not sell, or provide, education, and there is only a limited supply of real originality around, the type of artistic originality that is so deep and broad that it will attract wide audiences. But (for the industry as a whole) there is a huge amount of airtime and pages to be filled, so they have to give us substitutes.
Of these substitutes, they themselves are the first on offer.
"We're so pretty, oh so pretty. We're vacant!
And we don't care!"
- Pretty Vacant, The Sex Pistols
People in the media are masters of self-promotion, having swallowed wholeheartedly the idea that to succeed you must sell yourself. Indeed, they revel in their prostitution. This, after all, is fame. Of course, it is only the most common type of fame. Real fame, which is the product of personal excellence so great that it achieves a level of cultural originality, is also the rarest. An easy way to see this distinction is to contrast the enduring fame of Einstein with the temporary, popular fame of today's one hit wonders.
As has been pointed out many times (but the real fame of the observation belongs to Marshall McLuhan), in modern society the media are the message. The members of the media are celebrities, and they cover themselves. Every "big" story, such as the Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goodman murders, has as a significant byline the media's own involvement. Indeed, it is this self-reporting that is often the driving factor behind such "sensational" stories. (It is also a very revealing form that modern society values actors so highly. Actors are masters of appearance.)
Further, one form of the media promotes another. Television, for example, promotes films and books, and also itself. And this trend has been accelerated by the consolidation of media ownership. The big conglomerates now have stakes in every specific medium, and they all advertise the others. (In the actual mergers and acquisitions deals which formed the conglomerates, this was referred to, and quantified, as "synergy." They actually put a price tag on the value of this type of brainwashing.)
In addition to themselves, what the media sell is entertainment. Their assumption is not that people are amazed and fascinated by life, by objective reality, and therefore want to learn about it, through education, but rather that people are bored by life, and need to be entertained to relieve this boredom. And, if we act as if this assumption is false, that real life is sufficient, then the media attempt to persuade us otherwise. We need more than life, they say, we need what they have to offer, which is fantasy, and glamour (and talking models!). And again, their argument is disingenuous and circular. We have asked for - we must have asked for - what they are giving us, therefore we must want it. (But, as any pollster knows, it is all in how you phrase the questions. If you want a particular response, you ask your questions in a way such that you get it.)
"...in the old days - the media image roughly corresponded to reality. But now it's all reversed. The media image is the reality, and by comparison day-to-day life seems to lack excitement. So now day-to-day life is false, and the media image is true. Sometimes I look around my living room, and the most real thing in the room is the television. It's bright and vivid, and the rest of my life looks drab. So I turn the damn thing off. That does it every time. Get my life back."
- Michael Crighton, Airframe
The media sell glamour, in other words, what your ordinary life supposedly does not have. They sell power (celebrities and winners), money (the super-rich), youth and beauty (celebrities and models), sex (by people younger and more beautiful than you), and death. Even death, it seems, from war and catastrophe, can be glamorous.
This actually extends the view that one can, and should, profit from death. Indeed, the media are at their worst, and most parasitic, when they profit from the death and misery of others. Also, it demonstrates that the media are better adapted - they are more direct - than religion. The media increase the profiteering from death, by fueling our fascination with it and our lust for it.
The media are also big purveyors of fantasy. The problem is, many of the creative people in the media also suffer from "narrow life syndrome." They cannot write with originality about real life, because no matter how intelligent and well educated they may be, they haven't really lived. Media companies are populated by extremely privileged people. Great wealth and nepotism are rampant, but broad life experience, including the satisfaction of meeting life's basic challenges on your own, and exposure to great trauma and depth of feeling, is not. So, since they can't write "real life," they write fantasy, but they try to sell it to us as if it were real. In doing this they legitimize superstition, and all manner of oddball and absurd beliefs.
Of course, it is not as if the media do not recognize their own lack of originality. Proof of this can be seen, from Hollywood, in the preponderance of sequels, "prequels," book adaptations, remakes, "director's cuts," other such re-releases with additional footage, and "colorizations." Indeed, the lack of originality, not to mention continuity and believability, is all too clear. Story lines and characters are simply forgotten, or connected in impossible ways. And as to believability, of behavior, the actions of characters are regularly completely inconsistent with what humans actually do. (And this extends far beyond the "Don't go in that room!" of horror films, where they always do.)
As we have seen, at a deeper level originality is not the real goal. Since they can't, or won't, make the effort to hold our interest by telling us stories that are intriguing, internally consistent, and with no loose ends, they use other means. And for this we get formula entertainment, with guns, bombs, special effects and sex.
© Roland Watson 2016