Now listen...

2010-09-16 09:32
News is boring. I know I shouldn’t say that, now that I’ve successfully conned my way into this journalism scam and NASA don’t even respond to my homemade astronaut application forms any more, but the truth is, I find The News as exciting as I did when I was a child and my father would use Michael de Morgan’s face as excuse to tell me to shut the hell up about effing outer space for half a goddamned hour.

For me, hard news has always been a novocaine drone, a random parade of suited civil servants filling time between ad breaks with supercilious banality as we all wait for something to explode, flood or overdose. It’s great when that happens, and I often wish they’d filmed those sequences in 3D, but do we really need news on the hour, every hour, seven days a week? Come on, we’re not that interesting.

But through informing us, the news performs the vital social function of lending us the illusion that our opinions somehow matter. It works in very much the same way as a company informing its staff about a major restructuring process. I speak from personal experience.

"We’re restructuring," they say, "and you’re all going to have to re-apply for your own jobs, if they still exist. The rest of you will be redeployed. But we welcome your input at any stage in the process."

"Please, please, don’t restructure me!" you plead. "I work really hard, sometimes, and I need the money to support my alcoholism!"

"Thank you for your feedback," they respond. "Your participation in this difficult process is greatly appreciated." Then they offer to cut your dick off and redeploy you as the tea lady.

"Hmmm," you think. "Maybe my email didn’t go through or something. Yes, that must be it…"

The news simply sustains this capitalist delusion of democracy and individual autonomy on a grander scale.

"Here is the news. The price you pay for petrol will now be determined by how much the attendant likes your face; three dead after Helen Zille’s cybernetic implants go haywire at a press conference and video footage of Joost eating a puppy for Satan. Here’s the comments form, here’s our SMS line, and here’s where you send your letters to the editor. Go mad."

And that’s exactly what we do. Because behind every office cubicle lurks a frustrated megastar, a deprived megalomaniac and messiah-in-waiting with all the answers to everything. I wonder how many school and shopping mall mass murders the news has prevented by simply pretending to listen to its readers? Given the nature of most of the feedback, I’d say a lot.

But this is also the only real entertainment the news has to offer. My front page of any publication is the letters, the opinions, the readers' SMS column. Then I read the funniest cartoon in human history, Fred Basset. How true art of such a subtle, subversive nature maintains its place in the otherwise dumbed-down mainstream media is an enigma that keeps me awake at nights. But I digress.

Public response is easily the best part of the news, and probably the only thing that keeps me reading it, apart from the whole 'being a journalist' thing. It’s often hilarious, like the Special Olympics. You know that most of the people involved are trying really hard, and there’s real passion there (which only makes it funnier), but you can’t help but wonder, who are these freaks? Do they honestly think anyone cares? Sure, they could ask me the same thing, but I get paid – what’s their excuse?

The answer is that it doesn’t matter. The news may be a tedious compilation of press releases, sound bites and barely disguised adverts, polished to pedestal perfection by pseudos such as myself, but it’s kept alive by impotent soap box stars who present the reality of the human condition in sharp macro-focus, for all its anger, ugliness, stupidity and plain old insanity. What’s not to love?

Now that I get most of my news online, I have no option but to read from the front page. But when I click on a comments enabled story, I always read from the bottom up.

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