This morning I was struck with the realization that I am suffering from a horrible addiction complicated by an equally powerful revulsion of the subject of my addiction. Confused? So am I. Nevertheless, I will attempt to explain my dilemma. Perhaps a bit of personal history might be helpful in unraveling the chain of events that led me to such a no-win situation. As a responsible US citizen, I have always felt the need to be aware of current events both local and international, in order to be able to exercise my right to vote in a sensible manner. Since retirement I have been able to devote more time in the pursuit of such knowledge, and therein lies part of the problem.
In my earlier years I often did selective perusal of print media, augmented by nightly news broadcasts on radio. The broadcasters in those days were fastidious in their attempts to eliminate any appearance of political bias in their programs. I even recall one newscaster who said that he did not vote in any national or statewide elections as he was concerned that it might affect his objectivity. Newspapers likewise were careful to separate opinion from facts by relegating their interpretations to the editorial page. The print media in those days were very open about their biases, and there were papers with both liberal and conservative orientations.
But then along comes television. Initially most people could only get 2 or 3 stations unless they lived in a large city. The height of television antennas became the new status symbol, and the six o’clock news was now both seen and heard. I was now able to not only hear but see my hero Edward R. Murrow who was one of the few who challenged Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the senator’s communist witch hunt, and whose quotes are especially timely today One especially apropos in our current political climate even though 70 years old is: “I have an old fashioned idea that Americans like to make up their own minds on the basis of all available information”.
Of course, that would not be the end of it. The technology advanced so rapidly that one could barely keep up, much as is with the current electronic explosion. Color would soon be added, screens got larger and the ultimate boon for couch potatoes like myself was the invention of the remote. Now as more stations were added we could channel surf while needing to only exert the fingers of one hand. TV cameras were soon made small enough to be portable and along with the development of videotape it became possible to bring live news happenings to the screen. That may seem cumbersome now that we have trucks with equipment that send a live image directly back to the station, but it was big in those days. Many believe this ability to film live action in the field played a big part in the public renunciation of the Vietnam war. We who belonged to the fraternity of couch potatoes soon found it more satisfactory to get all our news by pushing a button rather than struggle with an unwieldy newspaper especially if we had to walk all the way out to the front yard to get it. True TV news only hit the high spots, but what the heck? Who had time to read all that stuff anyway?
The next big innovation was cable TV. All those antennas were either taken down or became flag poles. Then in 1980, just about the time that sitcoms were becoming really boring, along comes Ted Turner an audacious young dude who has inherited a small TV station, and decides to start a 24 hour TV news business called “The Cable News Network”. What a boon to us news junkies. Now we could stay up to date with little or no effort, and it was no longer necessary to make it to the armchair by six o’clock. When Turner’s crazy idea became successful there soon followed the formation of MSNBC, and Fox News.
MSNBC used the tag line: “The Place for Politics”, and it soon became obvious that they could have safely stuck the adjective liberal in there somewhere. Not to be outdone Richard Murdock a conservative international newspaper publishing baron established his competing network, Fox News, and compete they did. Fox and MSNBC see the world through different prisms. For example, this morning Fox blamed Obama for the recent killing of children in Syria with saran gas because he had not offered sufficient support for the rebels in the past while MSNBC placed the blame on Trump as he had recently announced he would pull out of Syria which they insist emboldened Assad.
There seems little doubt that the animus between the two organizations has contributed significantly to the divisiveness which now plaques the country, but I am sure it also makes for good ratings. Studies have shown that we are influenced by what we see and hear on television. If that were not true, would companies spend millions of dollars on commercials? As a result those of a particular political orientation will likely migrate to the station which reflects their views, which will not only be confirmed but enhanced, the gulf grows wider and there is little chance of reconciliation.
In my younger days I was a card carrying conservative Republican who believed that government was too big, communism was our greatest threat, and those freeloading welfare bums would bankrupt the country. Shortly after I began my practice Medicare and Medicaid came into being and I was convinced it would be a disaster. As I came to know more about my patients I realized that Medicare and Medicaid were saving lives, people did not choose to be destitute, and the communist thing had been vastly overblown. Both parties decried all the wasteful spending, but did nothing about it so that issue was a wash. Eventually I fell in love with Jimmy Carter which cemented my transition.
In spite of my becoming a tree hugging, soft hearted, wimpy democrat, I did hold on to a few conservative values consequently; I have always considered myself to be a middle of the road kind of guy. With that in mind I rejected the networks I felt to be extreme in favor of CNN which brings us to the root of my problem for you see CNN doesn’t do news anymore. In its stead they do Trump, and the President (ugh, that is hard to say) has made a fool of me. It has been well documented that Trump likes attention, and CNN is giving him all they have to give other than time out for commercials. To be fair, I must say they do use some time to report mass school shootings and such, but even then they find a way to bring him into the story.
In my writings, I have made no secret of my disdain for your President (I refuse to own him) which may lead you to ask why I continue to suffer those twinges of nausea all day long. The answer may lie in the fact that I am addicted not to CNN, but to that person. When Barb asks me why I am so eager to turn on the kitchen TV in the morning before I even get my coffee I answer I need to see what the asshole has tweeted now. From then on I am mesmerized as so called panels of experts discuss over and over his most ridiculous statement of the day. Perhaps it is similar to watching a horror movie which is really scarey, but you can’t stop watching.
It is more likely that I continue to watch with the hope that something good will be announced much in the same way kids become addicted to their cell phones, gamblers can’t stop betting, or we play the lottery when the odds against our winning are monumental. After all it has been shown that intermittent positive reinforcement is the means by which addiction is produced. Ah Ha, that must be it, that Breaking News thing that keeps popping up on the screen every few minutes which 9 times out of 10 turns out to be broken news i.e. stuff they have been talking about for hours. Meanwhile I keep waiting for some good news to break, and since they only talk about Trump I leave it to your imagination to decide what that might be.
With that new insight I believe I can overcome this problem. I have already taken to listening to NPR and BBC radio both of which stream real news, not Trumped up news (did you get that). Maybe I can transition to getting some print news online and eventually kick the CNN gig.

2 thoughts on “TRUMP FATIQUE

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