No TV, so I was listening to a bit of the coverage of the James Comey hearing on KPCC just now and it’s not exactly a murderers’ row of famous journalists and analysts. Competition must be fierce and KPCC is down to the D listers. Anybody who is nobody is on TV or the radio or online somewhere experting away. What an exciting time to be a reporter. The press has never been this famous. I mean, all these journalists are rock stars now. They tweet like mad and write long pieces we all read the first paragraph of. They show up on TV daily. They have unnamed sources to die for. They pal around with movie stars and directors. Imagine the perks and the swag and the people who want to meet them, to touch them, to take a selfie with them. Living the reporter’s dream. A Pulitzer. A bestseller. George Clooney playing you in the movie. I confess I always wanted to be a political reporter. Alas I was born too late for Watergate and too early for Trump. It’s all in the timing. People loathed the press only a year ago, mistrusted them, assumed everything it said was a lie. That was then. Now it’s Beatlemania for reporters. I watch these guys on those giant CNN panels and I think to myself man, I bet they’re getting laid like crazy. Maybe not a second time but still, they’re getting laid like crazy.
All the online news sites from traditional media to the fringe blogs will be experiencing a huge spike in traffic in the next few days, sending their online advertising, SEO and links revenue to very high levels. The timing is perfect with the Christmas shopping season underway, the Ferguson grand jury’s decision coming the very week of Black Friday. They’ll be nice fat holiday bonuses for management this season. But if they want to maintain this high traffic through Christmas, they will have to keep pounding away on controversial stories to try …to get them to go viral. Bill Cosby is fucked.
His only hope is some celebrity will die tragically, though the heroin overdose and suicide thing has been done. But the editors will think of something. Keep checking Slate, they tend to be ahead of the game on this.
I’m not making light of a serious issue, but I do think people should be aware that their anger, outrage, grief and emotion can be manipulated to maximize revenue. News, like everything else, is a product now. The news is real, the stories are real, the reporters deadly earnest and photos often stunning. But that’s content. It’s how website editors present and market that content that gets questionable. News becomes malleable, the audience infinitely suggestible, naïve, a marketer’s dream.
I’m amazed at how the media is plunging into all the hacked Sony stuff without ever mentioning the right to privacy. What a quaint thing that was. I keep reading and hearing these Sony emails in the press as if they were public property and thinking when are we next? Apparently anything ever written on a computer keyboard is now considered fair game. And that means you and me, not just big corporations or government employees. It’s a stunning shift in attitudes toward privacy. People apparently have the right to peer into and publicize whatever we write in a digital format. You send an email, it’s public property. Where does this stop? Are phone conversations next? This is completely creeping me out. The vicious thugs who run North Korea get pissed at a movie that makes fun of them and splatter the studio responsible’s information all over the web, right down to individual employee’s social security numbers. Reporters, bloggers and the public go nuts publicizing it, without compunction. Somehow hacking is no longer a crime, and our very thoughts are now public property, WikiLeaks expanded ad infinitum. There’s no limit. And this isn’t 1984, it wasn’t the government that did this, or big corporations, or any mega anything. It was the people. Just people. The North Koreans realized this, and used our own creepiness to spread the information. They understood that deep down we’re basically people peeking into other people’s windows. All they had to do was dump all the info they stole onto public sites and watch the rats race to feed on it. We’re the ones who are so ravenous for all these intimate details. We’re the ones who crave other people’s secret thoughts. We’re the ones who love the dirt. We flushed our own right to privacy down the toilet. We created this nightmare. Though almost none of you see it as a nightmare. But this is just beginning, people. Any of you could find yourself gone viral, and have no control over it, even as it destroys your life. This will happen more and more and more. Now that we’ve given away our right to privacy, we don’t even have the right to complain. This is a brand new world and I, for one, don’t like it at all.
You might laugh now, think this is just paranoia, but when it’s your photo-shopped fake sex offender mugshot registering a couple million hits a day, you’ll remember the old days.