Wednesday, July 8, 2009

On More Inconsequential Things...and a New Column

1. Duality.
Despite all our disagreements about Michael Jackson, there is one thing that we should be willing to agree on, which is that MJ leaves behind one of the most complex public existences in modern history; in the midst of his apparent attempts to render himself non-classifiable (at least by skin color), he left behind an utterly confounding legacy. And yet it is also apparent that as information and its methods of presentation move faster and faster and get shorter and shorter, we simply don't have room for such duality anymore. Therefore: Michael Jackson is either the greatest pop star/humanitarian in modern history or Michael Jackson is a crass and highly overrated pervert. Michael Jackson is deserving of all this attention or Michael Jackson is a prototypical example of media overkill. There can be no reconciliation of these ideas; there can be no acknowledging that, at various times in his life, he was all of these things, that he was overexposed and underexposed (sometimes for the wrong things), and that perhaps the ideas we are grasping at here cannot be encapsulated in 140-word blocks and three-word Facebook comments and dozens of CNN segments involving Toure.

I mean, people are freaking complicated (see: McNair, Steve). And I worry that as we grasp for the next new thing, as we advance into this new and very freaky age, that there will be fewer ways for people to acknowledge this, that everything will become a back and forth between entrenched points of view who are unwilling to acknowledge that, yeah, people are freaking complicated.

There is a man named Jeff Jarvis, whose views I find utterly repulsive; he is essentially a new media evangelist, and he writes things like this:

The press* has become journalism’s curse, not only because it now brings a crushing cost burden but also because it led to all these myths: that we journalists own the news, that we’re necessary to it, that we decide what’s reported and what’s important, that we can package the world for you every day in a box with a bow on it, that what we do is perfect (with rare, we think, exceptions), that the world should come to us to be informed, that we deserve to be paid for this service, that the world needs us.

It is, I believe, a simplistic and and cheaply populist viewpoint, and it has made Jarvis quite popular, because in truth it is quite easy to hate on the press, especially when the press is in a position of weakness. But I believe there is a reason this "media filter" exists: It exists not just to unify our culture, but to facilitate the exploration of the entire story, rather than that which happens to coincide with our own biases and singular points of view. I find it telling that one of the commenters on Jarvis's post says he does not want to hear news about health-care policy, because he himself has never had a problem with his health care. Therefore, why should it be on his front page? Why should he be bombarded with such things if they do not apply directly to his forehead?

I don't think the press is perfect; in fact, I think the press is populated by natural-born skeptics who tend to be reflexively critical of themselves. And no, the world doesn't need an organized and powerful press, but I happen to think the world is a better and more thoughtful place because of it--even when it comes to Michael Jackson.

2. LeBron.

As you may recall, we consider ourselves an entirely LeBron-friendly blog; we do not publish negative news about LeBron James on this site, thereby invalidating everything stated in No. 1 (above). Therefore, we refuse to believe that LeBron would confiscate a videotape merely because a college kid dunked on his head; we believe LeBron's people most likely confiscated said videotape merely to create buzz for a new advertising campaign in which LeBron will allow himself to be dunked on by strangers, in order to prove his largesse.
Also, Nike scares the crap out of me.

3. Vacation.

As you can probably deduce from No. 1 (above), I need one. Therefore, I am taking one. To tide you over, in lieu of an actual book about the 1980s (which is moving along, and will be released to the public eventually, I promise), here is a piece I wrote for a Remember the '80's package on, about the 1984 Olympics and the insanity of the decade.
See you in a few days.

(AP Photo: Pete Leabo)

Jarvis appears to be speaking of the "printing press" here, but I think he is essentially using this metaphor to pillory the New York Times and other "elite media." (And I find that term idiotic, so I put it in quotes.)


Cecilio Guante said...

Last link broken, I think.

Michael Weinreb said...

Fixed. Thx.

Cecilio Guante said...

Just read it. Great article. Still laughing.

I was ten in 1984 and shared your uncritical perspective of the era (loooooved Rocky IV), and I remember us schoolkids used to make these big comparisons between how weak and pitiful RUSSIA was vs. the great USA.

My favorite, in hindsight, was that if Russia dropped a nuke aimed at home plate, they would hit second base. If we did the same, we would hit the pitchers mound. Better technology, see?

Cecilio Guante said...

Another thought: I wonder to what extent you could read the history of the Dream Team as a bridge between pompous blowhards and whatever we are becoming, assuming we are still becoming.

Looking back, I'm pretty sure the Dream Team was the first American Olympic endeavor that I actively rooted against. Not the '92 team so much (although it was already problematic), but certainly after that and with growing intensity as the years went on.

And, it's interesting, continuing this analogy, to consider that this year I found myself at KOREA/JAPAN WBC semi-final completely convinced it was the greatest sports experience of my life. I wonder what role the Dream Team played in moving me from closeminded nationalist to whatever I've become, assuming I've become something.