The Media

I was watching Politically Incorrect late one insomniac night when Bill Maher had the temerity to suggest to his panel of one actress, one comedian, and two Congressmen that perhaps elected officials had more influence over our everyday lives than show business people. From the reaction you'd have thought some wise-ass punk had just told your little sister that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were just fat old Slappy, the high school janitor with permanent midnight shadow and a nine inch butt-cleavage, stuffed into silly outfits twice a year. And that was just the Congressmen.

These days the media is generally conceded an influence that make Moses and his tablets seem as serious as a Dan Quayle lecture on Murphy Brown. It's what we all hear day after day, from the academic pontifications of John Gardner to the spittle-tossing diatribes of Jerry Springer and his mouth-breather elite. And it is not hard to understand, for if there is one thing this entire audible spectrum has in common, it is a dependence on one kind of communications medium or another for their livelihood. Two basic facets of human nature are the need to believe that what we do in our everyday lives is significant, and the tendency to exaggerate that significance. That's true whether your profession is writing scripts for sappy sit-coms or studying the mating-cycle of the Patagonian mud-nit. Okay, there's no such thing as a Patagonian mud-nit, but if there were, I'm sure the guy who studied it would think it overwhelmingly, crushingly important.

So why is the idea of the media looming large in all our lives so ubiquitous? Two reasons. First, who do you suppose reports on the significance of the media? You get one guess, and if you need a hint, it starts with an "m" and ends with "i-a", and it is not the mafia. You can be certain that the chance of media people minimizing their own impact is on a par with the Pope preaching the gospel according to Nietzsche.

Second, people need someone to blame when their kids spray their classrooms with ballistic valentines, and they sure aren't going to admit responsibility for something like that. So the hue-and-cry goes out to lynch the evil parasites who twist our kids' minds with films and video games and Yanni concerts. And when the crowds of peasants with torches drop around to Count Media's gothic condo for tea, the blood-suckers who've been touting their own influence would feel pretty silly backpedalling, so they beat out a couple of fast mea culpas on their Armani-clad breasts, and promise to do better in the future, while leaving themselves a strategic line of retreat through the 1st Amendment.

Never mind the fact that arguments about violence on television jading us to its effects have been raging since I was a kid (yeah, Jenn, I know it was a long time ago), and that even with that deep, pervasive influence I and the remaining 99.993% of my generation have somehow avoided committing Wile E Coyote-inspired homicides. Have you ever noticed that some of the most violent and murderous parts of the world are often those with the least media access? Think it over.

The idea of vast media influence has spawned some truly bizarre phenomena, like the Klingon Language Institute, and college courses on Seinfeld, and critical books on the pernicious influence of Dilbert on society. Believe it or not, the people behind this crap really do think it's important. We're talking some serious get-a-life trivia magnification here.

What I want to do here is introduce these self-inflated media-nits to the heretical concept that maybe their opinions and influence mean less to us than the mating-cycle of the mythical Mud-Nit (Mud-Nittm is a registered trademark of the Sir Robin Corporation, all rights reserved). What is meaningful to us in our everyday lives is our work, our families, and our friends. I hate to break it to you boys and girls in movies, television, radio etc, but you are really nothing more than the background noise of our lives. You're good for entertainment and laughs and, if you do your jobs well, maybe a thoughtful reflection or two. To an extent you homogenize the culture, but you don't lead it - it leads you. And that's important enough all by itself, so get a grip and try to be satisfied with that role. There are a limited number of thinkers, scientists, politicians and artists whose ideas are going to have real influence on our lives, and by-and-large, your contribution doesn't make the cut.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could just be ripping off some media guy.

Tim Eagen
July, 1999