Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Rebirth of Media

I grew up in the 80s, and while some people love 80s pop culture, I was never a fan. The music was, in my opinion, abysmal and what got played on radio or made it to you in records or cassettes went through very few large music labels. While I'm no fan of Madonna or Michael Jackson, I do respect that pop-culture is something very difficult to do well, because you have to appeal to such a large segment of society. We got to choose between very inane sit-coms like ALF, Who's the Boss, Family Ties, and the Wonder Years. In the early 90s we all watched 90210 because everyone else did...and this may be one of the worse uses of my time given to me on this planet. I saw the birth of MTV, a channel who's sole purpose was to try and tell teens what is cool, and I really despise few things in pop culture more than the stupidity that flows from MTV. Anyway I lived with pop culture and although I may have never embraced it there weren't many alternatives out there as far as media sources.

Today pop culture may be even dumber than it was in my youth. Shows like The OC, Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of (some city)  are shows that appeal to only the lowest common denominator in all of us. Musicians (I use the term lightly for some) that appear today are in many ways even more vapid then the pop stars who came before them. While I'm sure some are very impressed with the likes of Lady GaGa or some of these American Idol types that fill up gossip columns and entertainment headlines more often than the airwaves, there is a very good sized part of the population that won't pay them much attention. The internet is killing pop culture and I couldn't be happier about it.

People no longer have entertainment filtered through very narrow channels of distribution, and the result is that we no longer have to pay attention to what the majority is interested in, we can find a community with similar tastes and people that preform or provide entertainment we actually like. My favorite shows are on YouTube, my favorite music isn't on the radio, most importantly my news doesn't have to come through big media outlets. Social networking, twitter, and blogging are making CNN, Fox, MSNBC and all the garbage newspapers, magazines and trash we all had to read before obsolete. The limited world view that was fed to us filtered through the eyes of many people with similar backgrounds and often lacking any in depth insight into the stories they were reporting on is no longer what we have to listen to for news.

I'm writing about this because I was inspired by trying to keep up with what has been going on in Egypt. The old school news outlets have been abysmal in their coverage. Fox was falsely reporting that the riots were about Islamic elements rising up against Mubarac, CNN did interviews with their own anchors, etc. and the coverage often took absurd angles like hinging on what Obama had to say about what was going on there. Really? The BBC which generally I find to have better international coverage was not much better and their updates aside form the odd live blog didn't add too much. I quickly found that the best sources of information were coming in through YouTube showing in unedited format who the people out on the street were and what they wanted, it was coming through Face Book pages dedicated to the events going on over there set up by Egyptians who were caught up in the events, it came through live twitter feeds that were updating events on the ground as they happened and linking to other micro media sites. The revolution was being broadcast by the people involved in it. The pictures, the video, the slogans, the experiences come to us uncensored, and though at times graphic or crass it is reality as people experience it, it is the new democratic media, and it could play a huge part in setting the world free of the biases that have separated us for years.

One thing that I learned through travelling is that people are people everywhere. At the end of the day it is rarely about religion or some philosophical position, people want dignity, respect, freedom, a place to live, food on the table and safety for their family. While there are some social differences and different outlooks on how this should be achieved or maintained we are mostly  the same. Finally, the more connected we become through direct unfiltered media, the more it is like we have all traveled a bit around the world. We realize that we have more in common with the people on the street in Egypt than we thought we ever did. It becomes increasingly clear the the separation is not between nationalities but between the differences between our so called leaders and the populations at large. The separation is between those who demand our freedom, and those who profess to provide us with it.

My thoughts are with the people of Egypt, when Mubarak falls don't let them tell you who your new leaders are. Seize this opportunity for yourselves. It's an exciting time to be alive, this is a new world empowered by a more democratic media.

1 comment:

  1. Great, great post. I have more to say here than the comments section will probably allow me, so I won't waste space reiterating the great points you made at length.
    There is a Darwinian aspect to this. Many who decry the replacement of corporate media by social media argue that there is no stringency to social media, and rumors can become "truth" very quickly, but this is really just as likely to happen in mainstream media, except when it occurs there it is even worse, because it comes with a hint of authority. It is, as you say, hard to argue with a youtube video of demonstrators being beaten by police, or what have you. To echo something your future wife said in eleventh grade in Great Documents class, (and you blasted her for it*), the truth does always (kinda) come out.

    * I believe you asked, "What's gonna happen? Is the archangel Michael just going to descend and hand out all the truth?"


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