Selling Illusion

Saturday, May 07, 2005

[The Process of Belief]

“I wish I could tell you more pertinent news, but we’re in a ratings system here;

and the key factor is ‘sensationalism’.

They have you running in circles nine to five. Then five to nine,

you’re mine.

I tell you what they want you to know, and you consider it the truth.

Nobody is opening their eyes.

Our global economy is depleting the world of our lives and natural resources.

And are you happy?

Come on…


- System of a Down: ‘Sugar’

Do you know what the worst concept that an old school romantic can come across? Cynicism. To the romantic it’s the death knell, frantically coupling with distrust to breed a hardening heart. It’s the antithesis of that which is held dear. Trust and belief are tortured and dumped in a grave marked ‘naivety’. For years I disbelieved the very notion of consummating this archetype of ‘the real world’. In a weird, round about way, I was cynical about every being cynical.

However, four years of being force fed the darker truths of Journalism soon changed that ideal. The young, headstrong, naïve boy entered one end. Some way through another year, another module, developed the older, wiser, slightly disillusioned man. Four years seeing, hearing, reading about the ennoble side of the journalistic profession sickened me somewhat, put me off that original envisioning persona of the truth seeker, the man of integrity, true grit, and a passion for doing the right thing, no matter what the cost. What it became I will not describe, just to say that the remaking stands just behind the truth about Santa Claus.

It didn’t help that I felt slightly foolish, the sneaking suspicion that many others knew beforehand played on my mind. I felt everyone else was in on some cosmic joke. That what I was being re-taught for the very first time was what my peers considered ‘the normal way of things’. It was, it must be confessed, somewhat of a shock.

But everyone has to start somewhere. And it was here for me that the seed was planted, the flower bloomed. My very own shadow of the heart, cynicism its native tongue. I had the tendency to doubt what I heard, read, saw, if it were not from my experience. (Even that, for a time, was cast in doubt. But the drugs are another story.)

It started as a joke, and then slowly, painfully waddled into the realm of simple truth. I did not want to become a Journalist. I didn’t want to immerse myself in a world of half truths, of thread bare confessions being peddled of as reality. It was not a simple choice, but one made in the face of a rising tide of despair and awareness. A Tsunami of sickening dread and realisation of what I might become.

Skip ahead in time. I had four months left and counting. The end was in sight. I was preparing to tidy up some loose ends and jump overboard, this ship becalmed with the disappearance of my journalism career. Piling up text books bought hastily at the inception of my Uni life, which then lay unused for the remaining years, (a phenomenon known well to many students, who, on receiving their initial reading lists on the first week of term, rush out and buy as many listed books as possible, coming back to accommodations with a multitude of books that bare little relation to those listed or the course itself.)

I set out to sell my mutated collection back to its birth place, Blackwells Bookshop. It was by some unknown force that closed the shop the instant before I arrived. (I will never be drawn to confirm the claim that I simply got my days mixed up and appeared outside the door on a Sunday.) I swore, I sat, I flicked through the pile I had carried across town. It was then that I happened upon the book that was to change my direction in life.

He did nothing special; did not claim to change the person’s life that read his book, nor gave the secret of a life time of wealth and good fortune. He did something a lot simpler, yet ultimately more profound.

John Pilger sought out and reported the truth.

His book, ‘Hidden Agendas’ strove to uncover the facts in a world bred from sensationalistic tabloid media, exposed truths over the conduct of Western Countries in conflicts the world over. Clarified the roles and actions of individuals high up in the media food chain, revealing hypocritical conduct from those in power. All in a completely non-sensational way, simply tallying up the facts and truths that existed, but had been ignored by the mainstream media. There was the underlining sense that he did this not to further his own name or position, but that it was the right thing to do. He wanted people to open their eyes to the truth. My beliefs were forged anew, his words and elixir for the weak. He gave me strength, allowed my inner arguments, simmering over four years, to breathe. Despair turned to anger, sickening dread to resolute action.

I wanted to be a Journalist once more. I realised that I had been approaching the whole thing in the wrong state of mind. I didn’t have to stand against the bullshit downpour from the tide of sensationalistic paparazzi media. Hell, I didn’t even need to be standing at the same beach. I could do it my own way, the right way, and be the sort of Journalist I once believed in.

I extracted a lesson from that book. I had seen a lack in the kind of Journalistic quality and integrity I believed in through my course. I intended to fill that breach. Not the kind that I had been privy to over the course of numerous modules, but to be something I believed in. The truth isn’t ‘out there’. It is here, in the public domain. It is in the hands of those that react as a conduit to the wider world. To use the authority granted as a Journalist to uncover the facts and present them to the public.

Certain Media I had been subjected to failed to do this. For instance, anyone perusing the news media a few months back would have been subjected to a deluge of column space and talk time to the Manhunt Scandal. This topic related to the death of a teenager at the hands of a killer who apparently re-enacted a murder scene from the Rockstar game ‘Manhunt’. Plastered over many tabloids and news bulletins was the ‘fact’ that videogames caused violence in children and influenced them into harmful practises and opened them to a multitude of adult themes. Now, I could wax lyrical for a day and a half over the fact that this game was rated with an 18 certificate by ELSPA. I could give reasoned arguments as to why videogames do not cause such behaviour, I could even draw comparisons with Television and its desensitising nature of so called ‘family’ programming.

But instead I will state one small, but very important fact. That for all the headlines, all the media outrages, concerned parents, banning of the said game from certain stores across the United Kingdom, few tended to give much space to the core truth, fewer still on the statement given by the Police over the initial outbursts. That the videogame in question was found not in the killer’s bedroom, but in the victim’s, and the tragedy had been based on an attempted burglary. The Police saw no correlation between game and murder. Yet despite this obvious truth, this sensationalised lie was even brought up in Parliament in Prime Minister’s Question Time.

Now, don’t feel guilty if this particular fact had passed you by. I myself am guilty of this very thing. Only research for a final term essay dredged that truth into my inspection. Like many others I had the tendency to glance over various headlines, and extracted the story from that. Four years of a BA Journalism course and I still manage to fall for it, that despite the British media having it head up its arse for so long, I’m still surprised when I see them talking shit.

I am tired of this supposed ‘stupid public’ that is supposed to exist. Truth be told, I believed it for a short while, that there was a nation of people out there who took the Sun and others of its ilk as the standardised truth. The fact that the paper was still selling after so long gave life to this peculiar notion. It is a notion that died sometime ago in me. Certainly, from my own experiences, the public I know seem smart, intellectual, and have a drop of cynicism mixed in with a healthy dose of good humour that such tosh is printed. Many simply refer to the tabloids as ‘the funnies’. Cartoon comedy with an injection of surrealism. These are the people I wish to talk to, this smart, cool, savvy audience, ready to open their eyes, ready and willing to hear the truth. They will not be lead like mindless sheep. They will make deductions based on the world that they exist, not the fabricated creation of paranoid media nation.

The only difference between the zombie media and the doomsayers is the breadth of their possible audience.

“Uhuh, gee Bill, I converted fifteen impressionable people today to the flock of my cracker jack cult. Just stood out in the street and wailed my ass off, shouting that the injustices befallen to me must be the fault of everyone else in my life, and that I offered my own brand of ‘eternal salvation’ to anyone that listened. Then, when the idiots started biting, I just reeled them in.”

“Well hell Jack, I wrote my shit down, in big ol’captial letters and printed it. I converted fifteen thousand of these sheep to believing all that I say. And I made them pay for the privilege of being force fed this garbage until my words became their words, my thoughts theirs. I’m their God. They hang on my every article.”

Now, do I think that if I write in CAPTIAL LETTERS and SHOUT OUT my opinion across the news stands, that I’m right by default? No, I’m not.

Do I believe what is printed across the papers as fact, as the untainted truth?

Am I three years old?

No. I’m an adult, with a mind and voice of my own. I can interpret my own vision of the world without your ‘help’. So here’s a message to those hacks who propagate the world with their disinterested and thoughts of money and making a name for themselves:

FUCK YOU and your sensationalism.

FUCK YOU and your proposed ‘truth’ and ‘integrity’.

FUCK YOU and your celebrity gossip, devoting more pages to Britney marrying than highlighting real news.

And FUCK YOU and your propagandistic, ‘one owner; one voice; one vision’ interpretation of the world and that ‘all should follow in your path’.

You are not a rock star; your voice and face do not need to be recognised in city streets and the world over. What are important are your actions, the message you bring to the world. Exude the strength to fight for the truth, show smarts in the stories you seek, integrity in every word and article you write. Death to sensationalism.

Take that to the bank, cash it, and take a vacation out of my life. End of rant.

And at that, I’m not going to preach, for I do not believe you, the reader, to be the mindless sheep that eat what is fed to you. Nor am I going to try and inform you of what your choices are, what you should believe, what you should discard. This entire piece may be based on fabrication. I don’t blame you for not trusting me. This is just another disembodied voice printed on the internet. All I do is ask that you open your eyes.

Look around you, do the research. If you’re interested read John Pilger’s ‘Hidden Agendas’. That the name rings a bell but nothing more shows that this is not a man after your money, not after the fame and fortune of the rock and roll star that is the Journo. He is doing it because it’s the right thing to do..

I used to believe that truth and integrity were goods things. I believe in them still.


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