lundi, février 07, 2005

The Foxification of Football, Our Potential Ruination

The only way to make democracy real is to begin a process of constant questioning, permanent provocation, and continuous public conversation between citizens and the State.

Arundhati Roy “An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire” (everyone in America should read this book).

I feel sick.

On Friday, Mrs. Duf and I bought a new television. By Sunday, I was thinking of throwing all of our televisions out of the house. It all goes like this:

The Superbowl may have outlived its usefulness.

The Superbowl should not be broadcast on Fox.

No sporting event should be broadcast on Fox.

We should get rid of Fox.

Let me start by saying great camera work, adequate commentary, and great production of the game itself, but the rest was beyond ridiculous.

Did anyone see the pregame festivities? It was patriotism, nationalism, jingoism and chauvinism all wrapped up in one. I know we are at war. I too see a need to honor our men and women in uniform. But somehow, within the context of the Superbowl (a uniquely American event) and all its hype and glory, it all seems too easily overdone. Fox overdid it.

To me, these feelings are difficult to hold or understand or express. I love America. I happen to think (perhaps condescendingly) that I love America more than the average person. I feel this way because my love for America is very complex and it exists in spite of all her faults. I take the time to know that she has faults. I don’t think we are perfect, in fact, I think we are (now more than ever) quite far from perfect, but in spite of that, I love this country. We are not a democracy (please don’t tell me we are, we’re not), we do some amazingly cruel things (our sins are sins of commission and sins of omission), we lack humility, we’re overly proud, and we are, as a people, amazingly ignorant. For example, we are fond of saying that we are the best country in the world, but our ability to compare ourselves to others is completely hampered by our total collective ignorance about how the rest of the world lives or governs. Sure, we’re number one, unless you count infant mortality rate, percentage of population in prison, K-12 education quality, overall health, healthcare, violence, and the environment (air quality, water quality, pollution, etc.), percentage of people who vote, percentage of people who are disenfranchised…

Here’re some other things. I don’t automatically respect the President, but I do automatically respect the Presidency. I don’t think that because we are in it, a war is just or necessary or appropriate. I consider support for the troops as wanting them to only be in harm’s way when there is no recourse, to have adequate salaries when they are in combat, adequate health care for their families, and excellent health and education benefits when they return. I do not consider it support to send them overseas, inadequately armed or armored, to serve corporate interests. I’m sorry I don’t. And yes, I’m a little cranky today.

I do not regard this war as just or necessary, and I think we are wrong to be there – I think we were lied to, and I think we are too easily lied to. In spite of what Anheuser Busch wants me to do, I will not cheer our troops at airports or pretend that are liberating anyone or that everything they do is good. I will not vote against a tax hike that will improve their benefits and put a sticker on my car as some kind of symbolic gesture.. I will, however, vote for leaders who will raise combat pay, bring home those who have been there too long, and further a return of the GI Bill. I will vote for anyone, of any party, with the courage to call this war what it is: a preemptive strike based on lies told by a fool. That’s how I’ll do my support, thanks. I love our soldiers enough to expect more from our Commander in Chief, and I love them enough to give their actions scrutiny when they deserve it.

But we are easily lied to, and part of the reason for that is the machine itself. We get all these ridiculous images on television. Love your country because of the flag, love your troops because (just like your sports teams) they are the home team. America right or wrong. America love it or leave it. I can’t find the Persian Gulf or even the Middle East on a map, but I want to go over there to Iraq and kick Usama’s butt (yes I know I spelled Osama wrong, and yes, I know he is not in Iraq). The same drive that makes us love beer and cheerleaders and a good running play or a hard tackle can be the same drive that makes us love our military and our Presidents and our flag, and our whole flawless country.

Fox is horrible. Fox is really, really horrible. Fox will ruin America if we let it. Be very, very afraid of Fox. I’m not kidding, be very, very afraid. Fox is worse than porn. Fox wants you to sit back for your scrubbing and to sit there until you are as cured as Alex. Fox spins its logo so that it won’t burn in your screen. The entire programming staff at Fox hates you. They think you are ridiculously stupid. They find it easy to sell you anything even lies, especially lies. They expect you to make it easy and you do.

Fox has an amazing ability to ruin everything it touches. First, the World Series is a mere backdrop for all of its crappy shows (“look, the stars of ‘That 70’s show’ are in left field!”, and now the Superbowl (just when you think it couldn’t get worse) becomes a propaganda film, the likes of which we have not seen since Leni Riefenstahl (here are the flags, here are the planes, here are the well scrubbed shiny children, here is the tall proud soldier, here is the former President, here is a country music star, here is the twilight sky, here is a flawless place, here are your songs, here is the camera angle to play it all up, here is the future Superbowl hero (we just know it), here is a gladiator singing, here is perfection, don’t step out of line, soldier. Here it is in High Definition. Have you got your new TV yet, bud? Don’t ask any questions, just line up with this vision).

Expect more for yourself. Expect more from television. Don’t sit back and be ruined. Don’t be passive, and don’t be duped. Recognize propaganda when you see it. Rebel against it. Throw your television out the window if you have to. But most of all begin your process of “constant questioning, permanent provocation, and continuous public conversation.”

Love your country if that’s what you conclude, but love it for the right reasons.