December 2nd, 2009


Loving what I don't know

So there's some thing with Tiger Woods going on? I don't know what it is, and I love that. I couldn't identify Jon (John?) or Kate or any of the eight in a lineup. I had to look up who Glenn Beck was. I don't know which stars are dancing or who's dancing with them, which Americans I'm supposed to be idolizing, or whether any of us have talent. There's a Miss California who said one thing and did a bunch of other things, and I confess I know more about her, but she never becomes a big part of my day and I wasn't looking to her for political or moral advice anyway—she's Miss California, for Pete's sake.

That's not to declare everything I don't know to be silly. I tune into (at least) my share of the silliness with The Amazing Race, Survivor, and plenty of others. I'm just so glad I can choose whether to pay attention to this stuff. We only watch commercials if they catch our eye, and local evening news ads just give us things to make fun of with their fear mongering and ridiculous questions, which they promise to answer only in their timeslot (thanks for looking out for all of us, "journalists"!).

Likewise, if I want to know something, I usually can tune in and look it up. If Afghanistan is important to me, I can pay attention. If I want the latest on health care, I just look and listen. It's all there. I'm not sure how well journalism functions as the "fourth estate" of our society today—it seems mostly to serve up the content people want to consume, just like the rest of the popular media. But that's more of an observation than a critique.

I'm not uncomfortable with a culture where I choose what gets my attention and what doesn't—that's life, and I'm glad I have that freedom and responsibility. If I'm frustrated with how much attention something is getting, then it's probably getting way too much of mine. If I can't look away, then there's a problem—the Matrix has me. Time to wake up.