When people get their news from the internet, with its 24 hour coverage, things get silly, with journalists clamouring for column inches on the relevant topics.
My favourite example of this phenomenon is the meta-column. This actually makes me think back to my University days, and the idea of primary and secondary texts.
Here's how the ladder goes:
Primary texts, like "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare.
Secondary texts, like "A Structural Analysis of the Dialogues Between Hamlet and Ophelia" by Dr. Hoight D. Toity
Tertiary texts, like "A Critique of Dr. H.D. Toity's Structural Analysis of the Dialogues Between Hamlet and Ophelia" by Dr. Ivy ReTower
and possibly, if the controversy gets heated enough:
a Quaternary text, like "The Flawed Reasoning in Drs. H.D. Toity and Ivy ReTower's Analyses of Dialogues Between Hamlet and Ophelia: A New Perspective" by Dr. P. Arasite. (aka: I couldn't think of an original article, but I need to publish to stay on the tenure track)
And so it goes. I don't know if you ever reach bottom in this kind of self-reflexive cannibalism.
The crazy thing is, these days, the same self-reflexive feeding is happening in the news. I like to call this meta-news. Meta-news is news that comments on news -- rather than discussing world events, you discuss news coverage of world events, the method, emphasis, responsibility, integrity of such.
Think about it:
Primary news: "Paris Hilton (or Michael Jackson, or Lindsey Lohan, Britney Spears, Tom Cruise, Mike Tyson, or whoever the latest pop-culture whipping person is) Does Something Disgusting but Not Altogether Surprising." by Associated Tabloid Press.
In a move that disappointed thousands of loyal fans, _______ committed a shocking act of ________ in a ___________ last night, in an incident that lasted __________ until ________ showed up and calmed everything down.
(Sometimes the real headline here is "Hey Everybody! Look Over Here And Get Distracted From The Mess We've Made In The Middle-East By Wasting Your Attention on Useless Crap!" by the G.W. Bush Administration and Fox News.
Hey Everybody! Look over here! She has blonde hair! Blonde hair! You like blonde hair! Your sons and cousins are dying in a needless war, and we're only just beginning -- the Iran scheme is already in the preparation stage -- but THIS GIRL IS FAMOUS, and she has a little dog with pink ears and Blonde Hair! She was in a sex video once and she has blonde hair! Look at her! She's rich and reckless with blonde hair! Grab your ankles while we stomp on your freedoms because she has BLONDE HAIR!!!!!)
The next wave:
Meta-news as analysis: "A Publicist Discusses the Implications of This Latest Non-Scandal" by Headlin G. Rabber.
It seems nobody is advising her on managing her image. She's obviously addicted to flashing cameras. If I were her publicist I'd say she. . . but doesn't her blonde hair look great!
Meta-news as commentary: "Why Are We Paying So Much Attention to Such A Waste of Copy?" by M. Oral Soapboxer
This isn't news! I can't BELIEVE so many people are reporting on this! What a society of clowns and hypocrites we are when we think THIS is important! Pay no attention to the irony in the fact I am adding to the coverage on her, by criticising it.
Look at this. Ahh, grandstanding. The sweet sweet smell of righteous outrage on national television!
Next: Meta-meta news: "Columnists Grabbing For Column Space by Claiming To Be Above It All are Phoneys!"
Don't even click on the link everybody. Don't even read the article. Let MY article be the last one you read on the topic. The only way we can make her go away is to ignore her. And read my article. And send it to your friends. Just click on the e-mail to your friends button, and the press agency sends me a thousandth of a penny. They add up. Really.
and finally, Meta-meta-meta news: Old Roboseyo
What a farce this is. I can't believe I clicked on the link, too. I can't believe I'm putting it on my blog.
Yes, even adbusters etc. is part of the cycle when they criticise it.
What's to be done? Our lives are filling up with useless information. How do we get back to caring about what's important, and getting others to care, too? Seriously, all it takes for us to stop thinking about Blackwater, Guantanamo, Pakistan and Myanmar, is for Paris Hilton to climb out of a car without wearing panties. . . AGAIN? THIS, and we settle back into our duoback chairs and forget about writing letters, attending protests, and storming the lawns of our leaders to get things sorted out?
I don't even know what to say, except that when I think about it too much, I think that if there's real estate for sale on Mars, I'd think about going.
the Korean saying for being too stuck in your own perspective, your own point of view, your own comfort zone, so that you can't think outside the box, and can't think accurately anymore, is "A Frog in a Well"
So how do we get out, and get angry, and actually do something?
leave a meta-meta-meta-meta comment if you like.