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We're All in the Entertainment Business

Tuesday, January 31st 2017

One of the things that's always troubled me about news organizations β€” on television in particular β€” is that their pursuits of journalistic integrity are funded by and funneled through the same processes as entertainment. They have to compete with the circus to survive, so we should not be surprised when the media often resembles a three-ring hullabaloo complete with gymnastic bears, knife jugglers and men willing to shoot themselves out of cannons for our amusement.

Fox News is shit and Sean Hannity is a horrible person

That the United States has elected a two-bit, illiterate, anal-seepage-hued reality-television narcissist as its president further speaks to the problem. We're in the midst of a war for attention that's been mistakenly (though nobly) fought as a war for information.

This is not a new revelation and I don't have answers. I have an optimism that the will of the people is inherently good and can overcome the agendas opportunists over the long-run.

Where I do have a slightly different perspective to offer is how this juxtaposition of truth versus entertainment rears its head in a lot of industries beyond the news and journalism. It works better if we reliable "truth" as "things of value," but consider:

  • When we talk about technology and geniuses and breakthrough software, our attention gravitates around companies plan to sell silly spectacles announcing they'll going public instead of more meaningful technological advances that can actually improve people's quality life.

  • The smartphone industry and more specifically the app store β€” for all the change it has ushered in over the past decade β€” is a glorified casino. The part of me that loves computers as a platform for creative expression and problem solving adores these devices. I'm actively involved in programs that encourage kids and adults to learn more about creating meaningful software. But part of me feels like a lot of this encouragement, the gold-rush mentality surrounding code camps, hour of code and a future where everyone is making "apps" is pushing people to become highly-skilled card dealers and pit bosses. It's an industry surging for the wrong reasons and I find it disheartening.

  • Somewhere along the line businessmen became jealous of the attention historically reserved for athletes and actresses and have found a way to make themselves the center of attention and less so their company's cause. Shitbags like Martin Shkreli, arrogant fools like Peter Thiel and even someone like Elon Musk have become more famous as personalities than the innovators and leaders of the companies they've represented or the good they've brought in the world. In short β€” they're entertainers.

I recognize this is a poorly structured thesis. When I pledged to write a blog post everyday in 2017 I was well aware I would not always, or perhaps even often write well. But there's something here to dissecting the notion that being entertaining has superseded being good or meaningful in a lot of ways. This is perhaps nothing new, but the scale and speed of this development β€” that is would result in this buffoon being elected to represent arguably the most influential country on earth at the moment β€” is alarming.