Shortly before the holidays were upon us, I noticed that everywhere, in every media, seemed to be nonstop stories about some sort of character from the TV show “Duck Dynasty,” breathlessly reporting his “shocking, shocking” views.
I had some vague idea about this show, but I knew next to nothing about it, except that it’s apparently America’s latest ridiculous short-attention-span obsession that will be forgotten in a year or so like Honey-Boo-Boo or The Real Housewives or Jersey Shore or Kim and Kanye or whatever new distraction the media throws at us. Apparently it’s about a family of Southern rednecks who made a fortune starting a business selling duck-calls (right?). Why is this such a big deal, so much so that you literally could not go anywhere online without hearing about it? Was this really news?
So my first thought on hearing these supposed comments are, “Looking at the guy, is anyone surprised that he holds those views?” Because you would have to be an idiot if you didn't expect them given the backgrounds of the kinds of people featured on the show. Who, exactly, is surprised that people hold such opinions at this point? But my second reaction was, “It looks like they’re throwing another log on the fire of the culture wars.” But why now? Why has every media outlet decided to focus like a laser and devote massive amounts of time and effort to this obscure buffoon in a world where there are so many serious issues and crises that threaten our very existence on this planet (did you know, for example, that a power station in California was attacked shortly after the Boston bombing? Because I didn't until today. And what about Fukushima? Or drone strikes? Or secession movements in Europe? Or the TPP? Or the Central African Republic and Sudan? Or Peak Food? Or NSA spying? Or...?).
My theory is that the destruction of the middle class and the extreme disparities in wealth and opportunity (and government abuses) are becoming so big and so pervasive that the media is having a hard time covering it up. It’s the elephant in the room that journalists can’t ignore anymore, and the spell of media is starting to be broken. You've even got fast-food worker strikes and back-page editorials about it. Wal-mart and McDonalds are targets of genuine anger. I've noticed a distinct spike in stories about it, even in the corporate-owned media. Even President Obama has had to acknowledge this in his recent speeches. They need a convenient distraction. So, then, time to ratchet the culture war up another notch.
So what does the media do? They scare up some sort of evil bogeyman plucked from flyover country to be a convenient target to whip intellectuals, progressives and urban liberals into a predictable frenzy of outrage. “How dare he hold those views!” scream urban liberals, despite the fact that people in this country have always held views like that in rural areas for as long as this country has existed. Thus, the Pavlovian reactions of predictable shock and outrage stir up the standard-fare hostilites, playing urban against rural, religious against atheist, educated against non-educated, and so on.
Make no mistake, it can just as easily work the other way. The media could find some Hollywood star to say some disparaging thing about the Bible, or some educated urban liberal elite defending gay marriage or abortion to whip up anger and frenzy on the other side right on cue*. We’re just puppets on a string at this point. Either way, the ball starts rolling, and people are sufficiently distracted, and the real stories continue to be ignored. They've got it all down to a science. The usual suspects come out of the woodwork to stand on their soap box and furiously denounce the other side (Sarah Palin, Fox News, Jon Stewart, etc.), and you’re off to the races. It’s as predictable as the sunrise at this point.
As I've said so often before, this is how they operate – divide and rule. Play Americans against each other as the country slowly decays and falls apart and the elites loot and pillage and buy politicians with impunity.
Given the extremely concentrated ownership of the media, I wouldn't be surprised if this playbook were a lot more coordinated than we think. It seems hard to ascribe the all-pervasive and extraordinary focus on this story as mere coincidence, or even follow-the-leader. Ninety-five percent of what we see and hear is controlled by just six media conglomerates, and that includes much of the Internet, too.
My only point is this - these wars of distraction are starting to acquire an air of absolute desperation. Is everyone else sensing it too? How long can they keep it up?
Here’s my first prediction for the new year – you’re going to see the media leaning on the culture war button with ever more fervor and desperation as the nation continues to crumble to the point where it affects too many people to be ignored and brushed aside any more. The only question remaining is who the next bogeyman will be, because mark my words, there will be many more to come.
*BONUS: After I wrote this, I see that Good Morning America host Robin Roberts has come out as gay. Tally-Ho!!!
EXTRA: It's funny 'cause it's true: How The Media Will Report The Apocalypse (Buzzfeed)
PLUS - Have a look at just how concentrated, coordinated and scripted American media is, courtesy Conan O'Brien: