A life form unto itself

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News about the news is increasingly muddled

By John Pawlak

I was watching a television show the other day,  which had a panel of political columnists who were taking phone calls from people.  
One caller had read a story in a newspaper about a radio program that was debating an issue brought up during a discussion show on television that was critiquing a magazine article.  
As I mentally reconstructed this nested communications tree — magazine to TV to radio to newspaper to phone to TV  — and then considered the fact that readers would now be reading about this in a newspaper, I began to understand the true meaning of recursion.  
Maybe we should discuss your opinions about my opinions about their opinions over the radio some day?  
And then write about it in a blog and have some newspaper talk show take it from there?
It would seem that despite its size, one would think that very little is happening in the world.  
The Republicans stage a candidate debate. Fifteen nanoseconds after it concludes, the Democrats present “a most carefully thought out” rebuttal addressing what was said.  
The Republicans simultaneously present their rebuttal to the rebuttal.  
The arguments ensue and political commentators argue over whose argument was the most arguably convincing.
After convincing no one, they interview the neighbor of the second-cousin once-removed of some guy who went to high school with the sister of one of the candidates.
This prompts a vicious debate over who was right, who was wrong, and whether or not it’s going to rain this weekend.
And the following day, you get to hear all this again on some television show taking phone calls from readers.
The news about the news. It’s become its own life form, a self-sustained entity that feeds on nothing, excretes pretty much the same, and yet causes incredible indigestion.  
It’s an endless extension of vacuous thought that sucks creative thought right out of your head.
I’ve heard advertisements on the radio for radio advertising.  
Did the group who paid for that advertisement hear about the value of advertising on another radio show?  
If advertisers are good enough to sell products to advertisers, then who’s advertising to those guys?  
Maybe we need a reality show based on that?
Density-free information has become omnipresent and unlike the calculus that sums an infinite number of zeros to get something, we’ve become a nation hungry for calorie free information that poses little risk of fact-plaque buildup in our brains.
So what’s a person to do?  For inquiring minds that want to know, the supermarket tabloids reveal the ugly truth that President Obama was born on another planet (“Klattu Barack Nikto!”)
When earthquakes and hurricanes wreak havoc upon some third world nation, some sociopathic mouthpiece proclaims this to be divine retribution for not giving more tax breaks to the rich.
(Oh, by the way, that’s a rich sociopath saying that.)  
It’s like watching a bad movie, a remake of Howard the Duck with the dialogue written by Ed Wood.
But hey, it’s news, and once it’s “out there,” there’s no going back.  
The informational DNA strands begin to mutate and the slime begins to ooze out from our flat screens (ref: “Communal Disorders and Chocolate Covered Liver,” 1970, Dr. F. V. Zappa.)  
Okay, so maybe Klattu isn’t such a bad guy after all. Our nation might just benefit if the president had a planet leveling cyclops friend who could stop the evil hordes of the EPA from outsourcing all our jobs.
I don’t know, maybe I’m being a bit jaded here? (Yeah, that’s so unlike me)  
The news gets so muddled that it gets harder and harder to figure out who is saying who is doing what to whom and why they want me to know what they think about it.  
I think it has something to do with rising gas prices, illegal aliens, or a sale at Walmart. I’m not sure which.
One day I’ll find myself staring at the TV set and some bleached bubble -headed reporter is going to stare back and say, “Uh, no news today.”
Now that would be great news.

John Pawlak
Los Alamos columnist