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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Grasping for an All-Encompassing Anti-News Postulate

Here's a slogan I believe: 'slogans are stupid.' Slogans stifle thought and create false dualisms. They ignore outright the possibility of alternatives not mentioned in the slogan: ie: slogans are shit (I pledge allegiance to that one too). News also creates false dualisms and in so doing, funnels thought into narrow theses that ignore that most current events are RECURRING events.

News is narrative, but what does this mean? Narrative: a story, a glue with which disparate data points are welded together. A manufacture. A report about a scientific paper isn't the same as the scientific paper itself. The medium is the message, so with Google at our side, does that mean a footnote can become a headline? It appears so. I had no clue how easy it was to enter the news-stream. So it is possible to attack the headlines and to become the news.

I believe in eloquence, if not always revision. I believe eloquence is more powerful than base speech—not only in persuasive capacities, but also in expanding thought. Is it not astonishing to one reading this page that he or she already knows most, if not all the words printed here, and yet these words inspire thoughts one had not considered previously? To me, that's one of the many wonders of language. News is the opposite of eloquent; it is reductionist in nature. It seeks to shrink ideas. It presumes a 'state of nature' from its readers. It assumes the reader is ignorant, swayed by irrational prejudice and believes in the false completeness of a dualistic dialectic.

Quantity has a quality all its own as we know, which is why news is capable of infiltrating our subconscious and altering our conditioned responses. Journalists only drive the narrative, because they are expert testimony: paid witnesses. How well does that work in our court-system? They have the heft of the news organization--the news brand--to replicate their bad memes and drive discourse in negative directions. And instead of facing this army of idiots directly, the literary writers flee to the academy. They're such cowards. They write for lit magazines—they're afraid of their best writing getting stolen; of not getting paid for it. That's a fair worry. It's not easy to think up something original with the letters we all know. Still, they have targeted exclusivity and sought sinecure at the expense of relevance: removed themselves from natural selection. Instead of participating within history, the standard literary conceit is to transcend history. This is a valid form of expression, but when it becomes the predominant ethos, there's a problem. Why is it Maureen Dowd gets to pretend to be some sort of literary type? She thinks she's such a fucking word-pixie. She can't stand up, head-to-head against a real author of prose, never mind poetry. The answer therefore is to alter the target of literary efforts. Is the poet some type of manatee, fleeing corporate speedboats? I think the poet is more like a submarine that can transform into a suborbital bomber and back again. Why hide? If poetry can do all these things poets claim it can do, then it should be able to easily defeat the hacks of the world.

Most news stories have few facts and are heavy with narrative. Furthermore, idiotic statements are easy to rebut with other idiotic statements, thus creating a cycle of retaliation between extreme ideological poles. In the name of 'dialectic' the argument is framed by the arguers. One could almost argue that too much time around the legal system has made the common mode of public discourse, nihilistic. Since extremists speak mostly to their opposing pole, this creates discourse filled with slogans, which as I've said before, stifle genuine thought. The best antidote then is careful speech that cannot be easily rebutted. I have chosen to do this with verse, because as I said before, I hate slogans. Poems do far more work with the same number of syllables and poetry—when it's written right—advances dialogue, rather than restricts it.

So what is anti-news? Well, simply put, it's anti-narrator. A bad narrator omits facts and jerks the reader along. A news organization assumes the reader has the memory of a goldfish, or has never read a newspaper before. Even a tv show assumes the viewer is familiar with prior episodes--and if she isn't--that the viewer could easily catch up on netflix. Could you imagine if Voltaire assumed that nobody had read anything before him? “Hmm, better write down to their level first.” It's not done, except in news. Even textbooks assume a kid passed the prior grade.

The whole point behind anti-news is therefore more than a culture-jamming enterprise. The news doesn't occur--it recurs. News is a narrator that presents false dualisms and relies more heavily on speculation based around a news item analyzed in isolation, rather than synthesizing disparate bits of knowledge into a more complete narrative. The journalist is a notary, someone who witnesses and confirms an event (or data) that requires eye-witness testimony. She or he only thinks s/he's a writer, when in fact a journalist is as much a writer as a court reporter. The journalist seeks to step into history, but is she qualified? Who really writes history? Scholars. Artists. Writers. No hacks allowed, except insofar as being the cite in a greater thesis. Attacking the news at it comes out immediately injects alternative points of view into the discourse--at the moment when it can still be effective. And furthermore, the author who writes the first definitive poem or story on a subjectmatter is remembered--not the journalist who witnessed or confirmed the event. The literary minded ought go head-to-head with the hacks of the world and enter the cycle of history now: not after you've died.

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