Over the past week or so I’ve developed a new habit — watching 24-hour news networks. Don’t get me wrong; this habit doesn’t stem from any real interest in the doings and sayings of the talking heads that live inside my TV. Firstly, it stems from a dedication to avoid anything resembling work for long periods of time. But, secondly, it stems from a small discovery I’ve made that I will now share with you in the hope of lightening your day and in the desire to bash the network newsies for the whack-a-mole vermin that they so resemble.1
If you turn on any of the news networks and watch the anchors, you will also make this discovery. You will find that as a well-suited, immaculately-pressed young anchorperson engages in exercises to perfect a visage of perpetual concern (which usually involves moving his lips in coordinated maneuvers and referring to places that are very far away, and hopefully — if the anchorperson is to get maximum benefit from the exercise — where people are unhappy, and even more hopefully where they are SO unhappy that they are throwing things at each other — and ideally all this requires referring to lots of graphic maps and shuffling around lots of paper and cueing up highly dramatized music to highlight just the right expressive tilt in the anchorperson’s head) — anyway, as the anchor person engages in these exercises, you, being a very smart person interested in the big picture of things — specifically the big picture on the screen of the black box at which you are hypothetically staring — will examine not just the lovely folds and creases of the anchor’s masterfully made up face, but the entirety of the screen.
If you have been lucky enough to tune in at the right time of day/night, you will have caught the network newsie (the name by which I shall now refer to the anchorpeople and their commentating brethren) in his natural habitat: the newsroom. Here is where my discovery comes in: the newsroom of the 24-hour news network2 you are watching is nothing but a cavernous soundstage full of computers and important-looking monitors showing happenings around the world. In other words, it is full of lots of things that demonstrate the colossal “information-gathering power” at the disposal of the network. However, “happenings around the world” often consist of nothing more than other network newsies talking about different things — or at the very least, wearing different outfits and makeup than those actually talking to us. Thus, “information-gathering power” simply refers to the number of other network newsies our particular newsie can draw from.
The newsroom is then a very puzzling thing: if it is empty, then who is watching the monitors? Who is gathering the information for the network newsie? On the other hand, if it’s full, then why are we watching the network newsies? Why not just have the camera pan over the shoulders of the information-gathering drones? Furthermore, if this isn’t really the real newsroom from which the network newsies get their information, why are they trying to make it seem like it is? Indeed, if they are engaged in such a facade, wouldn’t the network newsies be lying to us when they said something like “Live from CNN’s newsinformationcenter3”?
Sometimes, during daylight hours, you can see nebulous shapes moving around in these newsrooms. You can actually see the news network news drones! But this in and of itself is puzzling and concerning. Did the drones know they were going to have to work in an area oppressed by the continual presence of a TV camera? Did they know when they signed up that they would have to give up their constitutional right to decorate their workspaces with fuzzy-haired, gemstone-sporting trolls or to plaster their cubicle walls with pictures of their offspring playing in mud or oppressing Native Americans in their school’s Thanksgiving play?
Did they know they would have to give up such freedoms to maintain the tyrannous aesthetic of the newsroom mandated by the network newsie and his camera? I think not! I think the network newsroom is the grossest act of oppression since the last time Rush Limbaugh took advantage of the nearest innocent toilet! A violation of such fundamental human rights — it’s unthinkable! Unspeakable! Inconceivable! And they show this stuff on television!4
But what really gets me; what really irks my delicate, ivory tower sensibilities; what really propels me out of bed in the morning to write this diatribe of nonsense and tomfoolery is that not one — NOT ONE — of the major news networks has had the decency to spare a thought for the much deeper issue whose injustice rankles deep in the very essence of my being: why does Fox News get a logo that spins when nobody else does?
I hope now you will take this small piece of knowledge I have imparted and do something with it — with the very paper on which it is printed — to change the shape or character of the world in which we live. Personally, I think a paper airplane would go a long, long way. Because if we all threw paper airplanes at each other (instead of rocks, bullets, feces, snowballs, nuclear missiles, Frisbees, pesticides, anthrax or whatever your ballistic of choice happens to be) just imagine the new facial contortions a network newsie would have to adopt to express what on earth we’re up to.
1 Disclaimer for people who may have something against the author of this column and may, after reading it, awaken to the profound desire to whack him on top of the head until he stays in his plastic-coated hole: In no way is my portrait of network newsies as “whack-a-mole vermin” intended to express disgust and/or dislike for such individuals. I have nothing against whack-a-moles; they are cuddly, kind-hearted individuals who sacrifice their time, well-being and cranial structures to make my carnival game experience that much more special and sacred. Furthermore, I have nothing against the ontological notion of vermin, but solely against specific vermin, those dastardly beasts that threaten me with their ickiness and the innumerable diseases with which they wish to infect me. Under normal circumstances and conventional space-time relationships, network newsies do not qualify in the latter, despicable category.
2 Local news channels represent a distinct species, so we should not expect them to conform environmentally or behaviorally with their larger cousins.
3 “Newsinformationcenter” is code for newsroom; by code, I mean longer word.
4 Magazines and newspapers don’t use exclamation marks enough; I feel obligated to compensate.
Kevin B. Alexander is devoted to enlightenment, the study of truth, the nature of the universe and the whimsicality found in all facets thereof.