Tabloid news reborn — bigger, brighter, louder!
The American election just demonstrated – if there remained a doubt – that people across this continent are getting their news in new ways. They once favoured “the tabs”. Tabloids lined the checkouts at convenience stores with unbelievable headlines screaming “news” of a two-headed baby just born to a 68-year-old lady in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Or “news” that aliens had abducted their 348th human(oid), this one from Blaine, Washington. Or “news” that Hilary’s lost emails have been found in a whale’s belly, beached near San Diego, California, and now in the hands of a FBI/CIA/Homeland Security/White Man’s Militia research bunker outside Reno, Nevada. Every week, the tabs’ creative geniuses came up with eye-popping, stomach-churning, brain-numbing stories . . . which millions of people gobbled up as “news”.
But this wonderfully profitable industry died. Talk-show screamers tried to pick up the slack with even more outrageous stories and accusations (usually about Hilary’s emails), but apart from its 132 million listeners in the USA, screaming radio was no replacement to the tabs.
But then the world was struck by a virus, or maybe an alien brain-ray or, no doubt, a gigantic conspiracy of Communists, LGBTers, Latinos and eco-militants, in which everyone, and I mean everyone, was struck with a bizarre form of attention deficit disorder. It left all of us no longer able to read (don’t even mention write) a full sentence. Everywhere people seemed to embrace walking-and-staring into a tiny screen – a new news source! And it takes absolutely no effort (since reading has become so difficult). This new media (for want of a better term), cinched its role as the primary “news” source by adopting – even exceeding -- the proven attention-grabbing methods of the old tabloids.
Screaming headlines, bizarre story lines, unbelievable accusations, and non-existent specialists’ quotations pulled in readers from Tadoussac to Trenton to Tallahassee. This combination of unverified and unedited news reporting, fake news, all in mini-format, the more outrageous the better, has become the new grocery store tabloid for our times.
Unfortunately, this very unverifiable story of mine is not amusing in the slightest. I’ll argue the point that this sort of switch from triple-checked newspapers, to unchecked check-out tabloids, to the anything-goes world of internet “news” is not innocent and not another example of free speech for the attention-disabled. OK, Aylmer people do read the Guardian and Tyee websites. But this change was then hijacked in part by special interests, and, in the case of Trump’s election, hijacked by anti-gay fascists, White Militias, xenophobic and anti-immigrant movements, all much more alive and well in the USA than we ever imagined. One example: the fantasy of Clinton’s emails. Multiple investigations, most led by her Congressional enemies, failed to find any substance to the accusations. They failed even to make the accusations comprehensible. Yet “Hilary’s emails” inflamed so many people that they instead voted for a crude, devious and dangerous charlatan.
I rest my case.