Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Murdoch the Messiah?


Word of the week: Eco-angst.

It's contributed and defined by Daniel Goldman at the New York Times blog, Happy Days*. It means, according to Goldman, "the moment a new bit of unpleasant ecological information about some product or other plunges us into a moment (or more) of despair at the planet’s condition and the fragility of our place on it."

WB agrees with most of that, having experienced it on a daily basis while consuming products, but thinks the definition ought to go a little further to include living in a perpetual state of anxiety, not over what's happening to the planet, but what's not happening to it. Namely, carrying on as if warnings of climate change were not first issued in the 1930s — that's right, eighty years ago — and as if a U.S. president were not warned, in 1965, that the climate would be dangerously screwed up if we kept spewing carbon into the air.

Eco-angst, for us, comes from knowing that leaders of government and industry and business and education and media should all be working in concert, right now, to put the runaway bus into reverse. But they're not, and this is where pop culture, WB's domain, comes into play.

Fox News is a consortium of lunatics (except for Shepard Smith) who foster fear, hate, suspicion, rage, paranoia, and ignorance by packaging it all up in spinning graphics and cool whooshing sounds. The network is owned by Rupert Murdoch, a board member of the Clinton Global Initiative on climate change who has chosen his son, a progressive environmentalist, to succeed him when Rupert inevitably shuffles off this mortal coil. The same Rupert Murdoch who ordered that his News Corp. operations become carbon neutral, and whose conversion to climate action came when he realized the fate of his native Australia (shown in the dust storm photo above), most likely to become the first abandoned nation/continent as heat and drought turn it into an uninhabitable desert. The Rupert Murdoch who announced in March that "climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats."

Yep, that Rupert Murdoch. The good one.

So, what exactly is Mr. Murdoch doing by letting Hannity, Beck, Caputo, and their endless parade of misinformation-spreading guests encourage millions of Fox minions and all of the Republicans in Congress to disbelieve the facts, ignore the evidence, alter the truth, and fight every move that would keep their grandchildren from living in an inferno? Does Murdoch realize what kind of messiah he could be if his personal beliefs and convictions became those of his most powerful media outlet?

Of course he does. And yet he hasn't done it.

And that puts permanent knots in our stomachs as we live in a daily state of eco-angst.

The same goes for the Travel Channel, the Food Network, Discovery, History, Speed — all of whom have the opportunity to inform viewers about the environmental impact of the hotels, yachts, exotic dishes, tourism trends, trade shows, races, and Ice Road Crackers on the TV screen. It doesn't diminish the show, it enhances the show's value by widening its scope. But in general, they say nothing.

Yeah, it's important to become informed consumers and to "precycle" by refusing to buy products that have done environmental damage even before they get thrown into the trash to do more. But it's also important to ask questions of the culture machine and encourage it to help save its consumers. After all, if a network broadcasts sounds and images, but there's no one out there to turn on the TV, then what's the point?

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*About Happy Days:

The severe economic downturn has forced many people to reassess their values and the ways they act on them in their daily lives. For some, the pursuit of happiness, sanity, or even survival, has been transformed. Happy Days is a discussion about the search for contentment in its many forms — economic, emotional, physical, spiritual — and the stories of those striving to come to terms with the lives they lead.

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