• By Lt. Tim McMillan

"Amazed and Confused" - Our Relationship With the Media.

Now, this might surprise some people, however, up until about a year or so ago, I never really paid attention to the news. Truthfully, this was GREAT! I lived in a blissful state of semi-ignorance as to what was being presented as the national or global collective conscious of the time. Oh sure! I saw the same stuff on social media as everyone else… “Obama was ruining our country and plundering us into catastrophic collapse” or “The public has declared an unrelenting war on the American police forces.” I saw this stuff, but that amount of authority I put into it, was not largely dissimilar than how much credence I put into the belief that the Kardashian’s represented the portrait of the American family.

Now, I didn’t willfully ignore current events because I didn’t care about the country, the world or even all of the people who inhabit the planet earth. Because I did then and I do now. However, I had been traumatized from the virtues of news media at a very early age… 12 years old to be exact.

Every morning in homeroom when I was in the sixth grade, our class would watch “Channel One News.” Channel One is a broadcast specifically marketed for schools as a way to get primary school age children involved in current events. On October 9, 1993, while sitting attentively in homeroom, all snug in my Dallas Cowboys Starter jacket, feeling fly with my Reebok pumps on; I was treated to that morning’s broadcast, in which I saw the dead mutilated bodies of U.S. soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, after the Battle of Mogadishu. An event that would be famously recorded in the book and subsequent movie, “Blackhawk Down.”

After that October morning, I had very little desire to seek out and watch news media. It wasn’t that I was oblivious to the tragedy and horrors that exist in the world. Rather, I surmised why should I bring such horrific events into my personal environment, when the atmosphere around me did not happen to be one being affected by such terrors. In fact, it wasn’t naivety that the world is a tragic and frightening place. Rather, it was the understanding that tragedy could unsuspectingly strike any of us at any moment, so why waste what could be good moments of life with the fear of worldly evils.

Truthfully, when I did catch some clip or story on social media by the mainstream or even fringe news media, I never gave it too much thought. In order for me to become overly involved in whatever was being presented, it would require me to live in an ego-dystonic form of reality. Because, when they said Obama was ruining the country, all I knew was, sometimes my paycheck was ok, and sometimes it was better than ok. I never spent any time blaming Obama or the federal government as a whole when my check was on the “ok" side. Nor, did I thank Obama or the federal government, whenever I had the chance to say, “You know what… I will add the extra shrimp,” because my paycheck was on the “better than ok" side.

In the same token, the news ticker could have been scrolling by with the words, “The American people, declare that law enforcement has continuously been involved in unprovoked and dastardly attacks on the American public, and thus a state of war now exists between the people of the United States and entire occupational sector of the America police forces.” However, it wouldn’t have changed the fact that over the last couple of years, I have had more people personally come up and thank me for my service or go out of their way to be respectful towards me. Even considering, the unprovoked ambush-style attacks on law enforcement, that have occurred over the last year or so, and as recently as this past Wednesday, with the shooting death of New York City Police Miosotis Familia; what the hell am I supposed to do with the weight of constantly being tunnel versioned into that information?

By inherent nature, an unprovoked ambush attack comes from an unsuspecting or unseen target. What am I supposed to do? Suit up like I’m headed out on patrol in the Korengal Valley every time I ride around in my police car or get out to use the bathroom? It’s a dangerous job, I get it. I wear a gun and body armor to work. However, signed up for this, and at some point, you’ve got to do the best you can to come home safe at the end of each shift and then put some faith in God. I mean, Christ on a bike, I’ll get out of the profession before I live in a constant state of terror for 12-hours while I’m at work.

Regrettably, in the last year of so, I found myself conforming to the social norms of maturing. The point that a person reaches when they are expected to have some awareness of what is going on in the world around them. As one succumbs to the resistance of adulthood and enters the world of being a grown up, the spheres of politics, world events, and national affairs becomes the primary functions of communication when people are gathered as a collective. Therefore, being a good obedient adult that I am, I too began to pay attention to the mainstream media.

Now, my consumption of current events has only intensified since making the decision to start managing my own social media page and blog. To some degree, I feel an obligation to stay up-to-date with the happenings of the world, in an effort to see if I might be able to offer some perspective or insight that is germane to my professional, educational, or personal background. Therefore, within the last year, I have found myself now intimately intertwined with the business of presenting current events to the masses by a host of media formats.

When I finally dove off into the world of being a consumer of news and current events, I did so with one very distinct understanding in mind: The news has always, and will always, show the extreme 1% of life, both good and bad. Now, contrary to what is only shown on the news, the rest of us actually do not live in that extreme good or bad 1%. 99% of us were not attacked by a radicalized religious extremist, raped or robbed by an illegal immigrant, killed by a theme park water slide, eaten by an alligator, won the lottery, or discovered a $10 million dollar Salvador Dali original in our grandma’s attic.

With this understanding of the media firmly in place, I cast off into the world of worldly affairs and national happenings. Now, it was at this moment in my life that I suddenly discovered that the 99% had created a new 1% to focus their craving for extremes on. Like a parallel 1% dimension, people suddenly developed an insatiable appetite not only for the information provided by the media but also a realm that existed outside of the Matrix, which was the media itself!

Suddenly, we didn’t just hate the tragedies the media was sharing with us, now we also hated the media for sharing it. For almost thirty years of my life, I had spent ignoring the media, now when I suddenly decide to indulge in it… Now! Now we decide to go into a full-on toxic romance with the news media! Well, that's just great!

Not since the British rock band, The Beatles could one find a more pungent example of a phenomenon spreading across the globe with the speed and vigor, as the term, “Fake News.” Now look, I’m not that much of an adolescent newsy that I’m unaware that the term “fake news” has roots in American politics, namely our current President Donald Trump. I well aware of this. However, I am also well aware that the entire object goal of politics is to motivate the public. Therefore, President Trump might have said it… more than a few times, however, it is the people who have knighted it and welcomed it into our social court. Now, what I find most astonishing about the “fake news” phenomenon is that people consider it such a sensation. I mean, hasn’t it always been fake?

Ok… full disclosure, the news hasn’t been or isn’t currently, “fake.” Well, at least all of the news that is indeed not truly fictitious. Indeed, there does exist a large portion of genuinely fake news. However, the news I’m referring to is the mainstream media, the big global news giants, the CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Huffington Post… etc. These mainstream news outlets have always presented the extreme 1% and they have done so in a manner to try to make the information as extreme or exciting as possible. In 1993, Channel One news didn’t show American troop's bodies being dragged through the Somali streets because they expected the same emotional reaction one would have if said, “I think I might give canning my own pickles a shot.” Noooooo, they wanted an emotional reaction. Was it real? Yes. Was it something that a group of 12-year-olds in Savannah, Georgia had to deal with? No. However, it damn sure left an impression. In fact, you can bet your ass we were talking about Channel One news with amongst all of our friends after seeing that.

That’s just the nature of the news media business. Intrinsically all media organizations are a business and we’re just their consumer. Moreover, they are in the business of taking a sometimes large scale, often times complex event, teasing out the most sensational parts and sprinkling it out in a digestible format for us consumers. For example, I am often tasked with acting as the public information officer for something newsworthy involving our police department. This involves me giving the news reporters an overview of an incident, and sometimes an on-camera interview. After that the news, edits, snips, cuts, and pieces together the story just in the nick-of-time to make the 11 o’clock news. If the story is about a tornado, the most accurate sentiment that is going to be expressed is, “a tornado hit something.” After that is a hodgepodge of adjectives and interpretations of the event by the reporter or bystanders. All of which is largely subjective.

Is the news media biased? OF COURSE, THEY ARE!

As it has already been covered, the media is a business. They are a business aimed at facilitating us with the exact type of information we find important. It would be impossible to provide enjoyable demonstrations of information to all of the diverse range of people and personalities that exist in this world. So to compensate for this, a particular news organization just picks a genre and provides the product to that particular consumer base. Same information, a different way of presenting it to the public. In essence, news organizations are basically like restaurants. They each serve a different type of “food” to draw in the consumer to sit down and enjoy. Sure you might be able to get a pizza at an Italian restaurant or you could get one at a steakhouse. However, there is going to be a distinct difference in quality, care and taste depending on which restaurant you ordered a pizza from.

Thanks to the internet and social media, when it comes to deciding which flavor of news you’re in the mood for. it’s like pursuing the food court at the Mall of America,

  • “Do you really dislike liberals? Maybe you’re an, “I’m not racist, I have a black friend” kind of person.” Well, let me let you take a look at the menu over at Breitbart.”

  • “Maybe, you’re interested in something a little more tempered but still conservative; head on over to Fox News and let’s see what the special of the day is.”

  • “Are you a President Obama as your Facebook profile picture kind of person? Well good news, Occupy Democrats or The Huffington Post is serving an all-you-can-eat buffet, 24-hours a day.”

  • “Maybe, you are not particularly in the mood for a chuckle at a good Trump meme and would prefer something a little more conventional, while capturing the essence of confirmation that your conservative uncle is an asshole; I recommend checking out the list of options at MSNBC.”

Whatever news outlet you decide to get your daily dose from… you know what? That’s perfectly fine! Well, all except for option number one. You may actually indeed be racist.

The bottom line is this bazaar 1% Matrix world of hating the news media, is just silly. If you happen not to like the information that one particular media outlet is sharing, it probably just means you have happened to find yourself in a “BBQ restaurant” when you’re craving “seafood.” Basically, there isn’t any reason to take the extreme often times horrible 1% that the news showing us and make it even more terrible by hating the very outlet that’s giving it to us. That’s like being a willing participant in the strangest drug habit ever, where you tell your drug dealer, “I f&%$ing hate you!” every time you swing through for a dub.

Don’t get me wrong, like I already said, a large part of the media disdain comes from our current political climate. Hell, the president tweeted a video of himself beating up CNN on WWE’s Monday Night Raw. Now look, I stay out of largely out of politics, unless it comes up in a degree that I feel like is contradictory to the founding principles of the United States of America. With that said, I hope I don’t need to elaborate on the fact that a video of you beating up CNN is not what would conventionally be considered presidential. However, I wouldn’t necessarily say, it’s not American. I mean, have you guys seen some of the stuff you share on social media?

In an odd way, Trumps CNN video tweet is just that, un-presidential. However, it is somewhat undeniable that the news media itself engages in a little showmanship and entertainment in how it presents information. For example, if you have a highly publicized incident involving the police, the news is going to “discuss it.” Which, basically means Bo Dietl is going to come on TV, with the tone and demeanor that makes you consider that he may be the one who shot Frank Serpico; then you’re going to have his opponent, which will be some civil rights, social justice, or legal advocate. An anchor is going to play the role of referee, and after about five minutes we are going to walk away learning Bo is mad, the advocate thinks Bo is dumb, and the news anchor wants us to feel like we learned something. All in time for a commercial break. Frankly, if they’d hand out a championship belt at the end, at least then I would know who won the debate, that I didn’t know we were debating in the first place.

At the end of the day, the news media is what it is. It’s a business that presents us with information in a manner that uses the most dramatic and memorable particulars possible depending on which “restaurant” it’s coming out of. Often times, the 1% that is being served is intense enough as it is. There is no reason to hate the media for it or make it out to be an enemy. In fact, believe it or not, or modern news media can’t hold a candle to its historical past when it comes to publishing sensational biases.

“His weak, wishy-washy, namby-pamby efforts, imbecile in matter, disgusting in manner, have made us the laughing stock of the whole world. The European powers will despise us because we have no better material out of which to make a President. The truth is, he is only a moderate lawyer and in the larger cities of the Union could pass for no more than a facetious pettifogger. Take him from his vocation and he loses even these small characteristics and indulges in simple twaddle which would disgrace a well-bred school boy."

– This was an excerpt printed in 1861 by the discussing the presidential inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln. The paper that printed it was the Salem Advocate, a newspaper printed in Lincoln’s home ground of Central Illinois.

So whether it’s Fox News bashing Obama, or CNN bashing Trump, the bottom line is neither organization will ever have any true say over the measure of success a person will be judged by when it comes to their page in history. Just as the Salam Advocate, has to enjoy that little archive on the general consensus greatest president in all of American history. Essentially, there is no reason to lose your s$#%. Instead, just sit back and enjoy the show.

Tim McMillan is a retired police lieutenant and investigative intelligence analyst; and holds BA's in mathematics and cognitive psychology. Primarily, focusing on the Defense and Intelligence Communities, he now uses his unique background, coupled with a willingness to examine any mystery, to deliver groundbreaking investigative reporting. Tim is a contributor for The War Zone, Vice, and Popular Mechanics

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© Lieutenant Tim McMillan All Rights Reserved by The Raziel Group LLC