The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“You mustn’t always believe what I say. Questions tempt you to tell lies, particularly when there is no answer.” — Pablo Picasso

TELL ME SWEET LITTLE LIES

It’ll be a year tomorrow that a posse of Navy SEALs cornered that varmint Osama bin Laden and plugged him in his bedroom.

President Barack Obama had large enough cagliones to order the secret assault on ObL’s hideout in Pakistan and the raid paid off big time — sort of. Had a Republican president been in charge there would have been daily parades in his honor in every big city since the al Qaeda boss’s take-down.

The President Watches The Operation Unfold

But because Obama is a Muslim mole whose goal is to transform our holy land into a commie/Nazi gulag/stalag, he hasn’t exactly been showered with laurel leaves since his big night.

Funny thing is, almost within minutes of the announcement that ObL had been executed, the conspiracy theorists leaped out of the woodwork. Chief among them, sad to say, was Cindy Sheehan, the California mom whose son was killed in the Iraq War and who channeled her grief into highly publicized anti-war activism.

Literally within hours after the news of bin Laden’s death broke, Sheehan famously wrote on her website, “I am sorry, but if you believe the newest death of OBL (sic), you’re stupid.” She went on to detail some very iffy evidence that the whole operation was a hoax.

Poor Sheehan lost whatever credibility she had left after that.

Cindy Sheehan

Fringe-y organizations both left and right jumped on the ObL Death Hoax bandwagon for the next several weeks, then fell silent. A brief scan of the internet shows that no one has said much about such hoax claims since about June last year.

Which is odd because conspiracies and hoaxes usually seem to have the staying power of a bad cold in January.

Here’s a list of the ten top conspiracy theories in the US, as compiled by LiveScience.com:

  • 10) 9/11 was an inside job (2001)
  • 9) Princess Diana was murdered (1997)
  • 8) Subliminal advertising (1973)
  • 7) The Apollo moon landings were faked (1978)
  • 6) Paul McCartney died (1966)
  • 5) All the people and organizations who killed JFK (mid-1960s)
  • 4) The Roswell UFO crash (1947)
  • 3) “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (1905)
  • 2) The epidemic of satanic cults (1980s)
  • 1) Big Pharma (1990s-2000s)

Leave It To The Onion

As you can see, a good conspiracy/hoax theory can last a century or more. But today’s technology and the mass media bombardment of us with deception and myth has turned us into ever-more credulous suckers.

Journalist/polemicist Matt Taibbi has a nice explanation of the phenomenon in his book, “The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion.” On pages 183 to 189 (paperback edition) he lays out the ways advertisers, pols, and charlatans have inundated us with phony claims, distortions, spin, subterfuge, and outright lies. Here, I cherry-pick the key points from his thesis:

“How many lies are too many? How much bullshit is the human organism designed to tolerate before it starts to malfunction? Is there a breaking point?

“Mainstream American society has never been designed to confront difficult or dangerous truths. In fact, our mass media has corrupted the idea of objective truth so badly in the past five or six decades that it is now hard to tell when anyone is being serious about anything — the news, the movies, commercials, anything….

“Somehow ordinary people were supposed to keep track of all this, make their own sense of it. Decades after Watergate, Vietnam, and the Kennedy assassination, Americans were forced to rummage for objective reality in a sea of the most confusing and diabolical web of bullshit ever created by human minds — a false media tableau created mainly a s a medium to sell products, a medium in which even the content of the ‘news’ was affected by commercial considerations….”

“This was too much for the people to handle….”

“America by the early years of this century was a confusing kaleidoscope of transparent, invidious bullshit, a place where politicians hired consultants to teach them to ‘straight talk,’ where debates were decided by inadvertent coughs and smiles and elections were resolved via competing smear campaigns, and where network news programs — subsidized by advertisements for bogus alchemist potions like Enzyte that supposedly made your dick grow by magic — could feature as a lead story newly released photos of the Tom Cruise love child, at a time when young American men and women were dying every day in the deserts of the Middle East.

“The message of all of this was that Americans were now supposed to make their own sense of the world. There was no dependable authority left to turn to, no life raft in an increasingly perilous informational sea. This coincided with an age when Americans now needed to understand more of the world than ever before…. Now… Joe American has to turn on the Internet and tell himself a story that makes sense to him.”

Cindy Sheehan reached the breaking point when Barack Obama held his historic midnight news conference a year ago. Of course, she was pushed toward that snap by the death of her child. But the rest of us are under strain as well, if not so heart-wrenching.

We’re living in an age when fiction and reality are interchangeable. That’s why George W. Bush could lie us into a war and Barack Obama could sell himself as a man who would change government.

So I’m surprised the Osama bin Laden Death Hoax stories didn’t last. It doesn’t mean we’re becoming more rational and sophisticated — probably only that the vast majority liked the the story of the Navy SEAL Team 6 operation a year ago too much.

REAL NEWS

WFHB‘s Alycin Bektesh, Ryan Dawes, and Chad Carrothers lugged home a lot of hardware after Friday night’s Society of Professional Journalists annual awards dinner in Indianapolis. The Firehouse broadcasters won 19 awards for excellence, going up against news departments from around the state.

The WFHB Gang Friday Night In Indy

Bloomington’s community radio station consistently puts out the best local news and special programming in the region. No commercial station nearby can hold a candle to the news department that current GM Carrothers started about a decade ago.

Carrothers took a chance, donating his time and considerable energies for no pay at first, just to get the operation off the ground. Now WFHB News puts all those for-profit radio news departments to shame.

LIAR, LIAR

The 1965 hit by The Castaways.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

Monday, April 30, 2012

IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits, “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”; through July 1st — “Esse Quam Videri (To Be, Rather than To Be Seen): Muslim Self Portraits; through June 17th — “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”; through July 1st, 9am-4:30pm

From “Esse Quam Videri”

IU Grunwald (SOFA) GalleryMFA & BFA Thesis 3 exhibitions; through May 5th

IU Kinsey Institute Gallery — Exhibit, “Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze”; through June 29th, 1:30-5pm

IU Asian Culture CenterHenna 101; 4pm

Bell Trace Health & Living CenterSession 2 of a 4-part class, “Life in a British Period Drama”; 6:30pm

IU CinemaStudent film, “Mudcity”; 7pm

IU Department of Folklore & Ethnomusicology, Performance & Lecture Hall — Students perform Ghanaian music, drumming, and dance, directed by Bernard Woma, guest artists: Evelyn Yaa Bekyore and Joyce Bekyore; 7pm

Bernard Woma

The Player’s PubSongwriters Showcase; 8pm

The Bluebird — Dave Walters Karaoke; 8pm

The BishopDJs, The Vallures; Film, “Brick and Mortar and Love”; both at 8pm

Bear’s PlaceArchie Powell & the Exports, Sandman Viper Command, Deadghost, Keeping Cars; 9pm

2 thoughts on “The Pencil Today:

  1. bill says:

    Sweet irony? Following a rant ostensibly about the decline/demise of truth and journalism with a picture of journalists posing with their journalism awards?

    Well played? So… Is it a programming/software problem or a hardware problem?

  2. Hey? Bill? Your exclamation point called? He said you need to let him and the Period back into the house, so you don’t sound so much like this? Just teasing, really?

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