What’s the point? What is it all supposed to be leading us to? By ‘it’ I mean the notions about how the world should be that the disparate viewpoints among us constantly scream about. If we approach my questions in terms of the political spectrum, both left and right have their visions of the future world. Both sides believe, quite strongly, that their way is best, right, moral, equal, and least destructive to the environment, social groups, the economy, or whatever their favored group/demographic/issue is. In the world at large Islamic fundamentalists want to bring Sharia law to the globe, impose their will on us all. Klaus Schwab fervently predicts that we will all own nothing and be happy. Opposing and conflicting views are everywhere. We are bombarded with opinions, inundated with rhetoric begging, cajoling, bargaining with and threating us for our support. But for what? What does the end look like? Who is the one who will say, “Alright folks, we’ve made it to Utopia, go live your lives in peace forever and ever”? And perhaps more importantly, when will those words be said and what will that Utopia look like?
You might now be asking yourself, what’s the point of this essay? That’s the easy part – happiness. That’s it. That’s what I’m writing about. We are all looking for it in our own ways. Some of us are lucky enough to have found it. Good for them. I wish them the best in life wherever they are in the world. What interests me more than the happy people, however, are the unhappy people and why there are so many of them. I read a piece of news today about an individual who was arrested for “Terroristic Threatening”. This person made a phone call and indicated that a public facility was going to be shot up. It doesn’t take Freud to figure out that this individual was unhappy about something. How many stories like this, and far worse, do we hear about every day?
Look at any protest, over any issue, anywhere in the world and what will you find? Unhappy people. Iran has been roiled by protests for a number of years over that country’s strict theocratic and repressive government. Lots of Iranian people are angry. In America we’ve seen the group known as Antifa riot in numerous cities and destroy millions of dollars of property because they’re angry. Even the Chinese have been protesting over their communist government’s draconian covid lockdowns. Those people were also angry. There are protests all over the world almost every day if one cares to look for them. Because people all over the world are angry. The issues and reasons change with the time zones, but there is still that singular emotion fomenting and propelling them all – anger.
I’d like to think that humanity is moving toward some form of… I don’t want to say enlightenment; we’ve already had that age, and the word is overused, nearly archaic at this point in time. I don’t want to say awakening either because that word is really overused. So, I’ll say nexus, locus, a point where all these unrelated events and their corresponding timelines intersect and what has been promised, predicted, and envisioned for decades becomes reality. What happens then? What’s the outcome? The New World Order? Klaus Schwab owns everything? Christ comes back? The Hidden Imam comes out of hiding? Ragnarok? The apocalypse? Peace on earth and goodwill toward men? The answer depends on who is speaking. There are countless visions of how the world should be and countless people working to make them reality. I just hope that when all the anger and protests are done that they don’t leave behind only sadness.
Humans just have to have answers. We’re obsessed with the unknown, with mysteries, with solving puzzles. It was recently reported that a decades-old case from Philadelphia known as the Boy in the Box was partially solved. He’d been unidentified since being found in 1957, and authorities were able to determine who he was based on DNA. Many old cases have been solved using DNA. There’s even one from my hometown of Tacoma, Washington that was solved in this manner, one that I had a personal connection to. A young girl named Jennifer Bastian disappeared in 1986. She was found murdered a couple weeks later. Her killer was ultimately caught many years after the fact, in 2016 to be precise, largely because of DNA evidence. How, might you ask, could I be connected to this horrific crime? Her parents bought their house from the parents of a childhood friend of mine; they lived two blocks from me. Her sister and I went to the same school; she was a year or two ahead of me, Jennifer was a bit younger. I was passingly acquainted with them both. The story was all over the news for weeks and months, as one would expect, but for years it was a cold case, a mystery, until DNA caught the psycho who did it.
Why do I mention these two sad and depressing cases? Because they are indicative of how the need to solve a mystery can lead to… I hate the word closure. Nothing is ever closed, neatly sewn up and put away, for the families of murder victims, as that word implies. I’ll say finalized instead. Maybe that’s not exactly the right word, but I like it better than the over-used, and in my opinion inaccurate, closure. Pardon the digression; back to our topic. The examples I cited display outcomes that most people would probably consider favorable, if not exactly happy. But there are others that are more innocuous, more mundane but in their own ways maybe equally as sensational.
How about the Titanic? Does anyone remember the time before it was found resting on the bottom of the Atlantic? I do. It was a famous shipwreck, sometimes seen on old tv shows like 'In Search Of', but not much more than that, and it certainly wasn't the global phenomenon it became after its discovery and the subsequent eponymous movie. All that aside it was a mystery that people felt needed to be solved, and a group of explorers finally did.
Ever heard of the Voynich Manuscript? It’s a famous illustrated codex purportedly from the early fifteenth century. It’s written in an unknown language that baffled code breakers and academics for decades, even centuries. Many have claimed to have deciphered all or parts of it, with varying degrees of academic acceptance. Whether or not it has been decoded accurately is for others to decide. What I find interesting is that so many have tried over the years. It’s another mystery that humans cannot stop themselves from trying to solve.
There are mysteries everywhere. From the Challenger Deep to the edge of the known universe, we are searching for answers to questions. How were the pyramids built? Is there life on other planets? Does God exist? Who really killed Kennedy? When the hell is that guy going to publish Blackfire 3?
There’s an old adage: Curiosity killed the cat; satisfaction brought it back. I hope there never comes a time where every puzzle has been solved, every question answered. The world is much more fun with a bit of mystery in it.
I read a news article the other day about some new discovery astronomers made. If you pay attention to the news like I do, you'll see these stories relatively frequently. The recently deployed Kepler telescope has been finding all sorts of new things, as are the various probes and rovers that are currently transiting the solar system or traversing the Martian terrain. That stuff is fascinating to me. I'm old enough to remember the very first Space Shuttle launch, the Hubble launch and subsequent retrofit/upgrade, and many other milestone events in the history of space exploration. But one thing that has always both intrigued and baffled me is the Big Bang. I'm not smart enough in science terms to debate or challenge it, so until some other theory comes along, I'll take it at face value. But one thing I don't understand is how the earth, our terrible, beautiful home, can be so far away from the point in space where the event actually happened. I wrote the piece below while pondering that seemingly incongruous fact. If someone out there reads this and can explain it in layman's terms, I'd be tremendously grateful.
How is this possible? Telescopes can see billions of years into the past, nearly to the time of the Big Bang. I don’t dispute that. We know how far light can travel in a year and even have a galactic unit of measurement for that - the cleverly monikered light year. What I don’t get is this. When the big bang happened, presumably all of the material in the known universe was gathered in one place, one single chunk of mass that exploded and created the universe as we know it. If that’s true, and our science instruments can see billions of light years into the past, then how did the material the earth is made from get so far away from the point in space where the big bang happened? That would mean this matter has been moving away from that point in space and time like a car driving down a highway, and presumably at the speed of light. If a telescope can peer ten billion years into the past, based on the speed of light and all that, then what we now consider our planet, the molecules that comprise it, must have been moving at the speed of light too (or faster), in order to end up so far away from the origin, right? I've read that the universe is expanding, but at what speed? Is our galaxy flying away from the Big Bang at the speed of light or faster? Here’s another way to think about it. Let’s say a ball is hit by a batter in a baseball game, the impact of the two represents the big bang. The ball is a home run; it leaves the park and lands in the seats where it stops moving. The ball represents earth at this point in time, right now as I type this. Now let’s say that the spot where the bat connected with the ball, that actual point in midair above home plate, emits light and that a fan out there in the stands next to the ball looks down on the field with a telescope or something to that spot where bat met ball. The fan can tell how far away in distance and time home plate is from where the ball is by measuring that light. So if light is the fastest moving thing known to man, and from what I know that's a true statement, then in order for the ball to be that distance from home plate, shouldn’t the ball have had to travel just as fast, or faster, than light in order to get that far away from the point of origin, from the Big Bang? Or do I just not know what the hell I’m talking about? That last one is entirely possible when it comes to this kind of stuff.
A short story
November 11, 2022
Some time ago I decided I wanted to read The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn, so I bought the unabridged three volume set on eBay. It's an incredible piece of literature and commentary; I strongly encourage everyone to read it. One story he relates really struck me, and in fact inspired me to write the short story you'll find below. He talks about a woman who was a true believer in Communism. She was wrongly accused, wrongly convicted, and wrongly imprisoned, like so many innocent Soviet citizens were. Even after seeing the deprivation, brutality and horror of the Soviet penal system, she never renounced her Communism, and in fact claimed her imprisonment was her own fault! That anecdote got me thinking about modern times and how many of us, despite overwhelming evidence, are so staunchly entrenched in our own ideologies that we ignore, or just don't see, the truth of events happening around us.
This story is about that, about the refusal (or psychological and emotional inability) to change one's mind about ideology. But it's about a few other things too. Once I got started writing it, ideas just started coming out that I'd never planned on. It happens that way with me and my stories. Ordinarily I'd keep this one tucked away until I was ready to publish it in a collection, but after the midterm elections, I felt it was time to let it out of its virtual cage, also known as my hard drive. It will be included in the next short story collection I publish, whenever that might be, but for now I hope anyone who's made it this far reads and enjoys it.
There have been a couple instances over the last few days of climate activists committing acts of vandalism and destruction as a form of protest. It’s happened before. Remember the ELF (Earth Liberation Front) committing arson against car dealerships? In the UK two anti-oil activists poured tomato soup on a Van Gogh painting. A short time later another group visited a grocery store, also in the UK, and proceeded to remove milk from the cooler and pour it on the floor. I guess I can (sort of) intellectually understand the Van Gogh event, even though I completely disagree with the tactic. He’s a world-famous painter and defacing one of his works was certain to draw attention, even if it didn’t create much sympathy for their cause. The pouring out of the milk I don’t understand at all, nor do I really want to do any research to find out if the perpetrators voiced a rationale for their actions. They’re idiots and I don’t have any interest in what they have to say. Pouring out milk that some mother might want to buy so she can feed her kids is not protesting. It’s utterly petty and self-centered. The goal of these activists is, ostensibly, to stop “climate change”, which would, presumably, ensure that everyone on earth lives some sort of climate-utopian better life. What that would actually look like I don’t know, and I’m not sure they do either. The bottom line is if you want to protest something, vandalism and the destruction of property are not the way to convince people your cause is just.
I’m not going to get into the whole ‘is climate change real’ debate here, other than to say I believe it is changing because it always has changed. The simple fact that it’s possible to find fossils of aquatic life on ten-thousand-foot-tall mountains, or the remnants of tropical flora buried under the arctic tundra should be enough to prove that fact. What I do not believe is that driving my car is going to destroy the planet.
So, what were these activists actually protesting? Oil. Among other things. One of the most terribly bad, horrifically evil supervillains, according to climate change activists, is the oil industry. They’ll tell us things like, if we don’t stop drilling, the entire world will look like Mars or the moon in three years. Or something. And exactly how bad are oil companies and the products they produce? Well, I have a bit of experience there, because for six and a half years I actually worked in an oilfield – Kuparuk on Alaska’s North Slope. I can’t speak about other fields and the companies that operate them, but Kuparuk was the most environmentally conscious place I’ve ever been.
Here are just a few examples:
Wildlife has the right of way at all times. Herds of caribou, thousands of them, move through the field each summer. If there is a caribou, or three hundred, on a road blocking traffic, everyone stops. They don’t harass them or blare their horns. Everyone waits until they move. That’s true regardless of what animal might be in the road. I once sat in a pickup truck for fifteen minutes waiting for a red fox to decide it wanted to trot off into the tundra. Interfering with the animals or walking on tundra in summer without permission is punishable by termination.
There are pipelines there that carry all sorts of products other than oil from one facility to another. They’re built on pilings or columns above the ground, and not just a few inches either; many of them are six or eight feet up. I once watched a training video where a biologist explained one of the reasons why they’d been built so far off the ground. It’s so the caribou can walk under them when the snow melts in summer. They actually studied the caribou herds and determined an ideal height for the pipelines.
There is also a full-time spill response team that will respond to a spill like a fire department would to a fire. (Oh, they have one of those too – with huge fire trucks and everything.) Any liquid spill consisting of more than a cup, I mean a measuring cup like you’d find in a drawer in your kitchen, requires notification of the spill response team. I remember one incident in winter when a piece of equipment blew a hydraulic hose. There was a trail of hydraulic fluid droplets that covered an area maybe twenty feet by twenty. A coworker and I spent a half hour out in the sub-zero cold digging those tiny little droplets out of the snow and dumping it in hazmat bags so that it could be taken to a hazardous waste facility for disposal. There was so little hydraulic fluid on the ground that if that had happened on the gravel driveway at my house, I would have ignored it. But not up there. If that spill hadn’t been reported, the management at that facility could have faced serious repercussions, including termination, for not reporting it.
What’s the point of all this? The point is that there are oil companies out there who do it right. Who actually do care about the environment and about the health of their employees. Maybe the anti-oil activists should do a little research about oil companies before they go throwing their lunch on a masterpiece painting.
October 16, 2022
I read the news today, oh boy. And no, the English Army did not win the war. But there most definitely is a war going on, and I don’t mean the one in Ukraine. Our war is fought not with bullets and bombs, but with words, ideas, headlines, information. This isn’t the first time a war like this has been fought, and it certainly won’t be the last. The soldiers in this war don’t wear camouflage uniforms or drive tanks. They wear business attire and operate smart phones and laptops. Most people call them The Media. I don’t know what they call themselves, but it most likely is synonymous with God.
I like documentaries. My wife and I recently watched one about Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS. A point of clarification before continuing: I have absolutely nothing against Mormons. Or Catholics. Or Hindus. Or Muslims. In fact I’m not biased against any religion. Believe what you want to, worship as you wish, just don’t try to forcibly compel others to join your sect. If your beliefs dictate that you knock on doors to share the word, then get after it. I’ve got no problem with that provided you take no for an answer should that be the response you get. If you knock on my door, I’ll politely decline your offer to educate and enlighten me. Let that be enough for you and leave. And of all the various representatives of religions who’ve visited me, that’s what has happened. I’ve never had a Jehovah’s Witness come back to my house a second time after I’ve told them I’m not interested. They get it, and they’re respectful of my position. But not everyone is going to be polite to you if you show up on their doorstep unannounced, and many may even be quite hostile. Sadly. I’ve never understood why some people are rude and nasty when a simple No is all that’s needed. We all have strong feelings about the things we believe in or disagree with.
I Don't Care
I don’t care what continent your ancestors came from. The level of pigmentation in your skin doesn’t mean shit to me. Your brown eyes, blue eyes or green eyes; your straight hair, curly hair or no hair; your accent, language or guttural grunts: none of them matter to me. At all. I don’t care. Wail, scream and gnash your teeth at how “oppressed” one group is compared to another. Perform all the logical and linguistical contortions you want in order to make everything about race. Just don’t tell me I’m bigoted simply because I don’t agree with you.
I don’t care what gender you are attracted to. Your preferred pronouns, your self-designated abbreviation(s) LGBTQ+-!?&*$# are utterly without meaning for me. Marry whoever the hell you want to. Marry a damn doorknob. I don’t care. Just don’t try to indoctrinate my kids into your world. They’re from mine, and they’re going to stay there.
I don’t care how vegan you are. If you want to wait until the apple falls off the tree and lands on the ground before you eat it because the tree might feel pain if you picked that same apple while it was still attached to that tree, then starve. If you are completely comfortable eating engineered foods that mimic something real, like those fake eggs they advertise on tv, then knock yourself out. Just don’t tell me I have to eat them too. I like real eggs and I’m not going to give them up. If you don’t want cheese on your portabella “burger”, then don’t have it. I don’t care. But don’t tell me I can’t have a triple Baconator from Wendy’s. With cheese.
I don’t care if you want to protest because your side lost some court case, or some event happened that hurt your delicate little feelings. Protest away. It’s your right as a citizen of the United States. But you do not have the right to riot, throw Molotov Cocktails, try to intimidate others, and generally act like a spoiled four-year-old whose tyrannical parent just took away their favorite toy because things didn’t go the way you wanted them to. Grow up and learn to deal with disappointment and losing. It’s going to happen to you again soon, in one form or another. Get used to it. If you want to carry a sign proclaiming your position on some issue, go right ahead. I don’t care. Just don’t tell me I have to accept you burning down a city because you lost or you’re mad about something.
I don’t care if you want to drive an electric car because you think the world will end if you don’t. I don’t care if you cover your house in solar panels and erect so many windmills you can’t walk out your door without getting smacked in the head by a rotating blade. Those things kill birds in the thousands, but by all means, save the world from the dreaded greenhouse gases. Just don’t tell me I can’t drive my truck or heat my house. Nature was here long before us, will be here long after we’re gone, and she always seeks to find balance. By the way, North America and most of Europe used to be covered by glaciers. Where did they all go? Did all the car and factory exhausts from twenty thousand years ago melt them? So go right ahead with your “green” efforts. Compost your own shit if you want to. I don’t care. Just leave me and my John Deere riding lawn mower alone. It’s got a cupholder (!) and I like driving it.
I don’t care about the latest celebrity scandal. It makes not one iota of difference to any of the problems in the world what some slack-jawed, glassy-eyed, drooling moron wore to some awards show no one watched. And that goes double, maybe quadruple, for politicians at the Met Gala. The pronouncements of Hollywood’s denizens mean nothing to me. The hypocrisy and idiocy emanating from that gaping, frothing, suppurating pustule of a self-righteous enclave smells worse than the world of The Walking Dead would if it were real. So read your tabloids, follow all the hottest celebrities on the social platform du jour, and accept their uneducated, incoherent and infantile mumblings as equal to a proclamation from Socrates. I don’t care. Just don’t tell me I have to pay attention to that offal too.
I don’t care how you live your life. Drink to excess or be a teetotaler. Smoke all the weed you want to. Or don’t. Live under a freeway overpass and shoot poison into your veins with a needle if that’s what you want to do. I don’t care. But don’t show up on my land looking to rob my house or harm my family to get your drugs. I have lots of guns and a big dog who doesn’t like strangers. So, if you want to get tanked every night, or obliterated on the dope of your choice, go right ahead, I don’t care. Just don’t drive when you’re wasted. That’s a total dick move.
I don’t care what you think of my politics and opinions. You won’t find me out marching in the streets. I much prefer writing to chanting. Slogans get old. Then they start to sound weird. Don’t believe me? Try it. Pick any word or phrase and say it over and over again for a minimum of three minutes straight. It begins to sound and feel like gibberish, like it’s not even real words anymore. That’s what your slogans are to me. You won’t convince me to change my mind, and I’m probably not going to convince you to change yours, although I admit I would be happy if I did. So go on and chant away, and I’ll keep my opinions, thank you very much, and you keep yours. I don’t care.
You know what? I changed my mind. I do care. A lot. And I’m paying attention. Are you?
May 11, 2022
Random Writing Thoughts
So here I am, sitting at my desk, late afternoon sun will soon be shining right in my eyes (no curtains or shades on the window I’m facing) and it’ll be hard to see my computer monitor, so I figured I’d better write something while I can still read what I’m typing. I’m at 68941 words of double-spaced, Times New Roman, font size 12, 206 Word pages worth of Blackfire 3, and I’m in the middle of a scene with Sliss and Ul’ll Uhas that has me stumped. It won’t last forever; in a day or two (or by the time I’m done with this little note) I’ll have an idea and away the story will go, back on the rails and hurtling toward the dynamite planted under the tracks somewhere down the line. Actually, the story isn’t stalled for a lack of ideas, I actually have lots of ideas, just don’t have any ideas I like and that work the way I want them to in order to wrap up the scene.
I’ve never understood or experienced writer’s block as some describe it. Since I started writing I’ve always had something I wanted to say, a story that I wanted to write, so I’ve never lacked for material the way some claim to. I supposed I should be thankful for that. Maybe I have ideas because I write whatever comes to me and don’t confine myself to one genre or another. That could be a bad thing I suppose. An author whom I enjoy and who has written several very long series (only one of which I’ve read) wrote a blog post some time ago that I happened to run across, and his advice was not to genre hop. Stick to one variety, he argued. Jumping from post-apocalyptic action to fantasy to horror will confuse and alienate your audience. Maybe he’s right, maybe not, but I can’t do that. There are countless authors who only write in one genre, and whose work I very much enjoy, and that’s fine. Personally, I have too many ideas for too many different stories to restrict myself that way.
(The sun has finally fallen to the point that its shining in the window at me. I’m having to tilt my head as I try to put a hanging plant between it and my eyes. When its lower I’ll use the trees outside to block it out, although it’s got a ways to go before I can do that; it’s still too far above their lofty tops. But it’s melting the snow – finally!)
And now back to our gently interrupted discussion. Where exactly do stories come from? I can’t speak for others, but for me they just sort of appear. I got the idea for Enders & Associates from a damned wine bottle! Yep, that’s the gawl-darned truth. It was sitting on our kitchen counter; my in-laws had bought it when they’d come for a visit and had left it at our house. (Neither Marcy nor I are big drinkers, and when we do imbibe its usually not wine.) I was still working in the Arctic at the time, and in fact was just about to walk out the door to drive into Anchorage to get on a plane and head up there, and happened to glance at the bottle. I don’t remember the name of the vintner, but it had a picture of a man’s face on the label. He looked like someone from the early part of the twentieth century, such were his clothes, and I remember thinking that was a rather strange image to put on a wine bottle label. But the bigger, more consequential thought that came to me was the story for Enders. Well, not the entire story, but the salient parts of it. I’ve never had a story occur to me in its entirety. Generally, as in this instance, I’ll get a bit of inspiration which could be anything, then build the story around it. My short story Greta’s Got a Bat came about because the title occurred to me. That’s it. The title popped into my head one day, I created a blank Word document, named it with the title of the story, then wrote the thing. I’ve actually had several stories start out as nothing more than titles. A good title frequently proves to be extremely rare and elusive prey, so when I come across one I like, I always make sure to capture it in the form of a Word document. I just name the file whatever the title is, then it sits in a folder on my hard drive until I come up with a story to match it. Not long ago I wrote one called Stuck on Fairview Loop in precisely that manner. A guy I work with said that phrase one day, and I thought it was a great title for a story, so I stole it. Thanks Chris!!! Sorry, no royalties yet. But my larger point is that I had the title for months until a story came to me that matched it.
So what the hell is the point of all this rambling, you might be asking? There isn’t one, other than this: I was reading a bit of BF1 the other day, trying to make sure I didn’t contradict something in the plot with a bit I was working on in BF3. In a work of this scale, with this many characters and plot lines, it’s easy to forget little details. “Did so-and-so tell whoseywhatsit about his/her magic powers?” Shit like that. I have five separate Word documents of notes for BF - characters, places, miscellaneous, plot lines, the shortest of which is five pages, and I still forget things. Sorry, digressed again. Like I said, I was reading through BF1 and realized that my prose was just not very good. Granted it was my first book, my first time writing a piece of fiction really since high school, and I’ve read much worse prose in my life, but if I was writing it now, it would be… hopefully better. Look, I know I’m not Dickens, Hugo or Tolstoy, nor will I ever be, and that’s ok. I write how I write. If you like it - great! If not – there isn’t much I can do about it, (I love the sun but it’s getting tremendously difficult to see, not to mention warm.) so I won’t let it bother me. But I will keep writing, even if it’s only to produce some random thoughts like these. The answer to the question asked at the beginning of the paragraph is this: I want to be a better writer. In order to be one I need to write. So I’m writing this since I don’t have an idea that I like for any of the stories I’m working on. It’s in the action, the doing, that one realizes progress and improvement.
Epilogue: Writing this the day after everything preceding this passage. Thankfully the sun isn’t in my eyes yet. I got past that little blockage in BF3 I mentioned yesterday. Knew I would, it’s always just a matter of when. And here is the really cool thing to me: Getting past it involved creating an entirely new character, a new area of a city I’m fleshing out, and an entirely new plot thread that led to a few new insights into another very enigmatic character who has befuddled me a bit. It only took 500 words, which I wrote in about a half hour, but I spent probably an hour in the imagining. This shit is so much fun! I’ve written before about how I do not plan or outline anything beforehand. I sit down at my computer, put my hands on the keyboard, and write. So I didn’t have any idea what was going to happen in that scene until I imagined and wrote it. I’m discovering this story as I go along, just like anyone reading it will. That, to me, is the truly magical part of all this. What the hell is my demented brain going to spit out next?!
April 3, 2022
I’m a news junkie, read at least a little bit of it every day. That’s right – I read my news. I learned a long time ago that if you want to truly be informed, turn off the network news on tv (doesn’t matter if it’s one of the big three or something on cable) and go read. Think about it. How much information can you really pack into a twenty or thirty second clip? Not too much. No, I much prefer to read when it comes to my news.
Growing up we subscribed to our local newspaper, and from the age of probably 12 or 13, I read it. Back then I had no political or social opinions to speak of, and most of my attention wound up focused on the sports section, the comics, or Dear Abby. But once in a while an article would grab my attention about something that happened in the world or in my state or city, and I’d read it. Analyzing the writing of others was not something I was particularly adept at back then, and it wasn’t until later in adulthood, primarily after I went to my first college, that I began to notice how the news could be framed to promote or denigrate something. I don’t remember, nor do I want to revisit, any of those articles I read as a kid to try and determine if the media was as biased then as it is now. It probably was, in general, but just wasn’t as blatantly open about it. Or maybe they were. Regardless of one’s opinions on society, current events and politics, there is a media platform catering to you and your beliefs. That didn’t exist when I was a kid. There were newspapers, and the three big tv networks: ABC, NBC, and CBS. And you had to get up from the couch, walk to the tv, and turn a knob to change the station. After doing that you might even have to adjust the rabbit ears or the antenna in order to get the static off the screen. How inconvenient! It was the dark ages, the 1970’s and early 80’s. Disco alone should prove that point.
So what the hell am I getting at with all this? Today’s news, that’s what I’m really writing about, and more specifically, what can we believe? Allow me to explain.
This morning, as is my wont, I got up, took my multivitamins and made a pot of French Press. Then I sat down at my desk and opened my Kindle Fire, which is what I use to read the news while I drink my coffee and wake up. There are a few websites I visit each day for local, national and international news, and today was no different. I usually check them in a specific order, and when I got to the last one, an aggregator, I ran across an article about the French presidential elections. There were several bullet points in the article, and one of them was in regard to a tweet supposedly sent out by the BBC, which claimed to quote the current president, Emmanuel Macron on the issue of immigration. Except that the BBC denied creating the tweet, and the Macron people claim he never said the words that the tweet attributed to him. Further, in a sidebar on that website was a headline and a link to an article about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The ad showed a young girl’s face in close up, and she exhibited obvious injuries in the form of some swelling and numerous superficial cuts. The headline said, and this is an actual quote: “The bombing survivor accused of being fake”.
I didn’t read that article, I have no idea what the truth is on either matter, and that’s my larger point. What the hell is the truth, is real anymore? What happened to, in the words of Dragnet, “just the facts ma’am”? Most media outlets claim to present only facts but read closely – you’ll often find language intended to persuade the reader to adopt a particular position on a given issue. And its everywhere. No matter what side of the political spectrum you’ve built your house on, it’s there. Sometimes it’s so overt as to be nearly nauseating, other times it’s so subtle only someone who is really looking for it will find it. But it's easy to spot once you know what to look for.
Despite all of this, I still read the news, except now I question everything. The media, instead of persuading me, has turned me into a skeptic. We can’t believe our own eyes anymore. Even images or video we once deemed unimpeachable can be manipulated or outright created with today’s technology in the form of deep fakes.
When I was in college at the University of Alaska, Southeast, one of my profs in a historiography class I took assigned us an essay to read. It’s by a man named Theodore Clarke Smith and is titled That Noble Dream. The argument Smith made in the essay is essentially that every historian should be as near to completely objective in their writing as possible. In other words abandon your prejudices and predilections, and go where the evidence of your research takes you, regardless of the outcome or how it upsets your ideology's apple cart. That’s a lesson today’s media could well stand to internalize. As for me, I’m going to go read the sports page.
April 24, 2022
Mark Sowers, author of works of fiction. He writes fantasy, action/adventure, loves life in Alaska.