Nightmare Scenario
When News is Just Showbusiness
The People Can't Get Enough of It
by Dan Ehrlich

If you want the latest buzz on the Weiner affair these days you don’t read a newspaper or watch CBS News. You’re more than likely to get it from Entertainment Tonight or the TMZ. Do you want to know the scoop on how Osama bin Laden was killed? Forget NBC or ABC. You should be watching Extra or Access Hollywood.

As screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky predicted, everything in America has been reduced to entertainment from tragedy to sports, from politics to religion…it’s all part of showbiz, something many of our leaders love. They love its because it keeps the people distracted from the real problems of a declining nation for which these leaders have no answers.

More and more what were once exclusively showbiz gossip shows are now carrying what would be considered main news stories, the normal fodder for network news shows. Yet those shows have been in steady decline since about the same time as our economy began to decline.

On the other hand nonsense shows such as Entertainment Tonight, Extra, Access Hollywood and the Insider are ratings winners and account for twice the air time as main network news on CBS and NBC. Add to this equally banal and shallow late night talk shows and you can see an overwhelming presence of celebrity news and banter.

What does this say about the population? Even though we have more news sources than anyone could have ever imagined, we are less informed than we were in the 1950s, during our brief golden age when most families had a daily newspaper delivered and there were far more of those in that era than there are now.

True, the Internet has spawned thousands of news sites, but how well are they read compared to the entire population? And how credible are many opinionated sites such as this one.

The fact is the masses love celebrities and celebrity gossip; it has long been this way. It’s just that now, gossip has moved from being one column in a newspaper to entire shows and countless showbiz websites. Much of this is due to multi media conglomerates who own film and TV networks. News, as Chayefsky portrayed in the film Network, is in the same bed with showbusiness.

During hard economic times the public has loved to forget the daily trials with light entertainment. But, couple this with the dumbed down nature of the general population and you can see how democracy itself could be the eventual loser.

If, as the Greek philosopher Plato claimed, democracy ends in chaos forcing the installation of a dictatorship in the USA's case it will because of the ill informed and apathetic sheepish population that only seems to become mobilized when they have a personal stake in what’s happening.

You may have noticed a lack of popular protests or demonstrations over our war involvements. This is most probably because no president has made the mistake of restarting the draft. With an all volunteer military, a great way for some to avoid unemployment, we could care less.

You also may recall the lack of protest at the farcical 2000 election that gave is GW Bush and two wars. We have lost the ability to make our voices known, even though today we have more ways to protest than ever. Yet they’re simply disunited ways to verbally or literally blow off steam.

But we do have Hollywood actors with a worldwide stage to make their voices known. And a few do. Still, the things they say may offend some of us. However, politicians take notice of celeb views more than anyone else's. They know they possess concentrated people power...the power to influence the masses.

But, don’t take my word for it, just compare the ratings for CBS news and ET.

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