Why is Legacy Media Like This?
The Post-Propaganda Age
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Signals from Another Time in Another Place
In David Cronenberg’s 1983 Cult Classic Videodrome a Toronto television executive, played by the delightfully slimey James Wood, becomes obsessed with a pirate television broadcast, the titular Videodrome, which he believes may be a snuff film. Woods, becoming increasingly unhinged in his desperate attempts to find the origin of the broadcast, gets drawn into world of techno-terrorists, body-horror, cyber-futurism, and conspiracist semi-Lovecraftian horror, where almost all who seek the mystery of Videodrome pay with their lives.
So why does James Woods follow this already horrific lead? An already violently pornographic, possibly snuff, pirate broadcast? This executive you see wants to license the broadcast for his late night programing block.
Now this is a biting, just beyond the edge of reality, satire of the explosion of television channels in the late 70s-early 80s and the new extremes possible during the great deregulation of television that began then. Canadian commentators all agreed the film’s Civic-TV was an almost explicit reference to CityTV, whose Friday night Baby Blue Movie block had started in ‘72 and was the first pornographic programing block on North American broadcast TV.
Now the plot of the film was almost too prescient, it was a genius Cronenberg horror classic, and brilliant bit of edge-of-the-present cyberpunk SciFi, which should have been a pop-culture hallmark… If only it had come out 5-8 year later and known it was supposed to be about the internet… not the web of TV broadcasts.
But there is another incongruous element, aside from the lack of internet, that really makes it hard for a child of the 2000s to really get in the mindset of the film…
Who can imagine a Television Executive giving a shit, let alone that much of a shit, about entertaining their audience?
TV, Radio, Newspapers, pretty-much all legacy media institutions are complete shit. Care about your entertainment? They couldn’t care less… All news, talk shows, hell even supposed shock jocks like Howard Stern, are self righteous moralizers that can’t, or consummately refuse to, even muster the excitement of a D-Grade Baptist preacher… You go to a radio shock jock in the 2020s and you get pretty-much the same regime approved unthreatening drivel you’d get from a grade-school teacher. Remember in 2017 when they gave Bill Nye the Science guy a Netflix show, with no rules on content, where they’d talk about sex and swear and stuff… and somehow it was more moralizing, condescending, and insulting to its audience than the children’s show?
That’s all institutional media now… All of its propaganda, all of its terrible, and as for entertainment? If one of them asks “are you entertained?” its an accusation, a challenge, and you’re supposed to say no and instead be solemnly thankful that they’ve taken the time to educate you.