Every Picture Tells a Story, Don’t It?

Just because print media is becoming increasingly rare, that doesn’t mean it is any less susceptible to being used as a conduit for complete bullshit. But sometimes the negative aspects of a particular bit of  idiocy can be outweighed by the comedic value. 

I’ll give you an example.

I recently bought a book called “Dark Mission: the Secret History of NASA,” written by Richard C Hoagland and  Mike Bara. Hoagland is a well-known conspiracy nut who was, according to the book’s back cover, a “NASA consultant and CBS news advisor” and Bara is a former engineer with Boeing.

Hoagland and Bara claim, among other wild claims, that the astronauts who flew the Apollo moon missions of the late Sixties and early Seventies discovered tons of evidence of an ancient Lunar civilization. The pair also claim that these discoveries were documented by the astronauts with “tens of thousands of high quality photographs” of “extraordinary glass like structures on the moon!”

Hoagland and Bara also claim that these photos were long kept secret by “the government,” but have since leaked out. 

Now I haven’t read the entire book. Haven’t considered the authors’ entire thesis. But by page IV of the book’s introduction I was presented with a single photograph and a couple of paragraphs of text that told me all I needed to know. After this one, early taste of what Hoagland and Bara had to offer, I knew whether the book as a whole was going to fall on the mean-spirited “I’m really trying to bullshit you with bullshit that might not actually be bullshit but probably is bullshit bullshit” end of the scale or on the more comically absurd “I’m just fuckin’ with you, dude” end. 

The following photograph is one of the “tens of thousands of high quality photographs” that Hoagland and Bara claim is “just one example of the ancient, glass-like ruins photographed in person by the Apollo astronauts and hidden away (by a former NASA employee) in a private archive for more than thirty years.” A few sentences later, the author further describes what’s shown in this photo, and others just like it in the book, as definitive proof of “extensive structures” on the surface of the Moon. 

So, with no further adieu, here is the photo that Hoagland and Bara kick their book off with. The hook. The unbelievably fantastic image that is supposed to rock the reader’s world and compel him or her to read the remaining five hundred pages.  The proof of an ancient Lunar civilization that is so irrefutable, so stunning, that NASA (which, by the way, is a Masonic front, according to the authors) had it suppressed for years. Here it is–THE photographic evidence of the gigantic ruins left on the Moon by its previous, long dead, inhabitants.

Here it is. Get ready. Here we go…


 Is it just me? You can be honest–I can take it. But IS it just me, or is this just a poor quality picture of an astronaut on the moon? All by himself–right? No “structures” of any kind to be seen–right? Really–you can tell me if there’s something there that I’m just not seeing.

Nah, this is just an astronaut on the surface of the moon. With no “glass like” nothin’ nowhere’s near nothin’.

So, what are Hoagland and Bara trying to prove with this “Emperor Has No Clothes” intro to their five hundred page conspiracy book? That they are delusional nutjobs who actually DO see something in this photograph besides space, the moon, and an astronaut? Or are they under the impression that we’re all so stupid that we will think that there’s something in this photo that’s not there just because the text they surround it with keeps telling us there is?

Either way, at least Hoagland and Bara waste no time in letting us know that they are inviting us through the looking glass. In a way, it’s an admirable move. Hoagland and Bara could have just as easily kicked off their book with a fake photo showing an impressive crystal cathedral on the lunar surface. But they didn’t. They kicked it off with a photo of basically nothing. They’re saying “If you can just go with this–if you can just bring yourself to believe what we say and not what you actually see–then, brother, we’ve got five hundred more pages of bullshit you’re REALLY going to love!”

And if you can’t make that leap of idiocy, then Hoagland’s and Bara’s ballsy move just saved you the time and effort of bothering to plow through the rest of their obviously ludicrous book.

It’s the kind of courtesy you don’t usually find in the world of pseudomedia. I like it.

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There But for the Grace of Grace

Short item:

Another toddler was reported missing tonight on the Nancy Grace Show and you know what aspect of the sad story seemed to upset Nancy the most? The fact that the mother had the unmitigated gall to tell one of her correspondents that she did not want the story of her missing child told on the Nancy Grace Show.

Grace was seemingly shocked and almost angry that anyone would say that, expressing extreme disbelief and even going so far as to call such a statement “suspicious.”

The Nancy Grace squad then proceeded to spend almost ten minutes discussing at length the mystery of why this distraught woman, whose child had just dissapeared and was presumed dead, would even think, much less actually say, that she didn’t want the story to become a part of the Nancy Grace program. Ten goddamn minutes.

And not once did any of Grace’s babbling toadies even touch on the possibility that this poor woman might not want to share her pain with Nancy because she knows that every one of the tragic cases that this show has decided to focus its smothering attention on in the past few years has become a fucking three ring circus freak show of epic proportions.

Not even once!

But then again, the tragedy only came to light today. The Nancy Grace Show is on every night. I’m sure that all possible explanations for this shocking mystery of why a woman who’s just lost a baby boy might not want to be turned into Bobo the Great so she can have the privilege of dancing jigs for Grace’s audience every night will be properly explored.

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Tis True Tis Pity

  The bloggers at Television Without Pity, the TV review website that boasts the motto “Spare the Snark and Spoil the Networks,” posted something disturbing a few days ago. Disturbing to me, personally, I mean. I doubt anyone else would notice. Here’s the TWoP post—you tell me if I’m overreacting (then sit back and let me tell you why I’m not):

 “While most reality TV shows seem to exist solely so money-grubbing people can win some cash or so pseudo-celebrities can find a way to get famous, there are a few programs out there that are trying to help people or change the world one unscripted hour at a time. Much like regular-season standouts like “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” or “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” these summer shows help people transform their lives — and make us shed some tears along the way.”

 The authors then go on to give bland TV-Guide style synopses of ten lesser known, yet supposedly high-minded reality shows like “”Plain Jane,” “Master Chef,” and “Breakthrough with Tony Robbins.”

 You see, I’d always thought of TWoP as a place where…I don’t know…a place where television got what it deserved.  Like no pity, maybe? Seems like a reasonable leap of logic to me—but looks like I’m wrong yet again. This is because the folks at TWoP have apparently decided that pity wasn’t good for TV’s self esteem, so they’ve switched from the snarky, smart sarcasm that used to ooze from their reviews to bland, painfully sincere “Way to go! Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not special!” nonsense usually reserved for patronizing the handicapable. One can only hope that the TWoP folks are just being so devilishly subtle, so super-hipster ironic and condescending, so deeply in-joked, that the sarcasm is just virtually impossible to pick up on unless you’re actually in league with Satan. Maybe the TWoP author responsible for this gooey up-with-people-isticness is actually trying to say “Ohh, look at TV now—it thinks it’s people!”

 But that’s just my momentary delusion. Let’s face it—The Pity has gone soft. Or worse, gone corporate delicti.

 And before you misunderstand me, let me make clear that I am not saying that TWoP can’t give shows–even “reality” shows– good reviews. I’m not even saying that these shows are not worthy of praise.

 What I’m really saying is that these show are being praised for the wrong reasons. The praise is logically unsound–like telling your dog what a good boy he is when he inadvertantly warms your spot on the couch by humping the shit out of the cushion.

 What is missing in TWoP’s “analysis,” and what makes it so disturbing to me, is That they aren’t actually analyzing whether or not the programs are “good” or not—good as in “good entertainment,” for that’s all they are meant to be—but rather they are trying to convince us that the shows are “good” in the sense that they are somehow virtuous, which is ludicrous. Their limp goody-goody analysis of thes shows falls way off track mainly because it lacks any significant acknowledgment of two very important real realities that should always be kept in mind when watching any “reality” show (but especially when watching a “do gooder” reality show):

 1.  Reality Shows are fake. They are shows.–entertainments. Ways to pass the time. Fictions. They are not really “unscripted.” The producers orchestrated situations that wouldn’t otherwise exist and then toss non-professional performers into the deep end and film them as they struggle to stay afloat. Whether consciously or not, the participants then behave in ways they think the producers want them to behave. “Gotta act pissed now. Need to say something to prove I’m really happy right now. MUST BE INTERESTING IN ORDER TO GET MORE SCREEN TIME!”

The people who participate in these shows know in advance that they’re on TV for the purpose of “transforming their lives.” They already know that’s the role they are there to play. And in true Method style, by the time the process is over, they’re going to have convinced themselves that’s just what happened—at least long enough to be caught on camera saying so. “You have totally turned my life around, Chef Ramsey—sniff! I love you!” I mean, any chef that decides to go to the trouble of getting on Gordon Ramsey’s show is doing so in hopes of furthering his or her career. And if they are never really able to convince themselves that “I now have a brand new start on life” do you honestly think that he or she is going to purposely ruin the expected “happy ending” of the show by actually admitting ultimate failure while the cameras are running? Do you think you’ll ever see a participant in a do gooder reality show summing up the experience with something like “You know—I didn’t really learn anything, this was a big waste of time, and Ramsey is a big pussy who couldn’t cook fish for a cat”? I don’t think we need to wait on that one.

And after they’re done shooting all the rambling, fumbling footage, and the “real” people have long since gone back to their “real” lives, the editors and producers of these shows will then condense the events they recorded to fit a proscribed running time and cram them into the mold of any one of a dozen or so proven three act story arcs. It’s a roundabout, but very successful, formula for feeding the public’s insatiable hunger for safe, twice removed faux-voyeurism. Like an Imax film of a roller coaster ride.

2.  Do Gooder Reality Shows do not exist to “do good.” Neither do they do not exist to “ help people or change the world one unscripted hour at a time.” Granted, as with any piece of fiction, you have to willingly suspend your disbelief in order to participate in the entertainment. You want to be able to root for good guys and snark on the bad guys. But once you actually slide over that line between “willing suspension of disbelief” and “open vessel eager to take in whatever is poured into me,” then you might as well just start setting a place at your dinner table for Spongebob Squarepants and Bugs Bunny.

Wake up TWoP! Please god wake up! ALL television shows, even positive shows that depict people supposedly doing good, are created and produced for one reason and one reason only—TO MAKE MONEY.

Again, they are “shows”–not charities. Believe me, if the networks’ true goal was to help people in need, they have plenty of money just sitting around with which to do it. There’s no need for cameras to be present. No need for a show. TV networks are not interested in “doing good” and I pity the fool who even thinks they should be.

If there is any lasting good done by these shows for the poor saps who participate in them, then it is entirely incidental.

 But that’s all as may be. TV is TV. There are lots of TV shows I like. Even some of the ones mentioned in this boneheaded TWoP blog post. And even though deep in their deepest, secret heart of hearts, every man, woman, and child on this Earth knows that all reality shows—the ones about money grubbing and the ones about helping people—are what the great philosophers call “bullshit,” the public has not quite made the same leap of non-faith when it comes to reality television as they did with pro wrestling a couple of decades ago. Remember those more innocent days when there was a mass delusional consensus among us all that TV wrestling was actually a sport? Of course now, in more enlightened times we all know that pro TV wrestling is just retard theater–and even though we know the truth, we love it all the more.  When are Joe and Jane Regular going to finally come to the same realization about Reality Shows?

Outlets like Television Without Pity should be reminding people that TV is not real, not propegating the lie.

For some reason the folks at Television Without Pity have lost any sense of their place in the world of pseudomedia. They’ve lost the sense of themselves. They have become what they once mocked. I bet they didn’t even recognize the irony of the final line of their posting intro when they stated that these somehow more wholesome, more worthy, more all-American, more low-fat and whole grain, more “honest,” more real Reality Shows will “MAKE us shed some tears along the way.”

 “Make” us shed tears. Make us. Means the same thing as “force” us. Make us shed tears the way Mussolini “made” the trains run on time.

Only two things can “make” you feel something. One is drugs. The other is effective use of the manipulative arts. Both can be fun as long as you don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s ok to substitute either for real life.

 I say let Bugs and Spongebob get their own dinner.

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Oh, there he is! How ya doin’, Bud?

UPDATE to the previous post, “Where is that Dang Whale Photographer?”:

The photographer of the viral “Whale Jumps on Boat” photo has now been identified, almost a week after the story broke. The images are now credited to a “James K. Dagmoreau” of Bothswana. Full motion video of the event has also been released. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CkSdSHbX18

So it looks like this probably actually did happen. Still, it is ridiculous that it took so long for the whole story to come out. Thank god all the viral hoopla wasn’t about anything important.

Be that as it may, this brings to light another interesting aspect of our pseudomedia-saturated society. It used to be that no one would believe a fantastic story unless the person telling it had photographic evidence. These days, now that any elementary school kid can use his computer to conjure up any image anyone can imagine, presenting a high quality photo that perfectly corroborates your story is just as likely to make it look like you’re trying to pull a fast one as it is to add support to your case. In the world of psuedomedia, nothing is real and everything is real.

And keep in mind that, since this is a Blog, it already fits into my own definition of being part of the inherently unreliable “psuedomedia” world as well. Consider yourself warned.

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Where is That Dang Whale Photographer?

A few days ago a set of photos and a brief story hit the AP wire and went on a viral rampage across the Internet, infecting everything from junior high blogs to major media outlets like MSNBC.
The event was said to have taken place off the coast of South Africa and the story goes like this:

 Cape Town Sailing Academy Administrator Paloma Werner was enjoying a Sunday sail with her boyfriend, business partner, and sailing instructor, Ralph Mothes when a young Southern Right Whale breached the surface right next to their yacht and flopped onto their deck, snapping the mast. As luck would have it, a tourist on a nearby boat snapped a photo just as the whale reached the zenith of its leap.

Once the photo hit the Internet, it and the story were off and running. Every news outlet ran it with a headline that read something like “Whale Jumps on Boat, Couple Unharmed.”

I have to tell you—I ain’t buying it.

What makes me so suspicious about the truth of this viral “news story” is that no one in the media is even focusing on the most fantastic part of the story!

Here’s what I mean: I read one such article on this whale thing in which a marine biologist was quoted as saying this kind of whale-boat midair collision was an extremely rare event—but one not entirely without precedent. So let’s say it was a million to one shot that this should occur. That’s a story to be sure, but not one worthy of the crazy attention this thing has gotten so far. What has pushed this story to worldwide prominence is that “a tourist” on another boat just happened to take a photo of the event. And if a whale hopping on a boat is a one in a million event, then someone actually being at that spot, at that time, with a camera, and paying enough attention to snap a series of perfectly shot photos of the event—the odds against that have to be at least a BILLION to one.
To me, the story of a billion to one event is more interesting than a million to one event. Or it should be AS interesting at least. So that leaves us with the question that few, if anyone, in the media has even thought about asking: what is the name of the person who took that damn picture?!!?
There should be SOME interest in the person who took the photo. I mean, I have yet to find a media outlet running this story that even mentions the photographer’s name! That person, whoever he or she is, is a huge part of this story! So, why is it we only hear from Ralph Mothes and Paloma Werner?

In fact, how did Mothes and Werner get possession of the photo from this unknown tourist in the first place? And I don’t mean physically—I mean legally. For indeed, when the photo is reproduced, it is credited as “Courtesy of Paloma Werner.” Did the nameless “tourist” just send the photo to this couple and then disappear? Does this person not have access to the Internet? Could he or she actually be unaware of the ubiquity of this little viral story? Doesn’t this nameless “tourist” want any credit for the photo of the year? Has she or he no desire to tell his or her story? They used to hand out Pulitzers for stuff like this!
So I think you’re getting my drift. Something is obviously fishy here (insert rimshot and laughtrack giggle). Only Werner and Mothes are telling the story, backing it up with a photo from an unnamed third party source who apparanlty provided them the photo and the dissapeared from the face of the Earth. This “missing photographer issue” pushes this viral story way over to the “hoax” side of the credibility scale for me. It could be a true story—I’m not going to come right out and call Mothes and Werner liars. But there is something very, very weird about this whole thing, and I can say with all honesty that I won’t be even a little bit surprised if this turns out to be a gigantic prank–another grab at meaningless fame similar to the “little boy gets trapped in homemade hot air balloon” hoax from a few months ago. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if someone finds separate photos of this exact same whale breaching with no boat nearby and the exact same photo of the yacht with no whale nearby.

And, to tell you the truth, if Mothes and Werner have actually fooled everyone with a well rehearsed tall tale and some skilled Photoshop jockeying—then more power to them. Why should the pleasure of making us look like gullible fools when we are gullible fools be restricted to politicians, advertising agencies and other professional con artists? Give the working man a chance for a change!
(And get me that photographer! I think there’s a whale about to breach in my living room!)

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The Truth is NOT Out There (Introduction)

Welcome to Deniable Plausibility, an informal exploration of the world of “pseudomedia,” how its destructive power is becoming increasingly pervasive in our society and how it is shaping how we think and behave in our daily lives. In other words, I’m going to use this blog as my medium for calling “bullshit” on the lies, semi-lies, half-truths, twisted truths, twisted lies, bent truths, irrelevant truths, relevant lies, misdirection, misinformation, sleight of hand, faulty logic and sheer idiocy that we are inundated with on a daily basis. I’m talking about the kind of lazy, ill-conceived, poorly researched non-news “news” stories you see on the Web on sites like Yelp or TMZ or even CNN.com. Or viral “news” stories or photos that the entire world is on fire about for a day or two before they find out it was all a hoax. The burning “controversy” that disappears the moment a new one arrives. Hours and hours of yapping to cover five minute subjects.  Pseudomedia is also the robotic, uncritical parroting by supposedly “trusted” mainstream news sources of political doublespeak, corporate press releases, and public knee-jerk piffling from both sides of the aisle.

But it’s not just news media. Pseudomedia is also entertainment, comprising blatently fake “reality” tv, inane talk radio punditry, insulting tv commercials, infomercials for useless stuff no one needs, infotainment that is neither “info” nor “tainment,” edutainment in a similar vein, and pompous Oprah-esqe pedagogy.

In other words—pretty much everything you see and hear these days is “pseudomedia.”

 All this idiocy is presented to us matter-of-factly as “real.” As “true.” And we buy into it. We love it. The trouble is that more of us used to recognize when politicians, PR wogs, Hollywood blood suckers, and other third rate con artists were trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Now the majority of us don’t even care. We purposely grow wool over our own eyes so we can have it there all the time with less muss, less fuss. In only half a century’s time we came full circle from believing what we were told in the nineteen fifties, to questioning what we were told in the sixties, to not believing anything we were told in the seventies, to believing in money in the eighties, to believing our own bullshit in the nineties, and all the way back to believing what we were told in the zeroes.

 Now we’re in the “tweener” decade, though, and a new stop has been added to the cycle. Many of us no longer even know what a lie is. Or what truth is. All information is the same to us now. Everything’s debatable. We’ve gone past concepts like being “naive” or “cynical,” past “right” and “wrong,” beyond truth and lies. Now those are just ways to pass the time, roles to play, behaviors we imitate from TV shows. But they are roles we don’t even know we’re playing anymore. We’re just actors cold-reading dull dialog in the service of cliched plots. Who writes the plots? Who’s pulling the strings? Well, it’s not Vance Packard’s “Hidden Persuaders” anymore, the Mad Men of the 1950s who ushered in the age of public relations, behavioral market research, subliminal advertising and mass control by seduction. Those guys went from subversive threat to party conversation to glue of modern society in less than two decades. But now they’re invisible, impossible to find because we have long since ingested and digested them into our societal soul. Their influence exsts only in the same way that the breakfast cereal you ate this morning still exists. They are us and we don’t even know it. (or if we do, we don’t care). 

The call is coming from inside the house.

 In short, many of us have a deep seated desire for lies to be presented as truth, fiction as reality, sales calls as love letters. And this acceptance and denial of everything is turning us into something less than human. We are becoming domesticated livestock, prefering to have our milk squirted into a bucket by roboatic hands than suckled by our own young.

 And to tell you the truth, the only way I can cope with the oncoming Idiocracy is to explain it to you as I see it. Bit by bit. Randomly. As it comes.

 I didn’t choose this subject because I think I’m smarter than everyone else. To be honest, I chose it because the sources of inspiration will be virtually limitless—pseudomedia has become so blatantly stupid that pointing out the stupidity will be like shooting fish in a barrel with a sawed off shotgun.

 And I’m all about the easy.

 Gotta run now. That DVR of “Jersey Shore” ain’t gonna watch itself!

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