Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Apocalypse: What Channel?


(Okay, I know Ashcroft's gone now, and those aren't exactly the names usually associated with the Four Horsemen. This is from Wikipeida: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are mentioned in the Bible in chapter six of the Book of Revelation, which predicts that they will ride during the Apocalypse. The four horsemen are traditionally named War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death. However, this is slightly at odds with the conventional interpretation of the Bible, which actually only directly names Death. Consequently, it is not possible to definitively state the intended interpretation of the horsemen; in fact, interpretations frequently reflect contemporary values and issues.)

I have to make a confession (bless me Father, for I have sinned): I have not been following the news lately. I could blame it on my being in Taiwan, away from easy access to English language news sources, but that would be a lie. The truth is I’ve been lazy and self-indulgent. When I could be watching CNN, I flip back and forth between the half-dozen English language movie channels instead. There’s rarely anything on worth watching, but I find that by cycling through the channels continuously, I can almost make my own movie. In my defense, even if I were to watch CNN, I’d have to sit through hours of completely useless programming like “World Sport,” “Larry King Live,” and “Talk Asia,” not to mention the five minutes of commercials that play for every ten minutes of programming.

I haven’t been reading the paper lately either. There are two or three English papers here in Taiwan that I could be reading, but instead I’m reading Bleak House, by Dickens. I could also read the news on the internet, or listen to one of many news webcasts.

Why the sudden lack of interest in The News? I used to be an NPR junkie. I listened to Morning Edition on the way to work and All Things Considered on the way home. The homepage on my web browser has been Yahoo News ever since such a thing existed. I used to live and breathe The News. Now, however, I can’t be bothered.

I think that one reason is that ever since Bush and his machine staged a quiet coup de etat in the elections of 2000, the news has just gone from bad to worse. And, yes, I mean that the news coverage itself has declined—there are no journalistic heroes, and independent news sources are being squeezed out by the monopolies--, but I also mean that the content, the stories, have just become more and more demoralizing to me. First there was the election, then the recount scandal, then that creep actually took the white house. Soon after he began dismantling the country like it was a corporation that had been subject of a hostile takeover. Then September 11, which in and of itself was bad enough, but then the whole world rolled over and handed the Bush administration a blank check to do whatever it wanted (which is probably why so many people—myself included—feel that they must have had something to do with those terrorist attacks).

The morning I woke up and saw CNN declare G.W. Bush as the 43rd President of the United States of America, I vowed to leave the country. At the same time, my news addiction kicked up to a new level. I monitored the news constantly for any information that might foretell the downfall of the administration. Instead, I saw the opposite. I saw years of diplomacy in the Middle East being tossed out the window. I saw corporate corruption running rampant. I saw civil liberties not just being eroded, but being washed away in a flash flood. I saw religious fundamentalism replacing rational thought. And I saw the American public welcoming all of this with open arms.

I guess I finally just gave up.

Then last night, when there was truly nothing worth watching on the movie channels, I switched over to CNN. Apparently there is something new going on in the Mid East. Israel has launched some kind of offensive against Lebanon. In the midst of the coverage of the conflict, CNN did a story about how Christians in the US are heralding these events as a sign of the coming apocalypse (not that Christians haven’t been doing the same during every major world event for the past two thousand years). I was disturbed by this, as such an attitude is an abdication of responsibility to do anything to try to change the situation. It is a cliché to say it, but it is is nonetheless true that people who look for signs and listen to alarmist preachers are contributing to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I turned off the TV and went to bed.

I woke up this morning at about 5:30, and for some reason got up and turned on the TV. CNN was still on the Israel-Lebanon story. Apprently while I slept Israel had killed four UN observers in a bombing raid. I switched to HBO, and this is where things got weird.

“The Devil’s Advocate” was on CNN. It was the scene where Eddie Barzoon gets beaten to death by hobos turned demons. I switched to the next channel only to find “The Ninth Gate.” Next channel, “Warlock.” Next: “Fear Factor” (truly the work of Satan). Finally, and most frighteningly, Cinemax “On Location” was doing a piece on—dare I mention the name—Adam Sandler.

Now, if these selections, all playing concurrently, are not a sign, then I don’t know what is.

I guess it is time to get right with the Lord.

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