Entertainment Replacing Reality

My long-shot pitch to run MSNBC six months earlier included livening up our often staid news programming, making it feel more immediate, urgent and, dare I say it, entertaining. ...
Fox was cleaning our clocks in the ratings....
...Mr. Ailes would pick one or two “hot” stories, add numerous live guests and stick to that story throughout the day. Many cable viewers, it turned out, were not interested in television news’s bread and butter — a diverse newscast of multiple dispassionate stories — no matter how important. Despite what they might tell pollsters, viewers were clearly looking for a great yarn, and Mr. Ailes knew how to spin one. ...
Mr. Ailes was equally adept at knowing what not to cover. It was around this time that the American public was becoming increasingly disillusioned, even despondent over the war in Iraq. So while MSNBC and CNN were focusing on the challenges and failures of the war, Fox covered the story far less often, and when they did so, in a far more sanguine way, highlighting successes from the field.
That was... practical because it wasn’t nearly as depressing. ...
During my time running the network, I never really competed with Roger Ailes. I just tried my best to emulate his type of television. To some degree, so has everyone else.
- Dan Abrams, What It Was Like to Compete Against Roger Ailes and Fox News, NYT, July 23, 2016

In her article ‘Sully’ Is Latest Historical Film to Prompt Off-Screen Drama, Christine Negroni illustrates how the desire to provide better entertainment is likely to distort people's view of reality:

The film industry has a long history of taking liberties with true stories, but Hollywood has relied much more heavily on the practice in recent years. Phrases like “based on a true story” give studio marketers a hook to grab ticket buyers — an increasingly difficult task given the number of alternative entertainment options, particularly online. ...
The film suggests that the N.T.S.B. thought the pilots probably could have safely returned to the airport. The investigators in the movie base this assumption on a series of flights in an A320 simulator at the company headquarters in Toulouse, France.

Presented with this information, Mr. Hanks’s Captain Sullenberger tells the investigators they have failed to account for the time it would take the pilots in an actual situation to react to the event. Subsequent simulations are then conducted and, when the additional reaction time is factored in, the plane crashes before reaching the airport. Only then are the movie investigators forced to re-evaluate their position.

In reality, there were no subsequent simulations conducted at Captain Sullenberger’s suggestion. There was no need. Before the safety board presented its findings to the real Captain Sullenberger at a public hearing, it had already conducted its simulations both ways and found that the plane did indeed crash when the “human factor” — the added reaction time — was accounted for.

Negroni reports that

Allyn Stewart, a producer of the film, said it was not a case of taking creative license to ratchet up the drama. ...
Ms. Stewart, the producer, indicated that the pilot’s and co-pilot’s perceptions of the inquiry were just as valid as the version presented by the investigators.

“It’s not a documentary,” Ms. Stewart said. “But at the same time it needs to be an authentic view of what Sully and Jeff experienced, and this was what they faced. This was what they went through.”
- Christine Negroni, ‘Sully’ Is Latest Historical Film to Prompt Off-Screen Drama, NYT, Sept. 9, 2016

When Tom Friedman loses hope, that makes me feel even worse than I thought possible. And Trump hasn't even stepped into the job he is so utterly unprepared to handle. Why are the Americans who voted for him not concenred with this man's total lack of self-awareness and restraint? Because he reflects them. The dumbing down of the US has been taking place for quite awhile. Making fun of President Obama's intellectual prowess was a sport for a pea-brain like Palin, and others of her ilk. And the crowds loved it. Their attention span fits perfectly with the tweets that spew out from Trump tower. Give them simple, nasty, mean retorts and they eat it up. Even the media can't help themselves. Every time Trump tweets, they jump. Why wouldn't he continue to keep it up? You reward a child for bad behavior and what do you expect? Only this child will be like the one in a macabre episode of The Twilight Zone. He'll destroy the world.
- HJV1803 US Virgin Is, comment on Thomas Friedman, Retweeting Donald Trump, NYT, Jan. 18, 2017

The New York Review of Books is now publishing comic books:

We are pleased to offer two options this year in the NYR Comics Book Club. Each set includes six acclaimed books from our series—one sent every other month, with free shipping anywhere within the United States. ...
[For instance:]
Soft City
by Hariton Pushwagner, with an introduction by Chris Ware
“Astonishing… one of the season’s best new graphic novels” – The New York Times
by Mark Beyer, with an introduction by Colson Whitehead
“These are some of my favorite comics of all time” – Daniel Clowes
Retail price: $161.70
Book Club price: $125 (23% off)
- Email ad from The New York Review of Books (newsletters@nybooks.com), Dec. 6, 2017

And this:

Perhaps our penchant for pills, our restlessness, our desire for less pain, better sexual functioning, less emotional turmoil, is also a deep desire to get better acquainted with our unconscious life? And perhaps not. Last night, I dreamed of a one-eyed guinea pig—and I still haven’t figured out why, even though I’ve been doing this for twenty years now. And the night before, my partner and I had the same dream, after discussing wanting to have the same dream, which, in one sense, is uncanny, and, in another sense, is an unconscious joke—the unconscious likes to joke, and it’s oh-so-funny—except for the fact that what we both dreamed about was death in the form of the ashes of the other that we were forced to eat. Love and mourning as cannibalism. My unconscious added another joke to this joke: the ashes I was to eat were in the form of toast, which is itself an idiom for death. Ash toast: hilarious. But I had also just found out that my aunt, who lives in Ashville, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Sleep of death, indeed.
- Jamieson Webster, The Psychopharmacology of Everyday Life, New York Review of Books, November 19, 2018

Another challenge facing “Gushi FM” is that the show is firmly rooted in reality, warts and all, at a time when many Chinese are looking to tune out daily anxieties. That desire has fueled a surge in escapist entertainment like online live-streaming, Korean television dramas and blogs that churn out feel-good clickbait content. ...
For many Chinese, learning about social ills while knowing that little can be done to solve them can feel like a needlessly depressing endeavor.
- Amy Qin, In China, a Podcast Inspired by ‘This American Life’ Gives Voice to the Real, NYT, May 12, 2019

Almost every single teenage boy in America — 97 percent — plays video games, while about 83 percent of girls do, according to the Pew Research Center.

In many states, gaming counts as a team sport and can earn players a varsity letter. Colleges offer scholarships to elite gamers, and cities are racing to establish professional teams. The industry is enormously profitable, generating over $43 billion in revenue last year in the United States. ...
At DreamHack, the festival in Atlanta, many parents accompanying their children described how confusing it was to keep track of the various chats and streams their young gamers use.

“We’re not gamers, so we’re relying on our son to tell us about how it all works, which is probably naïve,” said John Marshall of Tuscaloosa, Ala., whose 17-year-old son was competing at the festival with his high-school gaming team.
- NELLIE BOWLES and MICHAEL H. KELLER, Video Games and Online Chats Are ‘Hunting Grounds’ for Sexual Predators, NYT, DEC. 7, 2019

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