Joe Alterio's blog on illustration, comix, design, animation, and other bouts of total awesomeness.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

That's the Whole Story

I was on the East Coast last week, to celebrate my Mom's 60th birthday in Boston, and see my dad in New York. Traveling always screws up my ferocious media consumption schedule: stuffed into my proverbial dog carrier, I'm forced to subsist on a lean mixture of cable news kibble and the occasional internet gruel. Being denied my usually over-the-top levels of wonkish political inspection is a forced starvation diet that's good for me, I think: during this interminable primary debacle fuckshow, I've actually spun out of the newscycle, exhausted, and then come back in...twice. It's the same reason I refuse to get a smart phone: I think if given the opportunity to be connected all the time, I just might drive myself insane. Like every good New Englander, I believe in a healthy dose of denial.

However, not having a completely and totally dissected political view was a boon to me in at least one regard: I was able to see the broad swath of the media narrative in much cleaner sense (er...not "cleaner" in the Joe Biden way.) As with any long, involved subject, being close to it sometimes allows the serrated edges to get in the way, and you lose track of the general direction. And the direction I saw was pretty obvious.

Let me state for the record, for whatever it's worth, that I'm a Barack Obama supporter: but I found it fascinating how the media turned off Clinton's chances like a light switch. For all intents and purposes, Hillary's chances pretty much tanked in early March: even after Pennsylvania, the math just wasn't there for her. The media allowed the horse race to play out because it was good news filler for the 24-hour stations and blog heads, and because, well, that's the way the nominating process works. But something weird happened after North Carolina and Indiana. They just sort of...shut off the switch. Even after Obama took a drubbing in W. Virginia, the NYTimes gave it a blurb below the fold at the bottom of the page: no picture, even.

This isn't a political blog, and I'm not to about blame vast media conspiracy for anything for than following the dog the richest smelling shit. But the fact that it took a bit of distance for me to see the full scope of a media arc was informative, and it began me thinking on a subject that dominates a lot of my mind: who is the taste maker, and where does the influence come from?

Narrative arc, be it for someone's career, political fortunes, or a cause, is a fickle and powerful tool, and is often times disturbingly close to innuendo, rumor, and hearsay. Going green is cool. Bill Clinton ruined his political fortunes. Lindsey Lohan is a drunk, Gary Busey is insane, George Clooney is a cool guy. The Iraq War was the right thing to do until about 2005, and now it was totally the wrong thing to do.
The conventional wisdom, and it's accompanying narrative arc, confuses and titillates me, because it seems such a ridiculous and arbitrary thing, that if harnessed, results in awesome power and riches; I 'spose it's kind of like the Cool Stock Market. The Tao Jones. Heh.

The tastemakers these days, much to the MSM's chargin, now lie firmly in the blogs and netroots, and for that, I'm glad: as someone who's tasted the brief power of a few BoingBoing links, I can attest to the new market's force. I'm not a political expert, and as I said, I didn't follow the web rumble up to the moment that the MSM turned out the light's on Hillary's campaign. But I wonder: what happens when the two don't work in concert?

This gets back to a more germane concept in regards this blog's theme, which is design and art and cartoons and everything in between, and wonder out loud whether there is a push or pull in design and identity, and how that works: does a preconceived notion of Obama as winner cause photographers to photograph him more heroically? Does the prevalence of zombie movies influence our scares about viral diseases, or do the disease scares cause the movies popularity? It's all a very tricky and interconnected labirynth of influence and confusion that I'm not about to pin down definitively. I don't pretend to have the answers. But it sure has been rattling around in brain a lot.

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