Monday, January 21, 2008

Fox News and the seXbox

It's funny: when we were young, english teachers made us cite our sources when we presented a paper. Remember that? You had to present facts which backed up your claims. In fact, when I was in high school, way back in 1998, we weren't even allowed to use internet sources. At all! Apparently, my education was a waste. I plan on working in journalism at least part time, and once you're presenting news, truth isn't a concern.

Facts are unnecessary. That's the sad truth of the media today. Nothing you see can be trusted. News isn't about information, it's about entertainment. Bias isn't just tolerated, it's expected. We get partisan nonsense barking rhetoric and catch phrases, and people eat it up. Left versus Right. White versus Black. What gets solved? Absolutely nothing.

You know what I find to be the most absorbing news program? The Daily Show. How sad is that? That my most trusted source of news is a comedian? You know why? Not because it's left leaning(it is), not because I find it funny(it most certainly is), but because, as a comedian, Jon Stewart can present the truth. Comedy comes from two places: absurdity and frustration. The Simpsons is funny because it is silly. Jon Stewart is funny because he points out the emperor's lack of clothes. As Neil Gaiman once wrote, "It is a fool's prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak."

How depressing that in this age of information, a time when we can conduct research that just a few years ago might take hours(if not days), we cannot separate fact from fiction! How pathetic that people believe the opinion of a relative stranger as hard fact. Even worse, we cannot see the difference between the two. We simply accept the first idea presented to us as immutable truth, and belittle anyone who might think differently. We call ourselves adults, and yet we still think like children.

Just hours ago on Fox News — a "news" outlet known in many circles to be biased, partisan, and confrontational — aired a panel "discussion" regarding Mass Effect, a game recently released for the Xbox 360. They declare it to be a virtual sex simulator; even declaring it "shows full digital nudity and sex." Horrifying! Except that it isn't, and it doesn't. No one on the panel, save the token video game journalist, has ever played the game. Which begs the question: who played it? Who at Fox News sat down for thirty-plus hours and completed the game? I'm betting no one. Which makes me wonder if people are aware of a different pastime: the telephone game. I can see the horrified calls along the Conservative Christian Network: "There's a video game that's all about sex, purple monkey dishwasher!"

Instead of intelligent discourse or time-consuming research, we are treated to an off-the-cuff roundtable featuring fear-mongering and blame-throwing. People complaining about having to be parents (hint: in real life, just like in the game, sex is optional. Wish someone had told you that sooner), about how video games will destroy the innocence of latchkey children, and that this game is, in fact, "Luke Skywalker meets Debbie Does Dallas." Is this out-of-touch, ignorant panel a sampling of conservative americans? I start to wonder, have they all emerged from bomb shelters, like Brendan Fraser in the classic film, Blast from the Past? As if in response, a panelist asks: "Whatever happened to Pac-Man?" The same thing that happened to the "Where's the Beef?" Lady. I long for the halcyon days where ten year-olds didn't wear g-strings and shirts that propositioned sex, but that's just me. I get that the world moves on, I shake my head, and I get on with my life. Apparently they didn't get the memo when their parents tried to keep them from listening to the Grateful Dead.

"It's up to parents," a panelist notes, "to control what their children are seeing."

"It is, unfortunately," notes the moderator, "and it makes being a parent a much harder job than it used to be."

I didn't realize parenting was simple before modern video games. I'll have to call my mom and let her know she got off easy.

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