Abstractification

Kirn points out that journalism is now purely involuted, purely about other journalism.

The trend started a long time ago. It seemed to coincide with the rebirth of Deepstate in 1946. Before the switch, radio news was realistic, and radio entertainment was empathetic. You could recognize real events in the news, and you could recognize real people doing real things in entertainment.

Radio followed Fibber’s rule. If it couldn’t happen in Peoria, it can’t happen on the show.

Lately I’ve been trying to include some post-1950 radio comedies in my bedtime playlist. It doesn’t work. It’s just TV without pictures. The characters are NYC aliens, not humans. They never make a lick of sense. The phone rings for 5 minutes while the characters speculate about who is calling and why. The man is supposed to be an executive at work, but he doesn’t even know how to be a vague generic executive. He does things no executive would ever do. Mostly he just babbles about nonexistent shit.

At every stupid line I find myself shouting NOBODY EVER DID THAT! NOBODY EVER SAID THAT! ANSWER THE FUCKING DOORBELL! GET TO WORK, DAMMIT!

Not conducive to sleep.

Entertainment has always included an element of the absurd, but radio in the 30s and prewar 40s was much closer to reality and much more empathetic. Scriptwriters, like journalists, had real job experience and knew real people. If you were a mechanic, you wouldn’t shout at the mechanic character. If you were an executive, you wouldn’t shout at the executive character. If you were a housewife, you wouldn’t shout at the housewife character.

The shift was most clearly marked in This is your FBI, officially endorsed and approved by Lady Edgar. The show started in early ’45. Some episodes dealt with famous crimes, easily recognizable despite changed names. All episodes were located in real cities, at realistic addresses. People had realistic ethnic names, and cars were specifically identified. ’39 Hudson, ’41 Buick.

After 1947 the episodes turned abstract. Cities were A Large City Along The Atlantic Seaboard or A Middle-Sized Midwestern City. People had strictly English surnames like Taylor and Parker and Adams. Mayflower names. Not even any Scotch or Irish, let alone Russian or Italian or Jewish. Addresses were 111 Oak Street and 610 Front Street. Cars were A Black Sedan or A Red Convertible Of A Popular Make.

Why would Deepstate want to abstractify all entertainment and news? That’s easy. When you attempt to portray reality, people can check your shit against their own experience. A carpenter can verify your carpenter character, and a Dubuque resident can verify your Dubuque address, even if it’s thinly disguised. When everything is ephemeral and abstract, there’s no possible way to check and verify. You’re free to create new fake realities.

THEORY KILLS. EXPERIENCE SURVIVES.