Mike Tyson Syndrome and the Media MMA Brawl

By Ahsen Jillani

Monopolies are such great things. Just 60 years back we had two TV channels, two AM radio stations, and of course that hardcopy paper some kid slung into our driveway at 5:30 am. It seemed like the world then was a well-oiled machine of rock-hard facts and solid truths. Our parents read the morning paper with tea, and listened intently to the evening news on TV or radio to maintain their status as well-informed citizens.

Not really. Back in the day, even in my memory, editorial offices of any media were smoky, smelly and crowded places with frequently overweight editors eating burgers and drinking old, burnt coffee. In essence, they were our filters to the world. And although they were less guided by advertising pressures than editors today, their judgment was not always objective.

News was a fixed menu

Not many cities even as late as the 90s had competing papers. I actually encountered that more overseas—and was rather amazed at the disparity between the lead stories, the opinion pages, and even the features. Some editorial boards, it seems, sit down and give priority to important legislative decisions; others, a bomb blast, or mass shooting incident. News was a fixed menu. You ate what the chef cooked.

We can of course debate how those days of respecting editors compare to today. We did not see these eclectic people as the rich elite trying to sway opinions. I and Mr. Smith could discuss a news item from the paper or the evening news and be, literally, on the same page. That has all changed. A viewer of Fox News vs. MSNBC lives in alternate realities. There is really no way to argue about the economy, politics, city hall, or anything for that matter, with somebody in a parallel universe. They haven't heard “your" news—and don't care to.

They pretty much break the rules daily

I have made a lot of mistakes in my life; the biggest one might have been to purchase shoes on Amazon. My radical view on news gathering consists of plugging in everything into my daily news feed, and then trying to make sense out of nonsense. That's where the Mike Tyson Syndrome comes in: People like the President, or the talking heads on the liberal and conservative sides, have a knack for the outrageous—they pretty much break the rules daily, and shock the heck out of you—and chew on the proverbial ear that confuses you in the first place.

Strangely, then the big corporate machinery cranks up to start spinning your head. Okay, I bought shoes. I now have shoes. I didn't need to see more recommended shoes right after I made the purchase decision, and I sure don't need to see shoe ads on Fox, NBC, YouTube, InfoWars, Joe Biden's Website, and on PETA's anti-fur campaign emails. I have shoes now, okay!

I really don't want to save your job

As hardcopy papers shrink and gradually die due to lack of subscribers, you can see the battle moving to the internet. There's nothing that annoys me more than pay-walls that appear on my newsfeed selections. No, I don't want an unlimited digital subscription to the Des Moines Register sitting in North Carolina. And I don't appreciate the shoe ad either. Again, I got shoes now.

Those sites that let you in whine so much about donating to their paper and the appeal is sometimes longer than the story and you want to slam your phone against your head. I really don't want to save your job. You are not a non-profit raising money for the Yemen famine, you are a business.

Some of us are drinking lattes and crying

But the Mike Tyson Syndrome keeps me coming back. I relish the daily illegal activity out of Washington, from the White House to the various departments, and how it's presented to the public by the various media.

Listen to the right wing, and the President just socked it to the criminal immigrants stealing American jobs.

Listen to the left, and there are kids in cages at the border sleeping on cement floors. Some of us are drinking lattes and crying, some of us are eating burgers and waving flags. There are two countries, under God, in this republic now. Is the information age the boxing ring we are all sitting around?

And so it goes: deliver the daily shock (and the shoe ad), and maybe I will hit the subscribe button, and maybe bookmark your site—the site which will of course tell half the story. You see, this is the Wild West, the world of obscene information, and we are riding into Dodge City on a donkey, expecting a warm welcome. Instead, extreme partisanship and brutal advertising, click bait, and chumboxes are dominating our experience with “President tells lie No. 22,000" to “Every Floridian will be dead in two weeks due to mismanaged virus policy."

It's really finally a battle for our souls—what the media wants us to become by being part of the bookmarked partnership, the subscribers, the believers, the purchasers, the clickers of chumboxes that say, “Never eat this vegetable if you want gut health."

And the web keeps spinning around us daily, screaming, “We are the real news! Choose us! Choose us!", until only our arms are somewhat mobile, to use the newest technology, click our credit cards on the phone screen...

...and buy more shoes.

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Ahsen Jillani a former editor and publisher, is originally from Islamabad, Pakistan, and now lives in Mint Hill. He owns Must Media, a PR company focusing on both political and corporate clients.