Eventually I lost track of how many “10 Best/10 Worst” lists I slogged through at the end of 2011. Suffice to say none of them covered the stuff that I consider critical to maintaining, A: A functioning democracy in our troubled times, B: The possibility of victory in the eternal struggle between intelligence and bullshit-lubricated shilling, and C: My sanity.
Hence, my annual list of “Ten Things That’d Go Down Today, if I Were King, God Damn It.”
1: Hear ye, hear ye … in our modern hyper-connected, Google-ized, information at the tap of a smart phone wonderland there is no reason — none at all — to but up with the astonishing bombardment of fact-free bullshit in what passes as “news” programming. Therefore and henceforth, all cable, satellite and broadcast programming purporting to be/marketing itself as “news”, be it “reported” or “personality driven” shall be placed on a 30 second delay. During that delay a “Truth Squad” of a half-dozen or so techno-geeks will run a check on all statements presented as fact. The results will run in a constant banner at the bottom of the screen. For example, when Sean Hannity says, “Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim with a secret proto-Socialist appeasement agreement with the Iranian ayatollahs”, the banner beneath him would read: “Nothing about this statement bears any resemblance to reality. As usual, Sean is completely full of shit.”
2: The aforementioned “Truth Squads” would be paid for a by … A Tax on Perfidy. Monetary fines adjusted in proportion to audience size at that moment would be channeled back into the system, steadily adding more and more fact-checkers. For example, if Brian Williams describes Mitt Romney as “an executive with an unequivocal history of job creation”, NBC would pay a fine of say one cent per viewer. Assuming an audience of 13 million, that’d be $130,000 into the fact-checker hiring kitty.
3. Computing power would also be deployed in removing the single biggest obstacle to Congressional Gridlock … gerrymandered, incumbent-protected redistricting. All pertinent data would be fed into Watson the Monolithic Deep Blue Number Cruncher which after a few seconds of humming and blinking would spit out 435 new Congressional districts with no consideration whatsoever of protecting the careers of the incumbents who have signed the most oaths, pledges, vows and taken the most four-star dinners with Big Pharma lobbyists.
4: Recognizing that Newt Gingrich has had at least one good idea … Lincoln-Douglas style debates … it is hereby ordered that the top 12 leaders of the two major parties submit themselves to a regular, free-form debate process … with the wild card that the debates be moderated by acknowledged experts in the subject matter at hand. For example, by the luck of the draw Eric Cantor would be required to appear in debate with say, Chuck Schumer, on the topic of government deficits, moderated by Joseph Stiglitz and Simon Johnson. Live. Two hours. No toilet breaks. No under-the-suit wiring. No microscopic ear buds.
5: Jazzed by the success of the Tax on Perfidy funded Truth Squads, I hereby order a similar … Tax on Brain Sucking Inanity. Scrolling through the current 500 channel TV universe is one of the most profoundly depressing exercises imaginable. Cajun pawn shops. Swamp coots ‘rasslin’ alligators. Functionally illiterate yobs and gimbals shrieking insults and throwing drinks, talentless society bimbos with freakish hypo-plumped lips and no instinct for decorum carving up each other’s egos … and Sean Hannity. Lost tribes of the Amazon are better served by their signal drum media. Hence, another per viewer tax for every … tattoo, Botox injection, absence of teeth, faux hawk, catty knife-in-the-kidney remark and reference to anything Kardashian. Billions will accumulate in a single week.
6: Similarly, based on the astonishing response to Your King’s mandatory debate decree, it is hereby ordered that as a condition of any candidate filing for state-wide or national public office they be publicly vetted by a similar panel of acknowledged experts in the fields of foreign policy, tax policy, economics, American history and, if necessary the difference between a Kleenex and a paper towel. Live. Two hours. Not that brains matter, of course. But the likelihood of a sheer public humiliation might at least spare us six months of Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.
7: In addition to a (far) more enlightened, skeptical and informed political media Your King hereby decrees on an infusion of similar virtues into the realm of …. business reporting. Since money is the only thing that matters, each public relations profile masquerading as journalism must be off-set with a persistent stream of curiosity into any endeavour making disproportionate profits in any industry. Or … any industry making disproportionate profits amid recessionary collapse. Similarly the CEOs of such companies must submit themselves for public cross-examination by a panel of indisputably skeptical journalists. The phrase “shareholder value” is NOT an acceptable explanation for gross violation of labor and environmental laws.
8: The next variation on “Lost” — like this “Alcatraz” series for example — must have an ending written and filed in a safe deposit box prior to the airing of the pilot episode. Granted, anyone with two neurons left in operating condition shouldn’t be watching network TV. But Your Royal Highness is not pleased — to the point of going all Henry VIII — on the next Hollywood slickster who sucks us in to a “Twin Peaks”/”X-Files”/”Lost” puzzle drama … without the faintest attempt to tie the loose ends together and make sense of years worth of tantalizing sub-plots. If not beheading, The King is seriously considering yet another tax.
9: Noting the $10 million spent on television advertising prior to the absurdly unrepresentative Iowa caucuses — which drive fewer low-information religious crazies to their caucus sites than fans to the average Ohio State-Michigan football game — The King correctly senses that this maelstrom of nutbaggery is a boon only to the Pizza Ranches and TV stations of Iowa. Unable to think up anything punitive enough for Pizza Ranch managers, the windfall income to (mostly corporate-owned) TV stations shall be (bitch) slapped with a 50% surcharge, or $5 million in this year’s cycle, which will be re-distributed to public schools for courses in critical thinking.
10: Finally, Your King recognizes that royalty such as his is a residual quality from the Dark Ages … not that that bothers him all that much. But just because we wallow like happy swine in this rank sewer of Kardashian-Hannity-Swamp People-botox-wives-of-New Jersey effluent doesn’t mean we have to spend as much time as we will this year counting down to the end of the Mayan calendar. Bug-eyed jeremiads will be heard all about the land. But The King hereby decrees that he finds prophets of doom-for profit tedious … and usually in arrears on their taxes. Therefore they shall all be arrested by The King’s Bullshit Police and given the choice of either summary beheading (The King’s preference) or being caged in broken elevator for the next 12 months with a Kardashian and … Sean Hannity. (After a week the knaves will plead for the guillotine.)
That is all. Now, back to the fields with you.