Truth be told, I probably watch more science fiction these days on BBC America or Turner Classic Movies than I do on the Sy Fy Channel,
Woody Bell, who once ran Warner Cable in Fayetteville, told me sometime in the mid-1990s that if he had his way, Fayetteville cable would never be offering the Sci Channel - as Sy Fy was known in those day.
Shocked, I asked him why. I mean, every science fiction fan worth their salt would be flocking to the channel, surely? Isaac Asimov was on their advisory board, for heaven’s sake!
Bell explained that he had nothing against the offerings of the channel, but the high amount of infomercials that ran when there was no actual programming didn’t make it worth much of a buy, in his opinion.
Needless to say, I was aghast. I would gladly have accepted twelve hours of infomercials a day (as long as they were the hours I worked or was asleep) as long I got to watch watch the Sci Fi Channel, damn it!
Later in the 1990s, the Sci Fi Channel came to Fayetteville and there was rejoicing in the land. Classic TV shows mixed with new offerings. The channel seemed a mecca for those who were riddled with creativity.
In recent years, though, the creative folks seem to have been largely banished from the Sy Fy Channel, and in their wake, we find shows about ghost hunters, cute shows that skirt the edge of science fiction (but nothing too troubling) and wrestling.
All of this began well before the move to change the name from Sci Fi to Sy Fy, in an effort to attract more viewers - hey, we’re more than just stuff that challenges the mind! We have wrestling!
It’s a strange mix, ranging from the incredible Battlestar Galactica reboot to reality shows about would-be superheroes, psychics and shows where folks scare their “friends” - and people say that public access schedules range all over the map!
This next season, Sy Fy will be offering viewers a cooking show.
And the movies!
Back in the 1950s a lot of cheesy science fiction and horror movies came out. Sure, they were bad, but they were fun to watch, and there was some honest sincerity in the film-making of many of them.
Like the 1960s Star Trek and Doctor Who, they did the best with what they had.
The crap that the Sy Fy Channel runs on Saturday nights (“The Most Dangerous Night of Television” goes their promotion - well, maybe if you only have only channel and no books to read) is not in that class.
The films that Sy runs are made by producers with nothing but the most abject contempt for the viewers. And by extension, Sy Fy has the same contempt, because they choose to run them.
Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus
Dinocroc vs. Supergator - David Carradine’s last film.
And lest we forget - Mansquito. This film is so truly bad that I have often felt that every TV series on Sy Fy should have Mansquito guest star at least once - if only to remind us of the cruddy network that we are watching.
There are a few interesting series remaining on Sy Fy, but honestly, if it went out of business today, who would truly notice? The shows with a real audience would simply move on to other networks.
And then, one day, real channel devoted to science fiction might emerge from the ashes of the Sy Fy Channel, a glorious channel where none of the executives from the current network would even be allowed in the doors.
Trust us. We’re Experts!
I recently reread Trust Us, We’re Experts! and it infuriates me just as much as it did the first time I read it.
I’m not talking about the writing, nor am I talking about the hard work of the writers, Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, of the Center for Media and Democracy. No, I am talking about the story they tell, the story of how each of us is shamelessly and cynically manipulated by corporate interests who are intent on making a profit at all costs, even if truth and public safety have to be trampled in order to do so.
As this book makes clear, we all have a tendency to rely on “expert opinion,” but how often do we rely on this opinion without actually knowing anything about the source of those opinions? When we watch scientists expounding on the news, or writing in newspapers, or science journals, we want to believe in the sanctity of science. We don’t want to think that men and women of science are capable of prostituting themselves or their institutions for profit.
But, as this book makes so abundantly clear, not only are many scientists willing to make any claims for anybody (if the price is right), many times they are totally unaware not only of who is paying the bills, but of what exactly they are signing their names to.
There seems to be an underlying belief among those who would mold public opinion that the majority are too stupid to make up our minds without “help.” All too often, that help arrives in the form of cleverly designed campaigns, in the words of that great American philosopher Lamont Cranston, “to cloud men’s minds,” in order that truth seems less real than hype, and hype is never doubted.
Think your emotions are being manipulated daily? There is a reason for that. Many corporations employ psychologists who give them advice on the best way to “influence” people.
The use of “third parties” to endorse particular positions, or to attack political or environmental activists is now practically a science. It almost seems as though the chance of a third party, a “watchdog group” or scientists being truly neutral is a thing of the past. Today third party “overseers” are often created out of thin air by business interests.
Often, they have been either handpicked or, in the case of “activist” groups which seem to echo the claims of industry, created out of whole cloth, with nary an actual citizen to be found.
In the 1990s, 13 scientists were paid by tobacco companies to write letters to medical journals. In some cases, the letters written by “scientists” are actually written by public relations firms.
The world of public relations is one in which only “perceptions” are real; actual truth is considered a thing of the past. Once you can accept that absurdity, almost anything is possible.
As the old saying goes, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. It can be amusing to read the antics of PR firms in their attempt to delude the public, and themselves, that the truth is only a matter of perception. When it comes to the health of innocent people, suddenly it isn’t funny anymore, and the essentially amoral nature of these PR firms becomes all too patently clear.
Yes, this book infuriates me, because it reveals the deep contempt so many have for the average men and women of the world. Buy this book, share my anger, and then buy it for someone else. Then, let’s do something about it.
Quote of the Day
Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too hard to read. - Groucho Marx