I have been mourning the death of George Michael, whose music was quintessential part of my early years and is associated with many happy memories. His death at age 53 (of a heart attack) is a rude reminder of the very short time we have on the planet. I have been listening to some of his music, and reading about him in various publications. Tina Roth Eisenberg, who happens to be as much a fan of his as me, blogged something today from The New York Times interview with the late pop-icon that was published back in 1990:
“It’s my way of trying to figure out why it’s so hard for people to be good to each other. I believe the problem is conditional as opposed to being something inherent in mankind. The media has affected everybody’s consciousness much more than most people will admit. Because of the media, the way the world is perceived is as a place where resources and time are running out. We’re taught that you have to grab what you can before it’s gone. It’s almost as if there isn’t time for compassion.”
As luck would have it, I came across this piece on The New Yorker:
Theodor W. Adorno believed that the greatest danger to American democracy lay in the mass-culture apparatus of film, radio, and television. Indeed, in his view, this apparatus operates in dictatorial fashion even when no dictatorship is in place: it enforces conformity, quiets dissent, mutes thought.
What I find ironic is that the a thinker in the 1950s and a pop-star in 1990 got everything so right, while media industry keeps coming up with explanations that increasingly sound hollow. Media (as an industry and as cultural barometer) has often tried to shift blame to others — cable, Internet, Facebook, Google, Fake News — but seldom takes into account its own role in accelerating the breakdown of social norms and values. It is chasing dollars and attention at any cost which has led to where we are.