Bloody Red Meat

When given nuances, they cried

out for bloody red meat, “Give us

bowels, hearts, brains and bones.”

“Give us a fountain of blood wrapped

up in flesh.  We want to butcher and

gorge upon bloody red meat.”

“We will not receive your subtle gifts.

We will dissect them and find them

bloodless.  Give us bloody red meat!”

He said, “Alright!  Sacred cows must be

sacrificed to get what you want.”  They

said, “What?  Our sacred cows?  Never!”

He said, “If it is bloody red meat that

you want, understand that our land is

cracked and dry from a lack of blood upon

our own shores.  Yet, I will still deliver.”

When the sacred cows were slaughtered,

the people screamed and howled for their

losses.  They said to him, “Yes, we wanted

bloody red meat, but we wanted it to be

taken from your skinny bones.” 

He said, “I am afraid that this will not be possible, for you see… change has truly come.”

Alice Parris

Red Meat   2009  (3:30)

Manufactured media “junk food” comes to us in many forms.  I personally watched for months across hundreds of hours of broadcasting on my home TV to grab the bits of content in the video above.  Peripherally, much was learned along the way.  This style of simple cut-and-paste is an example of the most basic kind of TV data aggregation, but it can also be easily manufactured into one of the most dangerous varieties.  It is because this style of montage -- too often simply created by machines for laughs -- is rarely manufactured for healthy, reflexive, critical cognition.  It is, however, what TV late-night shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart now perform so easily and routinely. 

But then, Jon Stewart does not watch and study TV ethnographically.  Instead, worker/writers aggregate video clips conveniently, letting automated scanners (i.e., SnapStream) collect the funny repetitive stuff for them by textually searching keywords embedded in accompanying subtitles (“honeymoon is over”).  Does this help or hinder critical observation and understanding?  Answer: It hinders.

In short, this form of empty-comedy montage entertains by simply lining up several similar clips end-to-end for cynical “gotcha” laughter.  Moreover, when performed repeatedly, night after night, this commercial style of parodic aggregation metastasizes and stupefies media understanding as much as it attempts to entertain, eventually leaving little behind but a sense of emptiness, impotence, stasis... cynicism.

There are important differences between TV comedy/parody manufacturing and critical Cultural Farming aggregation.  For starters, no video-joke on U.S. TV can afford even three minutes of precious air-time to parody one intellectual idea.  No TV program can afford in-depth, longitudinal  (theoretical) contemplation.  No TV audience will attend surreal, uncomfortable videos that stare back at the viewer without punch-line or laugh-track... let alone videos that attempt to teach over entertain.  And importantly, no amount of parody-joke watching on TV can equal the educational impact of creating something more important -- that is, something made individually without preciousness, with simple media tools, for one’s own personal understanding and consumption.  For, indeed, this is how healthy food is grown.... yet it appears we would much rather eat junk food.