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SOUPY SALES, FACEBOOK, BREXIT, AND TRUMP: WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT - AUGUST, 2018

If your family in the USofA owned a television in the early days of broadcasting and as a child you were given the opportunity to watch it, you had many shows to choose from. They're considered classics now. Generally shown during late afternoons or on the weekends, kid shows included Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Leave It to Beaver, Sky King, The Lone Ranger, Father Knows Best, Zorro, Make Room for Daddy, and a bunch more. Simple tales for a simpler time.

I didn't really enjoy the most popular kid shows that featured puppets. I was too young for Kukla, Fran and Ollie and too old for Lamb Chop.  But there was one show that featured puppets and a couple who lived in a pot-bellied stove and giant talking dogs and a guy with a big bow tie. That guy was Soupy Sales and the show was Lunch with Soupy Sales and it was positively revolutionary. Check out this clip. It's eight minutes long. Settle in for some silliness.


Other than the fact that this clip always makes me laugh out loud, there's a good bit of gentle subversion going on here. This was the mid 1960s. Did you notice the offhand dig at the military draft at the time of the Vietnam War? And Soupy was a great lover of jazz. Most folks outside of Detroit don't know that at the same time that Soupy spent his days entertaining kids (and their hip parents) on local TV when he was just starting out, at night he hosted a comedy show that featured all of the great jazz artists coming through Detroit, at the time a true jazz mecca. Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Stan Getz, Milt Jackson, Charlie Parker, and Clifford Brown were among those who appeared. I've read that Miles Davis was on Soupy's show five times. So in the above clip, on a kids show, you have an Oscar Peterson jazz piece kicking off a sketch and a John Lee Hooker blues tune finishing it off. In the middle, a pun about the draft. Heady stuff for network television back in the day.

Once we realized some years later that network television had settled into its rightful place as the home of police procedurals and reality programming, we turned to the internet. Facebook. It was new. It was hip. The kids were into it. So, like a granny wearing skinny jeans and high-heeled sandals to the beach accompanied by her Speedo-attired husband with his gut hanging out over his junk, we pretended that we were hip, too. And in the process, we chased out the kids who were the ones who made Facebook hip in the first place. They've gone elsewhere. But we're still on Facebook, posting videos of our cats, of our grandchildren, and of the signs that we waved at that march last week against (or for) something or other.

And with the onslaught of adults, politics are taking over Facebook. And like Bexit and Trump, lots of what's being said doesn't make much sense. For instance, I'm an old-fashioned liberal Democrat. I don't know what a neo-liberal is. Every time that someone tries to explain it to me, it comes out sounding like a neo-liberal is really a conservative. On one Facebook post, Margaret Thatcher was described to me as a neo-liberal. I can hear her laughing. About the only thing liberal about Thatcher was her liberally-voiced contempt for liberalism. So you can call me what you want. I'm a liberal. Period.

And that's what's really important. You can say anything about anything or anybody on Facebook and the only filters are the comments, ranting for and against, often hidden from view. A red bus proclaiming that Brexit would add £461 million per week to NHS funding found its way all over the internet, seen by millions more people than could ever have seen that bus in person. Does anybody today really think that, after Brexit, the NHS will suddenly find itself fully funded? Trump showed up at a factory in Indiana during the Presidential campaign and told the workers that he would save their jobs. I saw a clip of his speech on Facebook. The company moved operations to Mexico anyway. Do those workers get to change their vote?

Let's be clear. As much as we enjoy Facebook, as much as it has enriched our lives with videos of kittens wrestling with parrots, it has also been used by folks with less benign motives. In fact, even the most well-intentioned among us have been known to disseminate incomplete, confusing, or downright false information. But there are those of us, completely taken with this new communal toy, who will believe without reservation that there's a pedophile ring operated by Hillary Clinton located under a pizzeria in Washington DC. I understand from some of my English friends that there are those who would be perfectly happy with Boris as PM. What are we going to do with people like that? Just yesterday, Trump's lawyer said, "Truth isn't truth." That's straight out of 1984 or Animal Farm.

Look. I get it. It's not Facebook's fault that people believe lies and that pernicious governments, our own or those of our enemies, take advantage social media for their own ends. But seriously. What are we going to do about it? I don't know. Do you?



 


Comments

  1. Morning Ira,

    Enjoyed the Soupy Sales vid which brought back a lot of silly memories for me!

    Thinking about your ending comment, “What are we going to do about it?” And I’ve been
    wondering about that as well. For me, it was elimating any news feeds and anything political
    on Facebook. I hardly post on it anymore and contemplating closing my account.
    I’ve just ordered a book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World—And Why Things Are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling. Helps that Obama and Gates recommended this book! So that’s part of my start to addressing
    Us vs. Them in today’s social media world.

    Thanks for all your thoughtful posts! Carry on bravely! Paula


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words. I alternate between confronting Facebook foolishness or ignoring it. I try to remember what Abe Lincoln said. "No one ever won a political argument on Facebook." But it doesn't always help.

      Delete

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