LOLOLOL THAT GUY DIED

We talk all the time about the level of ignorance Americans bring to the table with respect to our major social, political, and economic problems. The problems that result are obvious – we will never find our way toward a sane economic policy when Americans overwhelmingly believe that they are egregiously overtaxed and that 50% of the budget is spent on "welfare" and foreign aid. For the most part, our lack of information is our own fault and stems from a fundamental lack of interest in politics (or, arguably, an inability to tolerate how awful and unrepresentative the political process is). But the media must bear some share of the responsibility, given how hard they work to make sure that you are able to ignore reality even while they're reporting on it.

One of the best examples is a spate of stories in 2003 about the use of the "Barney and Friends" theme song – undoubtedly a most cloying, nerve shattering piece of music – being used by American defense and intelligence services to facilitate the interrogation of detainees and prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. A variety of music, mostly heavy metal but also including poor Barney, would be played continuously and at ear splitting volume to disrupt the sleep and sanity of people housed primarily in cages or metal shipping containers. In the U.S., morning talk shows and evening Talking Head shows alike got several days of cheap laughs out of it. "As all of you parents out there already know," Chip would say to Mindy, "being forced to listen to the Barney song certainly qualifies as torture!" Ha ha ha. Hilarity all around.

The thing is, uninterrupted exposure to music played at jet engine volume for days on end is effectively a form of torture, or at the very least in the gray area between torture and interrogation. It has been proven to have serious short- and long-term psychological effects and should hardly be taken lightly. But the media were more than happy to make a joke out of it for you. The cold reality – "Your government is torturing people." – is glossed over and turned into a throwaway laugh line – "If you had to listen to Barney, you'd go crazy too! Am I right, folks?" No need to think about the issue more seriously, or anymore at all. Here's Tom with Sports.

Over the past two weeks we have seen dozens of stories about the real life "zombie apocalypse", i.e. one guy eating another guy's face off in Miami. The story is presented in flawless Hearst style, blending the man-bites-dog and news-of-the-weird formats. You kids like the zombie and vampire shit, right? You parents are scared of black people and drugs, right? Well then you're gonna love this! This dude got his fuckin' face eaten off! It's like Walking Dead or something! Ha!

Bizarre acts of violence like this, perpetrated by people who are obviously disturbed, speak to the underlying reality that we have a staggering number of mentally ill people wandering around in this society with a deteriorating mental health care system and social safety net in place to deal with them. Since the 1980s, when state mental hospitals were emptied out with patients given little more than a bus ticket to the nearest city with a homeless shelter, we have devoted progressively fewer resources to what should be a very obvious social problem. People getting burned out on hard drugs, sleeping on a bridge in the middle of the afternoon (as the "zombie" victim was), or wandering the streets in a state of psychosis are not laughing matters here in reality. But when something happens to prevent us from completely ignoring these social problems, we have to find some way to make a joke or meme out of them to shield ourselves from having to take it seriously.

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35 Responses to “LOLOLOL THAT GUY DIED”

  1. xynzee Says:

    "because a child watches 1500 murders before he's
    twelve years old and we wonder why we've created
    a Jason generation that learns to laugh
    rather than to abhor the horror"
    – Michael Franti

    That about covers it.

  2. Crocodile Chuck Says:

    "Since the 1980s, when state mental hospitals were emptied out with patients given little more than a bus ticket to the nearest city with a homeless shelter…"

    Actually, this began in the '50's. Google 'thorazine'; read the 'History' section.

  3. Joe Max Says:

    As I remember it, the emptying and closing of the majority of mental health hospitals was not only driven by the Reagan administration, but was also aided and abetted by a burgeoning mental patient's rights movement, primarily from the civil-libertarian Left. It is unethical and unconstitutional, it was argued, that a citizen can be denied liberty indefinitely and subjected to treatment merely on the basis of a doctor's diagnosis or a judge's order based on that diagnosis.

    (That the citizen in question plainly socially dysfunctional, unable to hold a job or support him or herself, and regularly has conversations with demons which picking invisible spiders from their bodies, is beside the point!)

    So the Reagan gang said, "Sounds great, we didn't want to pay for all that expensive medical care for crazy people anyway!"

  4. localnebula Says:

    The mental healthcare system in this country is fucking terrible. Even if, like me, you have insurance and the ability to pay, it's insanely difficult to get in to get treatment unless you're involuntarily committed. I'm bipolar (unmedicated for a while, because fuck Depakote) and a few other things, and am currently going through the fun experience of trying to get a psychiatrist. Right now, it's looking like 2-4 months for a first appointment, a month into looking in a mid-sized city. I joked that successfully navigating the obstacle course to treatment is proof someone isn't seriously depressed or inhibited by mental illness, but, you know, ha ha people who actually need help can't get it even if they have the means. (And if you don't have the means, then fuck you, because Freedom

  5. Wareq Says:

    http://mattbors.com/archives/880.html

  6. Joe Max Says:

    "People getting burned out on hard drugs, sleeping on a bridge in the middle of the afternoon (as the "zombie" victim was), or wandering the streets in a state of psychosis are not laughing matters here in reality."

    So the perfect solution is what? In many cases, outpatient programs aren't effective, many simply don't show up and don't take their meds. They need to be in a hospital setting. So when we find someone wandering around in a state of psychosis, do we "arrest" them? If the idea is to use newly re-opened psychiatric hospitals to treat them, isn't that tantamount to arrest and imprisonment "for their own good?" Aren't mental hospitals "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" nightmares of torture and degradation? What stops an unscrupulous government (is there any other kind?) from abusing this power to lock people up indefinitely for being "crazy?"

    These were all arguments made against compulsory psychiatric treatment thirty years ago. Would we not hear them again if the mental institutions that were closed were re-opened?

  7. Fiddlin' Bill Says:

    While the public's responsibility for finding out the truth remains constant even in a hall of mirrors, it's also true that the mainstream media is failing the public in this task on a daily basis, and that there are hundreds of so-called pundits toiling constantly to spin the so-called news in the direction of a general belief that government is incapable, across the board. This propaganda effort has been going on apace since the advent of Reagan's administration, and has gained traction with every generation since. (The idea of a Glenn Beck television show in 1990 would be nothing short of incredible, for example.) We have allowed Lord Haw Haw into the living room, and codified that "decision" with the repeal of the balance rule under Reagan. Indeed, now "fair and balanced" is an utter joke and an obvious lie–and this measures the terrible distance we have already fallen. So–just sayin'–the public's responsibility here is being countered by a very powerful force in the service of misunderstanding and outright demagogery.

  8. c u n d gulag Says:

    The Soviets used to put dissidents in mental hospitals, on the premise that, "If they can't see how great our Soviet system is, and how happy everyone else around them is, then they must be crazy!"

    Before getting out of the USSR in 1980, in my brother-in-laws family, his father, sister, and some uncles got that "treatment" in the 60's and 70's – and yes, there ARE long-term ramifications to putting non-insane people into mental institutions. They're crazy now, if they weren't then.

    And our MSM here is controlled by 6 corporations, who want people to be ignorant – real information might upset people.
    So, many of our punTWITS aren't as stupid as we think they are – they're paid very well, and have great benefits, for being obtuse at best, or lying, propagandizing assholes at worst.
    And the don't want to blow a nice gig like that by telling the truth, now do they?

    Oh, and when/if the American Conservatives DO gain power, look for them to go to the Soviet system (they so feared – but obkick more mentally unbalanced people out on the street – to be replaced with American dissidents.
    After all, "If they can't see how great our Conservative system is, and how happy everyone else around them is, then they must be crazy!"

  9. c u n d gulag Says:

    FSM, my laptop keep feckin' wid me!

    That 2nd to last paragraph should read:
    "Oh, and when/if the American Conservatives DO gain power, look for them to go to the Soviet system (the one they so feared – but obviously also greatly admired), and kick more mentally unbalanced people out on the street – to be replaced with American dissidents.

    After all, "If they can't see how great our Conservative system is, and how happy everyone else around them is, then they must be crazy!"

  10. anotherbozo Says:

    @ c u n d:

    I keep thinking of the old definition of media content as "advertising delivery systems," ie, just filler between commercials, designed to put the viewer/reader into the right frame of mind (or mindlessness) to take the ads at face value.

    That definition sustained me for years, until I realized that those media corporations are not indifferent to content. They have agendas, thank you very much. They are the 1% of the 1%. They are Murdochs.

    Isolated crimes keep us entertained. And sell cars! And keep us from paying attention to large-scale patterns of criminality.

  11. ladiesbane Says:

    The 24-hour news cycle generation needs constant updates, but doesn't want more information than will fit in a headline. People apparently think the only issues complicated enough to merit paragraphs of text are the Helen Lovejoy-esque appeals to emotion that can't be Snopes'ed off of Facebook. (My least favorite right now says that a single-term Congressional rep gets full salary for life, full free medical care for life, and a rich pension without contribution — all while cutting military benefits. Won't someone PLEASE think of the children?)

    There is a lack of fact checking, a blind trust in blatantly unreliable sources, and a desire to be emotionally whipped up that altogether worry me. Do fourth graders no longer get worksheets explaining the difference between Fact and Opinion? Are kids no longer taught scientific methods? Or are children just plugged into televisions from day one and turned into passive learners, swallowing whatever comes out of the glass teat?

    It would explain a lot.

  12. Nan Says:

    One major reason for emptying the public mental hospitals and the institutions for caring for mentally handicapped persons was they were horrible places where patients tended to be warehoused, neglected, and abused. Back when Geraldo Rivera was still a journalist, he made his reputation by exposing the conditions at a state institution (the Willowbrook School) in New York. There was a drive to replace those large hospitals with more humane treatment options, e.g., group homes. Unfortunately, the hospitals got shut down but they were never replaced, at least not on the levels needed. End result? Mental patients with no where to go but the streets.

  13. Xynzee Says:

    @ladies: do you really want an answer to that ? ;)

    @Joe: while the civil liberties issues are important and it was politically/financially expedient for states and counties to address these "civil liberties" by emptying the hospitals, that's not the point of Ed's piece.
    It's as long as we continue to make jokes about a very real person, with very real mental health problems, we will fail to look for alternatives to just dumping these people on the streets to fend for themselves. The current solution of just shooting them when they really snap probably isn't the best way forward, wouldn't you say?

    My brother's Ph.D was on how to get someone, who firmly believes that their meds are made of human body parts, to take their meds.

    Of course emptying out the mental health hospitals seems to have worked to the benefit of the GOP. Most of the base seems to have tenuous, at best, grasp of reality as we know it. If anyone else, in a different time period, were to display the levels of delusional paranoia that the Beckster or Bachmiester display they would have been locked up for their own good. Instead, the GOP gives them both a microphone and a platform to stand on and encourage them.

  14. Grumpygradstudent Says:

    Yeah, it wasn't so much much the closing of the hospitals as it was the failure to follow up the transition to community-based care with appropriate funding. Much like high rise public housing, the state mental health hospitals probably had something of a bad rap compared to the reality. Some were terrible, many were not great, but the terrible ones established the reputation for all of them. Anyway, as others have pointed out, closing them and moving to a community-based care approach was probably not such a bad idea, but that requires at least as much if not more funding than running the hospitals. Which (shocker!!) failed to materialize. Which is actually what happened when they tore down the high rise public housing towers, come to think of it.

  15. xynzee Says:

    @another:
    "That definition sustained me for years, until I realized that those media corporations are not indifferent to content. They have agendas, thank you very much. They are the 1% of the 1%. They are Murdochs."

    At least in the States there enough size and diversity that some where there's a broadsheet that may actually buck the trend.

    Down here we have two newspaper companies. One is Rupe, the other is this:

    http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/labor-rejects-greens-push-to-curtail-rinehart-20120619-20l5l.html

    Talk about WASF!

    In fact Gina bought into Fairfax *specifically* to spin news in favour of mining.

  16. Joe Max Says:

    "Community-based care" means what, exactly? The trouble is, if the care is based on voluntary compliance, a lot of people with mental health problems simply aren't going to show up.

    The point is, would these group homes be compulsory? Because otherwise, a large percentage of the patients will simply walk away and never come back.

    As a teenager, I spent a summer as a Red Cross volunteer (a "candy striper", so to speak) at Dorthea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, NC. This was the late 1960s, so some of the wards did, in fact, resemble the hospital depicted in "Cuckoo's Nest." And many of the patients there were indistinguishable from many disturbed homeless people wandering the streets today. But I never saw any "Big Nurse" types there, no sadistic caregivers, but many dedicated health care workers.

    Yes, in many cases it was simply a matter of "warehousing" the patients, because even with anti-depressants it was obvious that, left to live on their own, they would end up homeless and walking the streets. How is the "warehousing" less compassionate than that? They needed 24/7 monitoring and care. Chronic Dissociative Personality Disorder is in many ways indistinguishable from advanced Alzheimer's Disease. Would you turn out Alzheimer's patients to the street on the basis of their civil rights?

  17. bb in GA Says:

    I have worked in a Christian ministry with addicts, homeless, and ex-offenders (overlapping constituencies) for the better part of the last 10 years. It is appalling how difficult it is work the levers of the 'system' to help people get SS disability.

    I understand the Reagan administration tightened the screws on that program to where you are automatically rejected the first couple times you apply. (Why haven't you Lefties undone that when you had the power?)

    There are scammers, but it is truly sad how many years it takes to get some help for legitimately sick and hurting people.

    Of course, I have no problem with private support and prefer it, but the program is there, by law, and it's just so damn hard to access it.

    //bb

  18. xynzee Says:

    @Joe:
    "Would you turn out Alzheimer's patients to the street on the basis of their civil rights?"
    Excellent point.

    There was an article on HuffPo last week about ageing prisoners in the prison population.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/elderly-inmate-population-soars_n_1594793.html

    The idea is that these people who have spent most of their lives behind bars usually on fairly minor offences (e.g. three strikes), now in their 55+ are effectively no longer a threat to society. That as they age they will cost more to keep locked up due to health needs associated with ageing…

    So what's the solution?

    Here's someone who's spent all of their productive years behind bars, they have not had the ability to earn towards even a meagre pension/retirement let alone a savings. They are no longer employable as they're too old and have added health issues that someone who's never dealt with incarcerated individuals could ever imagine. After years of being institutionalised they can no longer function on their own and probably have minimal family networks to watch out for them as most ageing persons do (i.e. children), and many ageing people have trouble enough not falling prey to assorted grifters as it is.

    Something the "lock 'em up and throw away the key" crowd hadn't thought of when they introduced their policies eh?

    Given the circumstances, it's probably far better for them to spend their last years with access to housing, food and healthcare. To do otherwise would most likely sentence them to a very short brutal end.

  19. xynzee Says:

    @bb: The best kind of private support is actually family, as I'm sure you'd agree. My cousin wasn't about to turn her severely mentally disabled daughter over to state care. She has paid an enormous cost (not just in terms of financial outlay either).

    Unfortunately, not everyone… for lack of a better term, "has what it takes to do so". Many families are in marginal state for various reasons, and are unable to care for the "healthy" members let alone a member with special needs. This requires good community services to assist families in these situations. Even in Biblical times when families were "strong" (before the gay whales started demanding being able to marry ants as they are today), we have evidence of families not taking care of their own e.g. the invalid at the pool (John 5). So we see that even historically the sick have always been left to their own devices.

    A kiwi mate's brother spent years wandering about NZ in and out of psychosis. After their parents died he was able to set his brother up in a house with money their father left them. He's now settled and the community services and my mate check in on him regularly. Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to have what my friend's brother has and is at a point where he knows he needs to take his meds.

    As for why the Lefties haven't repealed Reagan's tightening the screws on SS? Because the Ds have spent years as a bunch of soft cocks. All the Rs had to do was whisper "Commie" in their general direction and turned into a bunch of roaches when the kitchen light goes on. The whole charge of socialism has pretty much dominated the discussion since Obama was voted in. That and his "anti-business" stances. Though, Clinton's take down of West was needed. They've also spent years worried what the MSM would say about a policy that would make it easier for people to rort the syst… er I mean get assistance.

  20. mel in oregon Says:

    mental illness, whether caused by inherited conditions, brain damage, drug use, torture, the stress of combat, spousal abuse, childhood abuse or something else is no laughing matter. you can never expect the corporate media to have a very enlightened attitude about it. assume most newcasters if male to have the intelligence of your average, pampered, wealthy fratboy at an ivy league college. if female, assume she has the intelligence of your average playboy bunny. you'll be pretty damn close. if talking to your average citizen, assume they are the stupidest person you have met in the last 30 years. again you won't be far off. try not to talk over their head. use phrases like, "i ain't never heard that before", or "if english was good enough for jesus, it's good enough for me."

  21. Anonymouse Says:

    xynzee The best kind of private support is actually family, as I'm sure you'd agree. My cousin wasn't about to turn her severely mentally disabled daughter over to state care. She has paid an enormous cost (not just in terms of financial outlay either).

    My family is in a similar boat with a profoundly mentally handicapped (estimated mental age somewhere between 9 and 18 months), but physically healthy (6-ft 2, 350 pounds and strong as an ox) and physically dangerous (no impulse control, no filters) family member. There is no safety net for this individual who has been on the waiting list for a group home for 22 years now, and could easily live 50 more years. The toll its taken on the family is profound, both in health and earning potential, because someone has always got to be around to watch the handicapped individual who has no set sleeping pattern and cannot be house-trained.

    The kindest thing would be a secure residential placement with round-the-clock care, but that's beyond any family's means (well maybe not the Romney's) to private-pay, and insurance sure as heck isn't gonna cover it. Thanks, Reagan, for shutting down the safe facilities and streeting the inmates!

  22. anotherbozo Says:

    @xynzee: "At least in the States there enough size and diversity that some where there's a broadsheet that may actually buck the trend."

    Well, sure, somewhere. But a surprising number of municipalities can support only one newspaper, and chances are that's ultra-rightwing. Take my sister's town, Bakersfield, CA, pop. 350,000: one paper, the Bakersfield Californian, part of a publication group that makes Murdoch's rag here (The NY Post) look centrist by comparison. Most people there don't even realize it's skewed. (no surprise that the whole county voted heavily for McCain in 2008)

    Most of the U.S. is small-scaled and subject to that kind of media monopoly. And those are the media markets that will win or lose the next election. WASF, indeed!

  23. Bernard Says:

    what amazes me is bb still thinks the Democrats are for the 99%, the non Republicans. There was a lady in 1972 in Iowa who called the Democrats Tweedledum.

    took me years to see how right she was, being a proud and ignorant Democrat. lol.

    so your ignorance about Democrats notwithstanding, bb, is not something rightwingers like you would ever know, even when it is true.

    comments like that just show how "partisan" the divide is and how politics flavors even "Rightwingers" on left of center issues. also shows how well and how deep the schism is in this country.

    my way or the highway is still the American Way

  24. Bernard Says:

    this obvious help yourself and never ever depend on the Gov/State or city for any kind of help is truly a pipe dream of the Rich who want to keep the idea of outside help for local/personal problems.

    the self sufficient independent American who doesn't need anybody for help.

    Government, state, Federal or local is run by the Republican mantra of screwing the poor and helping the Rich. connections/money talks and the elites still own everything and run our societies.

    so the whole concept of dumping the "less fortunate" on the streets has been generally accepted, or at least not questioned. PR propaganda has done its' dirty work.

    being old enough to see how well the Republican PR game has worked, to acknowledge the success of teh Republican Ponzi scheme on America is just a sad truth i must accept, no matter my political opinions.

    so BB, what you see is the result of years of successful lies/PR. both the Democrats and the Republicans, who rule the Game, are why it takes so long for people to get any help. that's the way it is set up. and has been by our Masters, just like the Plantation system was.

    Welcome back to serfdom, slavery or whatever you choose to call.

  25. bb in GA Says:

    @Bernard

    Yeah we hardly can even spel Demo..uh..Democrat 'round hereabouts :-)

    I'm am not thoroughly caught in the Left/Right – Demo/Repub paradigms…I know its all about the super rich folks getting their way using whatever vehicle they choose.

    //bb

  26. localnebula Says:

    @xynzee:
    "how to get someone, who firmly believes that their meds are made of human body parts, to take their meds."

    So… a Catholic who thinks their pills are communion wafers? I don't see the problem.

  27. Bernard Says:

    typical reply, bb. seasoned invective is the mode of discourse rather than open an avenue. not surprised, being from the south, i know the whole history of how we got here. it isn't pretty so you just digress to topics of your choosing. that's pretty much how it's been since the St. Ronnie' Southern Strategy Nixon employed to start the whole "Me vs You."

    I gather from bb's response and tone he enjoys the concurrent fascism that goes along with the return to the Plantation society where whites are above the blacks and the brown and the so on forever list of one upman ship that is our present American Kleptocracy.

    when they come for you, the white male, i hope you don't mind giving up anything , cause i sense you are thinking how "well" you are getting over those others, like those "left" of center people. i bet you really enjoy the though of such disparaties. as long as they're to your apparent benefit. be prepared for you to become one of us, eventually. the ponzi scheme is mandatory, white men included.

  28. bb in GA Says:

    @Bernard

    It is amazing how well we play political Dr Phil on one another. I don't know you nor would I presume to deeply analyze your understanding of such global issues based on a few posts to a blog.

    And I am too dense/shallow to understand most of what you said about me.

    I work with and for men of all backgrounds and colors in our efforts in the homeless, addiction, and ex-offender ministry field.

    I have no superior position because I learned a long time ago that there are just two basic classes of men, in particular – the caught and the uncaught. I was uncaught.

    I actually expect that the PTB will use the Left (again) to do their dirty work when the 'ponzi scheme' you describe so well comes down.

    Could be wrong…

    //bb

  29. wetcasements Says:

    Not sure if you take requests Ed, but I'd love to hear what you think of the slow-motion trainwreck going on in Charlottesville:

    http://www.metafilter.com/117063/Trouble-in-the-Old-Dominion

  30. just me Says:

    Maybe it's just me, but really? How much recognition of reality do you expect from a populace that has about a 40 percent adherance to "young earth, global flood, creationist" "theories"? These people require a steady diet of sugary sweet don't-worry-about-this-life-the-next-one's-gonna-be-great manna to function and there's no shortage of the bakeries ready to sell it to them. Thar's gold in them thar hills.

  31. Anonymous Says:

    But the media must bear some share of the responsibility, given how hard they work to make sure that you are able to ignore reality even while they're reporting on it.

    I'd say our corporate media bears most of the responsibility.

    With the widely-accepted myth that we have a liberal media and FAUX, rather than a right-wing media and a far right-wing media, our populace is led around the nose in a fashion that the Soviets could only dream about with Pravda.
    ~

  32. Da Moose Says:

    Let's not forget that pervasive and entrenched mental disease in this country exemplified by the desire to wage war and to institutionalize this practice into our institutions for generations to come. The inability of the average citizen to form a better understanding and recognition of just how corrupt our society has become primarily through their own direct or tacit involvement is indication of a deteriorating collective mental condition that demands rectification either by systemic collapse (likely) or sudden social awakening (unlikely). Americans are all mentally ill.

  33. localnebula Says:

    @Da Moose,

    Don't you know it's a sign of mental illness if you don't recognize the perfect sanity and rightness of society? You sound depressed. Here, have some Stummies.

  34. nate Says:

    bravo, ed.

  35. Tosh Says:

    @Bernard: that is bb's MO: he goes all "ahhh shucks… I don't know nutt'n bout birth'n babies," to abject defensiveness. A common and reproducible tome. Generally, not a bad egg though.
    Xynzee is correct. The missive is concerned with the production and propagation of western/merkin hegemony. The point is being obscured by the thread focusing on the metaphor, simile and example.