This is the article I got on my RSS filter that uses the keywords, "things I wish I did in college."
A brief summary of one of the most popular stories of the week:
Government brokers responsible for collecting billions of dollars in federal oil royalties operated in a "culture of substance abuse and promiscuity" that included having sex with energy company employees, accepting lavish gifts and rigging contracts to favored firms.
Wow, just like drug reps. The Denver Minerals Management Service, part of the Department of the Interior, manages royalties received from oil companies who drill on federal lands. It employs super hot women who know what they want and know how to get it.
Here's the paragraph that launched a million erections:
"During the course of our investigation, we learned that some RIK employees frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives," the report said. Two government employees who had to spend the night after a daytime industry function because they were too intoxicated to drive home were commonly referred to by energy traders as the "MMS Chicks."
The article also quotes an email from a Shell employee to a sexy MMS employee about a tailgate party:
"You're invited... have you and the girls meet at my place at 6am for bubble baths and final prep. Just kidding..."Ooh. I'll bet he's not!
One worker admitted having a one-night-stand with a Shell employee. That same individual allegedly passed out business cards for her sex toy business, Passion Parties Inc., at work, and bragged that her income from that business exceeded her salary at the Interior Department.The word "sex" is in every one of the first five paragraphs of this story, except one-- in which appears the words, "fraternity house atmosphere."
You get the idea.
Actually, you don't.
II. Wait, that wasn't my news filter's keywords, it was the media's news filter's keywords
Yes, it's an easy target. Do you know how many articles and blogs make the joke, "Oil For Sex" or "I want a job at the MMS!" And a quintillion innuendos employing "drill drill drill," "what the President wants-- more Bush!" or a picture of a pumping oil rig. Isn't that hilarious? Right out of the Ray Romano Guide To Hack Comedy.
Ok, you get the idea, the deconstruction is obvious. The story is sexy, it appeals to a news media obsessed with ratings who in turn need to pander to a population too jaded for porn, etc, etc. It doesn't mean these people weren't unethical, but it suggests that the media focuses on things that are titillating.
You get the idea.
Actually, you don't.
III. The MMS Chicks
Despite the level of detail contained in the article, the thing they didn't include-- and when I say it, you're going to suddenly nod your head in understanding-- was a photo of the MMS Chicks.
Consider that within seconds of the decision to expose Eliot Spitzer, the media had the name of the prostitute, an awesome picture of her in a bikini, her MySpace page, etc-- all this, depsite the fact that she was using an alias.
But here, nothing.
Lest you think this is because they couldn't identify them, half of the entire Dept. of the Interior report-- where the media got all of its information-- is devoted to these women. (No mention in the article of the other 7 people in the report.)
So it struck me as unusual that the media did not try to publish their photos, let alone their names. When was the last time the media reported on a sexy story and didn't show you the most outrageous, sexualized, unclothed pictures of the women? Every picture of Monica Lewinsky was of her gigantic mouth. (Even poor JonBenet always appears in her beauty pageant attire. You think they couldn't find another picture of her?)
So where the hell are my photos of nubile ex-college cheerleaders who now work in Ann Taylor suits, but get photographed in bikinis?
IV. America Hates The Red Pill
And it becomes more apparent that the article isn't about a government office wasting taxpayer funds-- the actual story-- but a loosely based historical fiction about sex.
For example, go back and read the first quoted paragraph-- two women, sex with oil company employees, cocaine and alcohol, sleeping over because they were so drunk...
Awesome story, except: these things didn't all happen at the same time.
Yes, two women got drunk and had to stay over at a condo paid for by Shell. Yes, one woman smoked marijuana at home-- never at work-- and the other used cocaine (last in 2005) (also not at work.) And yes, they had one night stands with oil company employees, though to be clear, neither was having sex with them to influence business-- the men were not involved in the contracts.
But it's not sexy that way. It's sexy only when you put them all together. And if photos get in the way of the fantasy, please leave them out.
V. I Said America Hates The Red Pill
Let me be explicit: the media doesn't focus on sexy stories because that's what the public wants to hear; it constructs sexy stories because that's what it thinks the public wants to hear.
Or maybe it's simply random that Reuters decided to use this photo to accompany the story:
See? They've been sent by the oil companies to get drilled.
Interestingly, while no one published a picture of the women, everyone published pictures of the overweight middle aged man at MMS who was up to nonsense. Because his picture is perfect for the fantasy story: a midde aged man gets to bone his hot secretary.
Unclick your caps lock before you send me your insane emails saying, "how can you justify what they did!" and "maybe they focused on the sexy parts, but it's unethical just the same!" I'm not saying what went on wasn't unethical, I am saying that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the news stories that allows me to accurately judge what went on there. There are facts, sure, but they are cut and paste facts, they are Mad Libs, the point of the story is a not information, it is fantasy, entertainment. They carefully choose how and what to tell you in order to create in you an unconscious image of oh, I don't know, those two girls above drunk and naked in a ski lodge with oil company executives squirting them with champagne.
I can no more judge the facts of this story with these articles than I can make any claims to knowledge about either schizophrenia or John Nash from A Beautiful Mind.
This isn't the media's "liberal bias." Hell, it would be fine if they actually had a liberal bias, so I could tell what side they were on. They only have a sensationalist bias.
I'll say it again in case you're still on GMail: the media doesn't focus on sexy stories because that's what we want. It creates stories that are not real, like movies "based on a true story," because that's what we want. The New York Times has become Amazing Stories.
VI. But Why Not Just Look At Porn?
Because that's not what we want.
You're not asking the media to give you a sexy story, you're asking for a sexy story.
15 years ago I was nearly certain that the availability of online porn would destroy a generation of teenage boys. Didn't happen, at all. It's quickly apparent teenagers aren't that interested in porn. Two seconds on the Google Pornotron reveals that currently the biggest thing in porn is MILF porn. What, you think a nation of teenagers wants to bone middle aged women? Dream on, sailor. If you're watching it, it's for you.
This is out of the Michael/Michel Foucault playbook. A focus on the taxonomy of sex, to disclose every detail, how and when and where and what, on the one hand pretending it should be secret and private, on the other hand publicly judging every kind of it. The more you talk about it, the more it can be controlled. The real power is in the discourse, analyzing every aspect of everyone's behaviors.
Control the sex, and it gets internalized: now you know what is normal. And normal can be loosely defined as the Panopticon of Sex: what would you not want to get caught doing?
Foucault said the discourse was for power, control. Sure, but it can also be used to gain access to what is titillating. You want a way to talk about what you would not want to get caught doing.
"Why don't you just look at porn?" Because mostly it's too unrealistic-- it could never happen, and it leaves nothing to the imagination. What we want, what we really, really want, really want, is what we had in college: some guy telling you what he heard this one sorority girl did. That's sexy. But updated for our current lives. We don't want stories of sorority girls, we want stories of sorority girls who grew up into MMS chicks. And if that story did not really happen, please make it sound like it happened.
And the news media provides us with exactly what we want, our posturing about the banality of it all notwithstanding. Reality is too boring, and world events too complex, too overwhelming, and, frankly, too not about me. We want entertainment, diversions, that look enough like social policy analysis that we don't feel too guilty discussing them ad nauseum. We want masturbation that looks like work.
Pay attention: you're not asking the media to give you a sexy story, you're asking for a sexy story.
Story. That's all.
(For more like this, see the old Katy Perry story. And if you are so inclined, please Digg/reddit this post.)