Forget Iraq, where are the cat videos? There is no bad news on Team Australia television.
Just not sleeping. 3.15am seems to be when my body clock snaps to alertness. It is pitch black outside my balcony. I can see glimpses of the harbour gleaming. To my right, the NSW Art Gallery looks like it is floating, because it is so underlit. I have in the past pointed this out to many girls. All were unimpressed.
Killjoy, a solemn, stony-faced man reads corporate press releases from banks, trying to smile, although stony-faced, and announces the closing New York Stock Market figures and the endlessly changing rates of gold, silver, Texas crude.
Now that I am awake, further work on this article is demanded. I turn on Foxtel as my companion and as background. I watch an American morning show as Australian ones don't come on air until 6am It is dealing with the most inane, lowest uncommon denominator of subject matters. It is Fox and Friends. A blond, tall, skinny man, a doppelganger of Jonathan Holmes with reverse wiring and hair like Warnie's new hair (if it could have grown longer) is berating President Obama for the riots in Ferguson and his golf swing. Naturally, a super-toned blonde woman sits cross-legged, pouting her point of view facing down camera three aimed at her knickers. And finally there is an irritating preppie in neatly pressed and groomed Boss suit. His name is quickly noted in the sub-titles. He confirms the party line.
A young black man has been shot dead by police for being black and unarmed in the vicinity of a broken window robbery. Six warning shots in all were fired. Two in his head, four in his body.
It's 6am, the sun is up, and the anchors at Channels 7 and 9 laugh and joke. The weather man does handstands. The formal news seems to be innocuous budgetary items, a boatload of people from Sri Lanka makes Christmas Island and for the next 20 minutes, Richard Wilkins reads celebrity press releases from coming attractions. High-pitched Richard Reid live from LA, voice trained by Liberace, and presenting more camp than Paddy Pallin in a floral shirt, is sprouting bits of gossip, seeded and baked by the same PR agents that act for the stars who are in jail, on bail, in trouble, dating Justin, goosing Kylie, entering rehab, leaving rehab, in between rehab, all equally eyeballing (head-roll).
The presenters are ringing randoms to give them money if they answer the phone. The Morning Show is just foreplay compared to the ratings of The Footy Show. Killjoy, a solemn man reads press releases from big corporations and banks, while trying to smile but essentially remaining stony-faced. He announces the closing New York Stock Market figures and the endlessly changing rates of gold, silver, Texas crude.
All very important, but now is the time for real news. Funny clips taken from amateur postings on YouTube. Cats dominate the tunnels of YouTube and you would need to be a competitive loser not to smile at the sight of any cat, which is the highest-rating show every day with more views than any TV blockbuster. Cats and their clips are now getting to fill the available space on morning breakfast television on re-run after its YouTube premiere. It's democratic. Every cat has its day.
This Australia, on the set, on the couch, watching at home, is Team Australia. We don't think. We just drink. We buy incredible and inedible products pushed by celebrity chefs in white aprons on morning breakfast shows. Nothing bad happens on Team Australia television. The ads promote Team Australia products, that pay royalties to the true owners, Cayman Island parent companies. There is no bad news on Team Australia television. Over at the ABC morning show, they have lowered the commentary to the equivalent of the post-coital hum of long married parents going through their children's daily calendar.
On Team Australia, sport is not games played but provides conversation points for television commentators. Politics is conversation between two journalists/reporters interviewing each other. News is a photo opportunity for the Prime Minister on a bike, at the beach, or a grim-faced politician sprucing the environmental benefits of Barangaroo.
At exactly the same time, entire families are slaughtered in Iraq, Syria and Gaza, while Israel is saved temporarily by their Star Wars defence system. All wars are savage, but the Islamic State has used the media and their Saudi-funded and Russian-made weapons with deadly and bloodthirsty efficiency. The IS has released a video series called Mujatweets depicting Islamic State members brave and heroic acts of charity. In striking HD quality, a bearded warrior hands out lollies to sick children with his Kahlaznitkoff slung over his shoulder as a handbag. Mujatweets are recruiting and encouraging calls to arms and to young men to live significant lives. In Mujatweet land, IS fighters are heroes without helmets. It is run by a former German rapper, Abu Talha Al Almani, aka Deso Dogg. Terror is the ultimate high in violence to these rappers; the killer of James Foley was believed to be a British rapper.
The videos purport to show acts of heroism. It is hard to miss with the barrel resting on the nape of the neck of the blindfolded victim. Mass graves dug by a score of Shiites with victims forced to kneel in them and mercifully face away before being machine gunned. Beheadings are no brainers. Child's play. In months, the Sykes-Picot lines in the sand, randomly selecting countries by the strength with which the general could hold the stick, have been kicked away by the black army of bearded bandits. Why don't we all feel the same sympathy and empathy for citizens wiped out in brutal savage ways? Even a shooting in Greenacre doesn't raise much feeling outside the immediate family or gang.
Is the human heart and soul like Tinder? Does it only react to those companions in the immediate GPS vicinity? Evolutionarily, we probably only care about locals and friends, or enemies. Local television and media feeds us information it wants us to buy. We must feel good to feel like spending. The better we feel, the more we buy. One serious story on the downed Malaysian jet and all its passengers sparked viewer interest. It's hard to unravel, but the crashes have affected sales and shopping as moods dropped. Is there a geographical distance where a horrific effect can be really felt and empathised within a neighbourhood.
Jodhi Meares swept all the blood off the front pages except for her own alcohol blood testing. She is within Tinder distance. We emote. She is empathetic and disgraced, paraded on the perp walk that is part of our proud penal system? We are sympathetic to her plight as we are with all wounded birds.
Tigerlily, a company she wisely sold, can expect sales to go up as we buy their products to make her and ourselves feel better. I soon expect to see Australian kids wearing ISIS branded t-shirts in the same way that young Palestinians and IS men wear Nike and adidas products while throwing molotov cocktails, without the hint of irony.