IMG_3377POSTCARD #197: THAILAND: Arrived in Bangkok, then a small propeller plane to Hua Hin, 41 mins flight, ninety miles down the coast. Unaware of the Brussels bombings we walked on the beach, no people anywhere, where’d everybody go? Came upstairs to our room on 6th floor, switch on TV and there it was; the Brussels Bombings filling our hotel room from nearly ten thousand miles away. We were stunned by the coverage; BREAKING NEWS, coming to you live from CNN Center in Atlanta. CNN reaches the whole of the US, and as far West as Pacific Islands and Japan. Then the other way from Atlanta, all countries in South America broadcast in Spanish and Portuguese, East through Europe in all languages including Arabic and the whole continent of Africa. On through Asia to Australia who are so far down-under, the rest of the world is up-over to them. CNN facilitates this news and within minutes, the bombs in Brussels are exploding all over the world.

FullSizeRender (5)We wake up the next day and it’s the same thing, the assumption is that many people in the world haven’t heard the news yet. At breakfast there are developments that seemingly, we need to hear about, also in-depth analyses of what happened and why, with experts discussing it – showing the same footage with voice-over and the production beginning to take a particular form. But we can’t pay much attention to it, busy with getting ready for our walk along the beach. Understandable really, I think, being the only white guy here. Brown people over here and everywhere with black hair and dark eyes, who are not Americans but the majority of the world’s population, puzzled and a bit embarrassed by the CNN presentation. Inclined to ask what caused the extremists to do such a thing? Sorry but that’s the wrong question… CNN is broadcasting its opinion in all countries of the world, stepping into everyone’s lives and figuratively speaking blasting everyone with the aftermath of the bombings using the dismay, distress, and consternation as a vehicle to convey the consensus point of view.

My niece M who is 12, asks me ‘Why?” I have to provide a satisfactory answer, but the same ‘why?’ follows me and my explanation. Then the extended form: ‘but why?’ all the way through my reasoning as we get into the elevator and she stops asking only when we reach the bottom, running out and down to the sea. Our early morning walk along the sand, and again we are the only people there, leaving a trail of footprints and the only others are those of the birds, M running ahead stopping to take close-up photos with my phone and her ‘why?’ more concerned with why do the footprints look as if they’re embossed on the surface, relief sculptures, rather than hollowed in the sand, strange – once you see it that way it’s difficult to see it the other way.

M footprintsBack up to the hotel room and the show must go on. Intense music, bright red colors and talking heads appear. They seem to ask and answer questions but the dialogue has been scripted. Frightening scenes of devastation from an on-the-spot location in the danger zone while we are in a safe place at home, made to feel like voyeurs at the battle scene: ‘This is coming to you live’ yes but it’s an act, rehearsed, decided on by an editorial team  who take advice from those obscure unseen advisors making decisions, about how the facts should be portrayed.

The dialogue looks spontaneous, and informative (I’d like to be a fly on the wall of these studios and see how much of an act this really is), welcoming the invisible third party, that’s us, the part we play as passive listeners mesmerised by the act, struggling in a bewilderment of feelings, holding on to this induced attachment to TV that we’re kinda comfortable with anyway and only later realise that by passively acknowledging this version of events, we are committed to seeing it that way.

CNN is now established ‘in the danger zone’, with easy-to-understand explanations and we allow the hypnosis to deepen by passive acceptance of it entering our living rooms – George Orwell’s 1984 propaganda TV reassures the population it’s all being taken care of by those who know what to do, although the threat of it continues. We know there’s something happening, it’s as if it were orchestrated, quite obvious really, but somehow hidden. Curious why we allow it to be there, but we feel we’re already committed to the CNN point of view, and that rewarding, induced, comforting mind-state takes over as we fall into our places in front of TV.

IMG_2852The next day I go into Google and find it has a Wikipedia entry already. Still there’s the question: why are these Islamic extremists targeting us? Could it be that it’s the result of something we did to them? Sorry but there’s something wrong with that question. History is made by those who won the war.

I’d like to explain to M how this illusion is constructed but cannot. So I’ll just have to hope she’s has a good enough grasp of English soon so she can read this post sometime and understand it after I’m not around any more.

Photos:  view from our hotel room at the top and the others are footprints made by a bird and M’s footprints as she studied the image on the screen that made it appear to be embossed on the surface.

43 thoughts on “voice-over

  1. But we can’t pay much attention to it, busy with getting ready for our walk along the beach.

    I’m glad you’ve got your priorities straight. Never know, maybe a tsunami will sweep you away with a few hundred thousand others. Then CNN can ask “Why does God hate us? Is it because of our freedom?”.

    • All kinds of strange things to behold… but once you see things like that, there’s just no getting away from it. A staged event and I’m just wondering how far and how deep it goes…

      • I haven’t seen TV for a long time and shocked to see how the CNN old timers have that toughened look, as if to say it’s just so boring supporting this illusion in an empty studio at Atlanta with everything in the hands of technicians. The general public too, I’m sure, tired of it all but not able to see what the problem is… so it goes on.

      • Yeah, isn’t TV a shocker if you’ve been free of it for a while? Gotta wonder what it does to your head if you spend hours staring into it every night.

      • Yep, the everyday state of mind of the TV dependent person must be heavy, and so dull it’s not understood for what it is; thought to be ‘reality’. Same old thing, it simplifies things for the suppliers…

      • Dull? With all those gun fights and exploding cars and talent quests and life-transforming products and Fox News commentators warning about how the Muslims are coming to get you?

        Yeah, I guess it must get dull. The thousandth or so time you’ve seen it. You can always get up and go to the toilet though.

      • So drained by it all, the faculties are not as sharp as they could be and wouldn’t go there, never consider that the Brussels’ bombings had been brought forward by ‘the powers that be’ in order to have an influence on the US elections we have yet to see. Nope just wouldn’t go there…

      • They don’t need to. We’ve got a 24 hour Perpetual War to go with our 24 hour news cycle. It’ll always serve up whatever is needed. You don’t even have to put in your order.

      • Stranger than fiction, hard to believe and all these conspiracy theorist-lizard race-ufo abductionees out there on the fringe. Let me get my breath back… maybe that’s how it’ll go, a duality clearly defined that just gets sick of itself eventually long after we’re gone.

  2. I gave up on TV some years ago and have never missed it…except for the occasional documentary. I prefer using my mind rather than letting it atrophy, filled with spoon-fed inanities, which seems to be what passes for entertainment these days.
    I agree with you on the Orwellian point.. very easy to steer thought down chosen avenues through images.

    • Sorry Mel but I’m more inclined to go with Cabrogal’s response here. If you take a passive view on it, the TV witch doctors draw you further in and indirectly you start defending TV. Most people I know who have TV in their house are unaware that they are under it’s influence and can’t see that the news is an act performed by skilled actors following a script written by the producer on advice from the sponsors and the men-in-black, although it looks like a spontaneous dialogue going on with the reporter on-the-spot in a danger-zone. Have another look at CNN and see if you can notice it…

  3. I once heard NEWS described as “Nothing Entertaining or Worth Seeing”.
    It’s stunning to realize how many people think the TV news, printed press or new modern on-line news outlets are legitimately and honestly trying to report facts.
    It’s all about money, of course, and selling their product.
    Sure, there may be a few actual facts thrown out, but the throwing and the facts are carefully selected and coordinated to make compelling TV, which is entertainment for money.
    I thought of saying that we haven’t had honest & unfiltered news of current worth since the town crier stopped walking the village, calling out important announcements.
    Then I realized that even back then, someone (politically motivated) was probably picking and choosing that which the crier would speak.

    My grandfather told me “Believe none of what you hear, half of what you see, and three-quarters of what you think.”

    p.s.: There is no “why”. There is no “reason”. As Pink Flloyd said in The Wall:
    “…banging our heads against some mad brother’s wall.”

    Always seeking peace,


    • Thanks for your views here Paz. You’re right of course, grandfather too and it’s worse than it used to be. The distortion of the facts is one thing but there’s the creation of new facts to be considered too. Maybe grandfather didn’t want to step into that danger-zone, and that’s understandable, but it’s exactly this passive acceptance that allows the thing to have its power over the audience.

  4. The Media have a lot to answer for (in my opinion). They give so much air time to one single incident, which, devastating as it was (and my heart goes out to the innocent victims and their families), death and violence is happening every minute of every day all around the world.

    These terrorists are succeeding more every day in their quest to create fear, terror and mayhem.

    I am really saddened by the attitude of many Westerners in their rejection of religion, race and culture different to their own.

    When will it end.

    Perhaps more people need to walk along a windswept beach making their mark in Nature with nothing but a footprint, which washes away with the tide.

    When I was a child, there was a saying “Sticks and Stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.

    But they do. Words do hurt and cripple many nations.

    • Thanks Vicki for reminding me about sticks and stones. I have immersed myself in the Thai culture over the last 30 years and I know that words do hurt. The CNN portrayal only causes the Thais to defend the Islam culture even though most Thais are Buddhists. They are more likely to see how the news has been created by Western governments simply because they don’t allow anyone to appear on behalf of those being criticised. But anyway it doesn’t really matter to them, walk along the beach or just do something else – it’s not being passive, they actively don’t believe a single word of it and forget it completely. There are more important things to be doing…

      • The Thais have a wonderful attitude.

        My closest friends lived in Bangkok for 3 years and (literally) started the Thai Food & Culture Festival here in Melbourne some 12(?) years ago and have learned a lot from the Thai culture. It’s only this year that R has retired from the Festival organising committee.

        I just wish many Westerners would get on with their lives and those ‘important’ things, instead of participating in fear mongering and racial or religious prejudice.

      • ‘Participating in fear mongering’ yep that sums it up. Narrow minded, unable to see what the world is. The Thai culture must be the most gentle in the world. And when you study it over a period pf years you learn the code of behaviour, showing respect. To others where ever you are

      • The Thai culture must be the most gentle in the world.

        I’d guess Vietnamese refugees who met Thai fishermen or students gunned down by the military or anyone who’s been on the streets where red-shirts and yellow-shirts meet might beg to differ.

        Thailand has around the same homicide rate as the US. A fraction of that in most Latin American countries but about five times Australia’s or Western Europe’s.

        People are people everywhere. Gentleness is a luxury not all can afford.

      • Yep, I thought that one might draw out Cabrogal the policeman of comments. Good to have you here keeping an eye on things, and providing all the figures. I suppose it’s about who you meet, and I’ve been here 30 years…

      • Sorry about that, I meant you are policing the comments or managing, that kind of thing… and I’m making mistakes because I’m on the way to Chiang Mai now using my phone to type

  5. Thanks for this post. I don’t have tv and was only aware of the bombing in Brussels after seeing a post on FB that said ‘pray for Brussels’. I knew then something must have happened but had no movement to investigate. A day or so later my partner asked me if I knew what had happened in Brussels? He knows I rarely tap into the media and it’s drama, taking the few that if its bad enough someone will tell me about it. He gave me the news in a gentle pragmatic way so that I too was left with the question ‘Why?’. It seems the truest response with the understanding that there really is no answer that makes sense. I enjoyed your post . Thank you. Mx

    • Good to hear from you again Melinda, the Why is applied to every aspect of it, including the question of broadcasting to the whole world with an intensity that goes on 24 hours a day for about a week or ten days before it ebbs away…

  6. I like this post and the imagery of the footprints in an other perspective! The juxtaposition works well 😎
    I don’t turn the tv on for news anymore. The radio is more than enough. Tv News has become a barrage of sensory overload, sensationalism and overt manipulation.
    May the sea breeze and warm sand wash away the angst that comes with living in the world!

    • Thanks Val, the thing is, once you see it in this other perspective, you always know it’s there. It’s clear to me the barrage of sensory overload is a form of persuasion; getting people to see it in their perspective. So there’s got to be a reason for this overt manipulation. Just knowing it’s there is enough, not turning away from it, yet not getting put down by it. First Noble Truth, the rest of it just falls into place…

  7. If I had been outside, I would have been able to hear the blast. But I didn’t. A friend called me to ask where I was, and told me what was happening on her screen. I chose not to watch it. Read the headlines on a news site, and that was that. That site is kind to me, telling me that this or that click contains disturbing material, so I don’t click.
    I kept following the news during the past 7 days from the same distance as an inhabitant in Bujumbura with an internet connection. I didn’t miss anything. I know as much as anybody who kept glued to the screen for 126 hours, and probably more, since I can do the thinking for myself.
    Yes, I feel touched, but not as deeply as when A. Breivik took his guns, or when a bus full of schoolchildren hit the side of a tunnel in Switzerland. I also felt more touched when ‘My’ train derailed, 18 people died, and I wasn’t on it.
    And Lahore touched me a lot more too. Seems that I somehow care more for young people, and children. Seems that my ‘self’ unconsciously identifies itself more with youth.
    Whether it is here or in Iraq, it is always the same. Place doesn’t matter. Neither does it matter whether it is an accident or a wilful act — it is the same for any victim. Neither do those numbers matter. A car crash with one victim, still is the loss of a human life.
    We contact our own mortality when such happens. Mind believes it will never die.

    • Thanks Bert, I also feel the need to distance myself from it, because the news coverage, mainly CNN, is way over the top, and I’m a resident of Bujumbura with an internet connection that’s unreliable. Sometimes it tells me the news is manipulative and I’d like to have my consciousness bright and clear (without manipulative coverage of news events). Sometimes my internet connections cuts out in the middle of a sentence then it connects again and it looks like the events themselves have been staged. So I really don’t know what’s going on. It’s a frightening thought that the powers-that-be could do such a thing. The fear of it expands when I think of these people trapped in the subway train and dying in panic and pain, also those on their way to have a holiday somewhere, dying in panic and pain. And those left behind, families bereft, having to cope with the same thought that frightens me.

      • Well, I conclude that CNN and the like only do what the ISIS wants: create !FEAR!, indoctrinating us with ‘it’ all the time.
        We seem to be able to receive about 10 (or more?) different news channels — and I don’t watch any of them …
        The lady of the house does.
        However, over time she learned not to bombard me with the just learned ‘truths’ and she kept silent, while I avoided the TV-room. Only one remark, of it being safe for the kids to go skating (?) the next morning, which of course it was.

      • This is it Bert, CNN are doing ISIS a big favor by extending the FEAR all through the world by way of their networks. It’s also a demonstration of the power CNN have – we pause for a moment and admire how skilled they are. Skilled too in creating a point of view that’ll extend through all parts of the world piggy-back on the terrorists’ bombing maybe, all kinds of possibilities. Anyway, I’m like you, I avoid being bombarded with it. Thanks for your comment…

  8. I think the sense is universal among those who have witnessed events and then seen the news presentation that the latter is manufactured. Distilled. Served up. I see that entirely. We live in such a strange and manufactured experience at times. I think the distance between our own states of mind and the state of mind of people who feel compelled to commit such actions is closer than we dare imagine. I mean that in the sense that mind is mind, and if you have witnessed your own suffering, and felt the way it can push and pull you in relationships with those you love, in relationship with yourself, in your whole sense of being– you see how wobbly we are. And some people face such difficulties– poverty and loss, profound conflict, the sense of a world stacked against them. Our minds would have a propensity to do the same until they are healed. Isn’t there something in Buddhism about particular phenomena arising when conditions are right? We are the same. The news is manufacturing this air-conditioned rhetoric, and making it seem otherwise. Making us fear so much. I look at the books on my shelf. I see ten thousand by ten thousand factors related to which books those are, where they are positioned, when I read them. Out of so many millions of books written, I have these few. I think I know some things because I have these books, and I do… None of us need read more than a few to discover… we’re the same. Because we’ll never see or read or grasp more than a fraction of what’s happening, and yet this sameness arises. We are connected. I like the explanation that the only explanation for anything is everything. I hadn’t heard that before, but I think it is similar to what I am feeling…


    • Thanks Michael, yep it is universal; the mind is the mind, we are all the same, all capable of doing bad stuff. If the circumstances required it, we’d feel compelled to commit all kinds of actions. We just don’t usually think about this, but it applies to everyone in society, not just suicide bombers, everyone… and of course we choose not to go there. History is written by those who won the war, and we don’t know, will never know, what they did to win that war – no choice situation, that’s what wars are like, I suppose.
      What we’re talking about here is what is ethical and what is not. You’re correct about the Buddhist reference; particular phenomena arising when conditions are right. It’s Dependent Origination, cause/effect. One important thing is missing here: avidya (ignorance); phenomena arise because of ignorance (the act of ignoring). That’s the reason for it, or to a greater or lesser degree cause/effect according to the situation. If there is awareness present instead of ignorance, the phenomena don’t arise or there is no (unwholesome) action following on from the arising of conditions. It’s this deep understanding of the ethics of really very ordinary actions, and this is the Buddhist Teaching.
      Not the kind of thing you can learn from watching TV, and I’m going to say something shocking now: I haven’t had the TV habit for about thirty years – all my time in Asia. I see it in a reduced form here in Thailand, audio voice-over in Thai, anyway I’m not here long enough, off again and there’s no TV at home in Delhi. But I’m familiar with these typical CSI format dramas where the story has to be squeezed into a limited time frame and necessitates some of the characters taking over the role of narrator; he/she interrupts a conversation some other characters are having, with some related news that leads to further developments and they all go off and deal with that unfolding part of the story. TV audiences must be used to this kind of presentation, I noticed in the CNN News presentation, reporting and dialogue of the Brussels Bombing, there were characteristics of it there too. So the way we’re going is that it doesn’t matter if it’s fact or fiction…

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.