Gwyneth Paltrow has released a vagina scented candle.
I know. In any reasonable world, if someone said that to you, you’d assume they were on drugs, or possibly have them committed. Rightly so. But we live in an unreasonable world, where sentences like “Gwyneth Paltrow has released a vagina scented candle” actually have meaning and a sheen of credibility.
Humour me, though, and don’t check. Not yet. Because the fact that the sensible thing to do with news these days is to check your sources is exactly what I want to talk about.
More and more, big corporations – news corporations, drinks corporations, tech corporations – rely on us to do their work for them. Let’s take Coca Cola as an example.
Way back when Coke came in glass bottles, the bottles could be returned for a small amount of money. These bottles would then be re-used. Then coke figured out that by far the most expensive part of the product was the bottle, and so they switched to cans and plastic.
This led to an enormous increase in the amount of litter and plastic clogging up the world, and Coke then turned around and reminded all of us to recycle. They passed the labour onto us, the consumers, and then acted like it was our responsibility all along to shield their bottom line.
This seems as good a time as any to discuss Prince William.
The British Royal Family are having something of a public relations meltdown in recent weeks, although why we should be surprised that literal Royalty have problems relating to the public is beyond me. Still, somewhere beneath Prince Harry’s abdication-lite and Prince Andrew’s rapist history, Prince William has anounced that he and his wife are offering cash prizes to anyone who can solve climate change.
Solving climate change would require a lot of investment and real estate, but Prince William, whose family own over six billion acres of land and live in literal palaces and who had the finest education money can buy, can’t quite seem to figure out a solution on his own. Except of course he can – it’s obvious. He could build carbon scrubbers across enormous tracts of countryside. But that would cost him money and spoil his view. What Prince William is really asking people is “How do we fix climate change and still let me travel by private jet?”
It doesn’t matter if it’s a drinks company or a royal family, the question is essentially the same. “How can we, the people in charge, maintain the status quo by making the poor work harder?”
These days, we even see it in the news.
Once upon a time, the point of the news was to report facts to the public. Over time, news corporations realised that there was more profit to be made by selling multiple choice versions of “the facts,” so that one could treat all of reality like a choose-your-own-adventure book. Want to believe all immigrants are evil? Great, buy a cable package with Fox News! Have you decided everyone to the right of Che Guevara might as well be Hitler? Why not donate to Patribotics! Want to believe both, or either, or neither, or that the lizard people did it? Facebook has you covered!
The net result is that we now have to fact-check the information we receive from the news, which used to be the entire job of “The News” as an entity. When capitalism begins to exhaust itself, all it has left to sell is the things that we paid it to do in the first place. Coca Cola makes money by not recycling bottles and asks us to recycle. Prince William takes a problem that needs money and land and asks people with neither to fix it for him. Journalists now require the public to fact-check for them.
I don’t have a solution to this problem, incidentally. We need a mass overhaul of society. Taxing billionaire media barons back down from the stratosphere would be a good start, but we also need to rethink education and journalism. We need to teach people, from a young age, how to think critically about what they’re being told and the motivations of the people who tell them. This would take decades to bear fruit, but maybe my grandchildren wouldn’t have a futuristic social meda platform (I’m guessing Spacebook?) that was riddled with misinformation posted by drunk uncles and memes about the evils of vaccination.
A quicker solution would be a radical overhaul of journalism, with aggressive fines for papers or TV channels or even websites that publish spurious claims. It’s actually already illegal to publish lies in many places, much like it’s illegal for the President to benefit from his own administration, so I guess what we’ve needed for a while now is for someone to actually enforce the existing laws. Still, in the spirit of all this, I promise I never intentionally mislead readers.
Gwyneth Paltrow released a vagina scented candle.
Luke Haines is a British writer who currently lives in Wales – although as he is English he spends most of his time apologising.
He worked as a professional bartender for twelve years and hated it. His attempts to break into other industries saw him work as a landscape gardener, car delivery driver, office drone, rare book curator, menswear salesman and furniture mover, amongst many other things. He currently works in construction.
His writing career is due to take off any day now, but has previously seen him maintain a blog at http://hainesrambleson.blogspot.com as well as a column for drinks magazine Imbibe in his bartending days.
Finding himself unable to turn away from the slow motion train wreck of modern westerb politics, he started writing for Liberal Resistance because it was more effective than screaming into an actual void. He can be found on Twitter @lukedoughaines or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He is no relation to the semi-famous musician of the same name.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.