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Barry Levinson Headshot

Our Roman Circus

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Not too long ago in our recent past there used to be television shows -- entertainment, we called it -- and we also had the news. More serious, not worthy of high ratings -- informative, you might say. Now we have entertaining news, not entertainment news like Entertainment Tonight, but a soap opera version of the news. Every day we have the drama of America, heroes and villains. The drama of the just-released American soldier from Afghanistan is today's new drama. Freed at last after five years of captivity. Welcome homes signs... and then the darker story. Was he a traitor? Was one American soldier vs. five Taliban radicals too high a price to pay? Why does his father have a beard? Should the president be impeached for not informing Congress? We are fascinated. Emotions are high. It's perfect television drama. It captures our imagination. Congress is involved. It is all-consuming. It is the Great Distraction.

And while this soap opera plays out, our country sinks deeper and deeper into a paralysis of total and complete incompetence. Our elected voices are not our advocates. They are shills for the money interest. We watch our middle class disappear, our infrastructure collapse, our quality of life slide deeper down the rabbit hole, and the band plays on...

Television news/entertainment is our Roman Circus. An electric circus that works as a daily distraction. It placates us, it's our daily sugar dose, it makes the medicine go down better. Every morning the new talking points for the day begin. Throughout the night, the writers create the storyline for the day. You hear one Congress person after another use the same wording. How they want to act it out is their own privilege. The same thoughts play out. Some use outrage, indignation, sarcasm, but the story line must hold. And as soon as the story begins to lose momentum? The big switch! The next news/entertainment must fill the space. Of course you can't always hit the big story packed with emotion, so there is always the go-to stories to fill the void. Is Obama a dictator or is he too weak? Is there something wrong with Hillary's brain or not? That's worth a day of questions and no answers. The fact that she's not running for at least a year and a half is not of consequence. The question "still must be asked." And you can always come back to "Where's that plane?" -- or Benghazi, of course. The rule of thumb is investigations must take a very long time. Otherwise the story could come to an end too quickly.

As long as we are diverted from the real truth, their goal is accomplished. Poverty, poor education, and unemployment... just a few of the real issues that can remain in the background. The goal is to quiet the populace. Silence the voices of outrage. And it works. The protests are small, the voices of opposition muffled... the Romans ruled for centuries. They understood the mission: Feed the masses bread and circus.