Too much knowledge is a depressing thing

In about a fortnight, I’ll have been drawing Jitterati for a decade.

When I started I didn’t think I’d still be drawing it ten years later, but then again I couldn’t have predicted writing a musical either. Capital Times is looking for a new editor – I haven’t even met the current one yet! Their Christmas party was cancelled, so I haven’t been in the office for a while. Hopefully the new editor won’t be a clean-sweep type of person – apparently cartoonists are vulnerable to being fired during regime changes because it’s an easy way for a new editor to make their mark.

The research I do for each episode of Jitterati is starting to take its toll on me. I don’t confer with Capital Times to find out what they’re writing about – it’s a coincidence each time I mention something which is on the same page, or on the cover. Because all the people who used to invite me out into the actual city are either having babies or have emigrated, I read a lot of newspapers and websites to gather information about what’s happening, which is depressing for two reasons:

1) It may not have escaped your notice that things are not going particularly well at the moment for most people. It’s an election year, and people are scared. When they’re scared, they lash out at others. The very rich and the very poor are both targets of hatred, but the poor are much more useful because they’re vulnerable and can be punished for their circumstances.

Expect there to be a lot more dole bludger stories in the paper this year, because attacking and dehumanising a voiceless sector of society is far easier than creating jobs, closing tax loops or reforming superannuation. What’s happening in the USA and Britain is a grotesque magnification of our local situation, and a reminder of how vicious so-called civilisation can get when we stop thinking of each other as human beings.

2) New Zealand journalism is not exactly going through a Golden Age right now. It’s rare to read an online article without obvious typos or misplaced apostrophes. All the journalists I know personally are intelligent people, but there’s not a lot of thinking or analysis going on in most writing. Articles from much better overseas papers and the AP and Reuters are reprinted or lightly re-written, press releases from people trying to sell you something are gratefully accepted as news, and no attempt is made to disguise bias or write dispassionately or with historical perspective.

What’s worse is the assumption that the average reader is some sort of thick bigot, with articles tailored accordingly. As newspaper circulations drop and advertising dollars dry up, bad decisions are made in desperation, and quality suffers.

Still, never mind, eh?

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