Bill Wasik, flash mob inventor/invigorator,and author of And Then There’s This, is working to explain These Modern Times. His contention is that much of what passes for news is, obviously, roar and thunder. Current events explode in little bomb clusters of emotion-imbued waves of opinion-in part because the actual news is actually very difficult to understand. These “nanostories,” he says, “serve as the lens through which we comprehend truly large, important, long-term stories.”
The scope of the health-care problem is almost unfathomable; the intricacies of the bills under consideration are many, and the legislative process moves at a pace that seems (for all of us living on Internet time) glacial. So instead we wage a sort of proxy war through small, symbolic narratives.
He’s right of course! But this tends towards the apolitical. And in reality, the nanostory is never apolitical.
It’s not just that big stories about important things are difficult to understand. It’s that groups of people, with varying agendas, do not want you to understand the actual story.
That the Internet is easily excitable and people are restless is true; but what really matters is that the process of moving this micronews is easy now and can be done by any lobbyist, any Astroturfer, any cable stealth shock-jock. (Even you can try this at home! Perhaps you do.) The most important thing about the “nanostory” is that it is always presented through manipulation. It is packaged. What he calls meme warfare actually is warfare, and we don’t have to look much further than OBAMA’S SENIOR CITIZEN DEATH PANELS to see that.
And if you’re confused as to why OBAMA’S FINAL SOLUTION DEATH PANELS FOR YOUR GRANDMA are so captivating to the imagination of America-well, a nanostory is merely a successfully-launched propaganda wave. It’s a talking point coupled with an image-and then presented on CNN as a “contention,” which counts, to the moron talking heads who always claim to be “digging deeper,” as “news.”