These are recent headlines from actual newspapers and magazines. It used to be we’d only see headlines like these on salacious tabloids in the checkout line at the supermarket. But now, these sorts of headlines are delivered by The Gray Lady and The Post. It’s not that legitimate news sources have become less fact-based, it’s that the facts have become so bizarre.
I sometimes lead writing workshops for young people and one of my favorite writing exercises is to gather a pile of tabloid magazines and ask the students to write a piece of fiction based on a headline. Middle schoolers are particularly good at this. Presented with mutant cats or swamp apes, they write tales of environmental dystopia. Give them trailer park hauntings and Elvis sightings and they’ll give you piercing social satire. But tabloid headlines aren’t so entertaining in an era when the actual headlines are so shocking.
Tonight, the president will deliver his State of the Union address before Congress. Tomorrow, headlines will tell us whether he sounded presidential or unhinged. I predict he will be dull and restrained, but an hour’s worth of capable teleprompter reading won’t be enough to spit polish the tarnish from the office of the presidency. It’s all sensational tabloid news nowadays, and we have only ourselves to blame.
Well, ourselves and those tabloid superstars, the Russians:
I mean, take away the exclamation points and those headlines are no more sensational than the ones at the top of this page. No wonder the Weekly World News stopped printing copies and moved online. It can no longer compete with legitimate news sources.
When foreign operatives fill our social media feeds with propaganda and when bot followers can be bought and sold with a click, this is what we get. When we allow our leaders to scream “fake news” whenever they don’t like the narrative, this is what we get. When we elect a C-list reality celebrity to the highest office in America, this is what we get. We get the leaders we deserve.
Let’s hope the aliens swoop in soon to save us all. I hear they were last spotted over Russia.