Getting to the Point Makes Us Dull

No doubt, some brilliant graduate of a university program in Marketing looks out at city bus fleets that are rolling billboards – not just bedecked in ads but painted to be ads – and he stretches and says, eyes moist with emotion, “I thought of that. That’s my contribution!” If you sense a rant coming about universities that offer degrees in advanced consumerism, be very disappointed. I have other scabs to pick at. (But you might want to read Ivory Tower Blues.)

One bus ad that smacks me surly these days is for one of those skinny little newspapers that commuters get for free. In my city, it’s called Metro. Its selling slogan? Get. To. The. Point. The point, apparently, is that any daily paper that doesn’t deliver The News in a quickly digestible text-bite is wasting my precious time, at best, and branding me as a hopelessly out-of-date codger, at worst. There is no time to think, slowhand. Never mind nuance, you old ninny. Understanding is a luxury we can’t afford. Nothing to see here, folks, so keep moving.

Have you read any of these things? It’s certainly efficient, and eminently disposable; just leave it on the seat next to you after four minutes. I suppose I should consider that some reading of yesterday’s news is better than none, slightly more insightful than Hot 108 in your ear-buds, but I’m irritated anyway. In the spirit of Get. To. The. Point. my entry today should have read:

You know those newspapers that sell for free at bus shelters? They suck. So read a real newspaper. So read an actual book. So there.

Brevity is the soul of wit, I’ve heard that too, and there is a lot of bad writing in academic journals and elsewhere that could be improved by any high school English teacher with red ink to spare. Long-windedness is not a virtue, though some of my younger (non)readers might complain that I’m trying to make it one. But Metro would have us believe that we’re fine, we’re doing our Average Citizen Duty – and they’re happy to serve us – when we are easily bored, intolerant of complexity, and content to consider world events as ten-point answers in a workplace trivia game.

IRAQ: Hundreds more dead. Another car-bomb. More important, fourteen American soldiers died in a helicopter crash. More numbers tomorrow.

MONTEBELLO: Harper met with President Bush about some ways to work together. Lots of people protested about something or other, and there was riot gear and arrests. Mexico’s top guy was there, too. He’s the short one.

SPORTS: These teams won, and these ones lost. Joe Football wants more money.

ARTS: ARTS? We’re getting to the Point, remember? But a famous bimbo did get arrested.

Get. To. The. Point. We’re all held at gunPoint, it seems to me, and not just by commuter newsrags. It’s so easy to become hostages to public impatience, to intentional ignorance, and to a sneering adolescent tone that dismisses thoughtful discussion as a quaint relic. Politicians are at gunPoint. Media pundits certainly are. What was once discourse appears as slogan. What could be consultation dissolves in rapid-fire cleverness. And what was intended as a thought-provoking Web log discussion of an admittedly minor social irritant was too long to read for almost everybody but YOU.

(Thanks for staying with me.)

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