One of the greatest/worst aspects of life in 2019 is how we all have the power to fine tune and curate exactly what world we live in, edit and personalise what news we hear and what bent ideology it pours from. When I was a bairn, the whole country basically had the same experience, all the time. We all heard Love Is All Around until we all wanted to ruthlessly and repeatedly embed a screwdriver deep into our own eardrums until the flowing blood hopefully drowned out Marti Pellow’s smirk (not me though, Love is All Around is a fuckin’ choon). We all watched Coronation Street last night, so could debate the meaning of Mavis Whooptuck performing a blood sacrifice in order to bring Harold Hupptickle back from the dead (my memories of Coronation Street are a bit cloudy, I’ll admit). Most importantly, we all got the same news. Sure, many people would still buy utter horseshit like the Sun or the Daily Mail- or The Guardian if they were a little more middle class and, let’s face it, a bit twatty- but we kind of all agreed that if it made it to BBC News, then it was likely correct. Likely due to laws restricting the bias of TV news in this country and the very charter of the BBC forbidding any bias or political inclinations in the news reporting. It’s, of course, not perfect*, it’s not always 100% observed, but it’s at least enshrined into law and aimed for, meaning that everyone always tuned into the TV news at the end of the day expecting them to brush the propaganda from the day’s events and tell us what really happened.
(*there were shocking scenes earlier this year when a BBC news reporter had the temerity to suggest that, growing up with an Indian mother and Mauritian father, racism was actually really gross and that Trump’s racist comments actually sounded very familiar. That’s how seriously we take impartiality- a woman of Asian descent isn’t allowed to call out the racist president for saying racist things and say that racism was bad. Apparently, a lot of viewers were still undecided on racism and didn’t want the crazy hippy idea that it was somehow a negative thing shoved down their throat. A white BBC news guy said similar things, but nobody complained about that, because… y’know…).
In 2019, everything is focused around giving you exactly what you want, surrounding you with exactly what you like and making sure that you only ever have to engage with things that you’ve confirmed that you’d be quite happy to engage with. All the time. You only see Tweets from people that you follow because you already like and agree with them, so your life becomes a bigger echo chamber than the secret one underneath the Sonoran desert where Sega keeps unsold copies of ‘Ecco the Dolphin 3: Tired Old Joke Boogaloo*’. People you follow because you like the opinions of are espousing opinions that you like. Spotify suggests music ‘ you might like’, which in your case means you’re doomed to endlessly listen to bands that, in one robot’s opinion, sound exactly the same as Bowling for Soup until the day you drop dead from a brain aneurysm in about eight days. Netflix just suggests movies you want to watch that are exactly the same as the dumb shit you’ve just watched, usually the awful new original content they just went near bankrupt financing. Turn off your investigative brain, quell any curiosity, just watch the new Rugrats reboot starring Adam Driver. Didn’t Angelica’s boobs used to be bigger than that?
(*wow! That’s tenuous! And you spell it ‘Ecco’?? The terrible forced line doesn’t even work!! I thought there was only two Ecco the Dolphins, but turns out they just kept making the fuckers after I stopped paying attention. Yeah, not a single things about that line went well. I need a drink…)
Then there’s the news we consume. We get just the Twitter opinions we want, the exact music that we like listening to and whatever visual media is close to that thing we once liked. This is all fine, some people don’t like art and viewpoints that they’re not familiar with, they work hard, capitalism is hell bent on breaking them and ruining their mental health, let the fuckers relax for fuck’s sake! When it comes to news though, things get… icky… The emotionless algorithms that now run our life, that tell us what statistics suggest music we’d like and what opinions we’ll agree with and what nonsense we’d like to look at and what thing (n) we’d like to thing (v) also decides what news we’d most appreciate. The algorithms know that you might er slightly to the right, as your web activity suggests you have slight reservations over whether ‘human rights’ and ‘health and safety’ are a good thing and you really don’t like paying taxes, so your very experience is tailored to show you news about Boris Johnson saving kittens from trees and taking buxom wenches’ virginity and saving you money by sacking all teachers and having children teach themselves in the future and by shooting Gredo first. Do you like this news? What are your opinions on it? The algorithm doesn’t know, it’s unable to hold a deep debate with you about the nuances of any particular story. It only knows your reaction by how much you engage with each story. Likes, retweets, comments, digital tattoos on your eyeball, the algorithm sees this. So what articles inspire the most engagement? ‘Jeremy Corbyn To Push Through Motion To Obligate Refugees To Rape Everyone’s Daughters, Mothers!’ ‘EU Make Curly Wurlies Smaller Because of the Muslims!’ ‘Diane Abbott: “Come On, Rick and Morty Isn’t THAT Funny!”‘, ‘Every Benefit Claimant Is Fat, Lazy and Unpatriotic. And Black. Just Saying’. Are these headlines true? Only half of them are, but the algorithm desperately grasping for your attention doesn’t know or care. Your outrage means more clicks, more engagement, and more similar headlines.
Our news is now dictated by these thoughtless bundles of boring maths. We’ve long consumed our news through very different political prisms. Now our very reality is being curated.
You and I have both lived through 2019. Even if you’re less than a year old you would have lived through some of it. Stop looking at me like that. And wipe your face a bit, you look fucking disgusting. Jesus, are you going to cry again? So we both know what the biggest news of this year was, yes? OK, say it with me: one, two three… THE DEBUT OF ALL ELITE WRESTLING’S NEW TELEVISION SHOW! This is the first real competition to WWE’s monopoly in 18 years! Will this increased battle for ratings ensure a more dynamic product?? Does pitting only NXT against them in the Wednesday Night Wars betray how they still consider them slightly second rate?? Will they be pummeled by WWE’s superior financial might and just go the way of TNA?? Does this mean that…?
Wait… what…? You didn’t even notice that?? Have you been living under a cocking rock?? Did you manage to miss every YouTube suggestion and every piece of Google news?? Did you just, like, delete SnapChat this year and make your Instagram super private?? How are you so detached from reality?? But this isn’t ‘Reality’, the definite article always capitalised, this is just the ‘reality’ that I’ve been fed. It’s my reality. It’s likely very different to the reality that the algorithm decided that you should life through this year, full of, like, I dunno, Brazilian prison riots, or whatever (ha! Sucks to be you!).
What we’ve actually concocted is a living proof of the parallel universes theory, the X billion people who are online now live in entirely separate yet dangerously parallel worlds. I’ve had a world built for me that consists entirely of wrestling and Faye Dunaway nipslips, maybe your world is full of Commodore 64s and ranking wild ponies, your world seems bizarre and scary to me, my world seems alluring and arousing to you, let’s never speak and instead cultivate two very different realities for us both to encase ourselves in. Maybe your reality includes Daughters, and the algorithm has decreed that you were very excited about the band’s first new album since they broke up in 2009. Daughters are back, baby! Daughters are back! Because of the world you once suggested (you liked a post about the band’s previous record ‘Daughters‘ when you were a teenager because, let’s be honest, you thought it was porn) and that Google has constructed for you is one when the reformation of one of the world’s most critically acclaimed noise/industrial/math rock (basically, all the sub genres, they go a bit glam rock on track 6 and a bit cock rock on track 8) bands in existence is by far the biggest news of the year (actually released in Oct 2018).
Was this my reality? Absolutely not, I’d never heard of this weird little band before, they’re decidedly outside of my Google catchment area. This album, this whole band’s existence and comeback story would have completely flown under my radar were it not for the important presence of one man.
Yes, this is Seth Manchester’s second production credit of 2019. My dedicated/obsessive stalking of Mr Manchester has led me to some strange (The Body) and unexpectedly fulfilling (And So I Watch You from Afar) places so far, but ‘You Won’t Get What You Want’ is perhaps the most worthwhile discovery that he’s led me to, and one where his production genius is among its most apparent. It’s thrilling, injected with dark humour and absolutely uncompromising. A more fitting title would be ‘It Doesn’t Matter What You Want, This Is What You’re Getting’. It’s not designed to have its subtleties grow on you, not meant for you to uncover delightful little Easter eggs and buried musical motifs on your twentieth listen. No. This album knows exactly what it is, and reveals all that it has to offer on its first listen. Daughters aren’t concerned with ‘growing on you’ or needing ‘a few listens’ to get to grip with. Fuck you, this is what the fucking album sounds like and these are our fucking terms, if you’re not with us you can fuck off and we’d actually prefer it if you just lay down and fucking died. Sure, you might grow to like this album- love it, if you’re smart enough- but that’s all on you. You’re welcome to grow as a person, it’s a free country, but that’s got nothing to do with us, we’re exactly the same and you’re probably just wasting our time.
Daughters are not a casual Spotify suggestion, Google won’t notice you’ve liked similar artists, because there are no similar artists. Daughters require your attention, they require a pledge of allegiance, they require your commitment, if you needed a ‘recommendation’ then you never wanted to be here to begin with.
So, TL:DR- your specific and nuanced likes are what take you a way from the mainstream and makes you special. Just make sure you do atleast one thing a day (week??) that Google didn’t already know you’d do.