Stop the noise

Down with democracy, up with the irony — the new ruling order of today.

The University of Minnesota rejected my proposal to be the 2009 CLA commencement speaker, but I guess IâÄôm not surprised. I told them that I wanted to perform a simulation where everyone got into their cars, drove to the Mall of America, and attempted to find a parking spot at the exact same time. Because letâÄôs face it, thatâÄôs what the next 6-9 months of our lives are going to be like: driving around aimlessly in our over-sized career-mobiles looking for a place to park. And you can just forget about handicapped parking because the minute you try to pull in, some Carlson grad is going to cut you off in their Mercedes Benz. You can cry all you want. You can say, âÄúAre you kidding me?! I have a degree in psychology! Tell me how youâÄôre more handicapped than me!âÄù And theyâÄôll say something like, âÄúThis morning, when I was taking out my 12-carat diamond cufflinks, I accidentally slammed my finger in the display case. IâÄôve never been in more pain in my life! So I donâÄôt think itâÄôs wise for me to park more than six feet away from MY workplace.âÄù And because you are a psychology major, you will spend the next fifteen minutes just standing there, debating whether, given their childhood upbringing and sociopathic predilection for finer things, they may actually have a point. Pain is relative, right? Anyway, I digress. Or maybe not. My columns have occasionally been criticized for being incoherent rants, and quite frankly, I embrace that. I am suspicious of anyone who sounds like they know exactly what they are talking about. WeâÄôve all been deceived by this kind of overconfidence before, namely in the guise of our parents and the government. I donâÄôt want to deceive you like that. I donâÄôt know what the hell IâÄôm talking about more than the next person and I certainly donâÄôt try to make that claim just because I am given the column space. If anything, I just want to have a conversation with you and ideally, make you laugh, because in the grand scheme of things, we humans donâÄôt know jack. This âÄúconversation over dissertationâÄù aim is a life goal of mine that I like to refer to as the âÄúStop the NoiseâÄù campaign. The Stop the Noise campaign is my individual effort to reinstate genuine, light-hearted human contact amid all of this madness or âÄúnoiseâÄù: Swine flu. Recession. Student debt. Credit crunch. War. Poverty. Genocide. Perez Hilton. Iraq. Democrat. Republican. Nuclear war. STIs. Tsunami. Religion. Twitter. Torture. Rape. Tax evasion. AIDS. Oh My God. WeâÄôre All Going to Die. This is why I hate being a journalist, or quite possibly, why I hate being a hyper-sensitive human being âÄî because I have to read up on these tragedies every single day and try to find a way to process them (without offing myself). This year has been particularly brutal for me. I am a self-proclaimed slut for idealism, but as of today, I am officially resigning from that post. I honestly thought that I could save the whole world, but I realize now that this is an argument with reality. The human dilemma extends much deeper than the hand can mend or the eye can see. WeâÄôre in over our heads and we always have been and while IâÄôm not advocating giving up, I am acknowledging the need for a little more humility. Change comes at an agonizingly slow pace, but as a generation that just witnessed the election of the first black American president; we might be prone to thinking that the road to revolution is now getting easier. ItâÄôs not. So how do we combat that ever-creeping feeling of futility? Personally, I believe it rests in humor. There is a reason why as of Sept. 2008, âÄúThe Daily Show with John StewartâÄù now pulls in more than 2 million viewers per night. His idealism with a dose of satire is refreshing in an otherwise die-hard news industry. And for those of you that think laughter dilutes journalistic content: A 2007 survey released by Pew Research Center shows that regular viewers of âÄúThe Daily ShowâÄù tend to be more knowledgeable about news than audiences of other news sources. Approximately 54 percent of âÄúThe Daily ShowâÄù viewers scored higher in knowledge than viewers of âÄúThe Bill OâÄôReilly ShowâÄù, Jim LehrerâÄôs program, and most of the major network morning shows. These statistics prove that along with shifting a lot of their content online, utilizing social media tools and streamlining their paper editions, it would be wise for the news industry to give more credit and talking space to the likes of Joel Stein, Dave Barry, John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. If the world is making a move toward diversified content, we should also address diversified voice âÄî not just the political leanings of a news analyst, but their tone and delivery as well. A lot of commentary that I read today tends to be inundated with âÄúIâÄôm-oh-so-smarter-than-youâÄù intellectualism or overarching prophesies of âÄúdoom and gloom.âÄù In other words: noise. Yes, sometimes people want to have meaningful, articulate conversations about the world and its problems, but sometimes people just want to talk about trivial things like the weather or puppies. If you can find a way to lead a dialogue that began with puppies into a more serious subject matter that kicks at the curiosity of your listener and then manage to return to puppies for your closing comments, you sir, are a genius. That kind of balance makes up the core of my Stop the Noise campaign. It is artful form of conversation that we should all try to achieve, especially in the news industry. For the sake of our sanity, we need more humor in everything that we do. ItâÄôs safe to say the University doesnâÄôt agree with me on this point. Those of you who do attend your graduation ceremony will probably have to hear some insufferable speech given on âÄúdriven to discover.âÄù My survival suggestion? Stop the noise. Put your iPod on âÄúDo Anything You Wanna DoâÄù by Eddie and the Hot Rods , sit back, and laugh. Ashley Dresser welcomes comments at [email protected]