“The news is not a cause, it’s a cancer. This is not terrorism, it’s chemotherapy.”
That text blurb concludes issue #2 of The Nightly News, a bizarre, intriguing and rather scary look at a cell of terrorists in America who hate the media for its distortions, lies and attempts at corporate mind control. In fact, they hate the media so much that they’re willing to kill out of their righteous anger. The theory goes that just as chemotherapy hurts the body to drive out cancer, so too should the terrorists, who call themselves the Hand, use violence to help bring the media back to being unbiased, truthful and completely honest.
Of course, their theory is completely absurd on its face. There are very few events that could be presented without any bias, and the media definitely serves an important purpose in American society. Further, this approach seems quaintly apart from the Internet age, where any idiot (including myself) can create a blog and spout off on anything at all that we might want to discuss. Never mind the reference to Youtube in the middle of this issue, the Hand seems to be only considering traditional media in their assessment of the world. That gives this comic an oddly out-of-date feel.
At the same time, their assessment is strangely intriguing. It’s certainly true that people like Jason Blair, Jack Kelley and Dan Rather have lied to Americans. It’s easy to get mad at those reporters, and it does make one feel better to focus anger on the media. Heaven knows that the media has done a great job of sensationalizing events like the Natalee Halloway disappearance or the JonBenet Ramsey murder. And it’s pretty damn self-evident that many media outlets are extremely biased and that they often serve their corporate masters’ agendas. So by trivializing the important events of the day, while at the same time focusing attention on things that are unimportant, the media has become a horrible force for distortion. How large of a step is it, then, to decide that the media is an evil force, an information drug, designed, programmed and controlled, fed by media serving an agenda, with the end goal of limiting choice?
That is the argument that the Hand makes when recruiting new members. And why appeal to rationality from people who clearly aren’t rational? When we meet the “Brothers” and “Sisters” of the Hand, each presents his or her rather sophomoric and bizarre justification for their actions. (For instance, Brother Joshua Jordan claims “Life is escape from suffering. Without suffering, there is no desire to be free of pain. We will use pain to generate crises and control history. We will create the future through fear.”) These are all clearly people who were pretty insane and close to the edge to start with, people who would be on other crusades if they didn’t hate the media.
But these people seem to themselves to not only not be crazy, but be the only rational ones in society. It’s that dichotomy, and their absolute confidence in their righteousness, that makes the zealots so thoroughly frightening. Like many zealots, they’ve taken the core of a truth and turned into something very bizarre and frightening. And like many zealots, they seem fascinating and interesting and thoughtful unless you really pay attention to their insanity.
The Nightly News is a wonderfully meta comic book for a wonderfully meta age. It’s dense and thoughtful, combining a sort of distorted film feel with an interesting surreal background. Creator Jonathan Hickman presents a comic that seems to attack everything it sees, painting a broadly satirical brush on excesses of every type. Whether it’s a Senator meeting with a lobbyist, an arrogant New York Times reporter in a bar, or a meeting of the terrorists, all of the characters are weird, bizarre, and funny in interesting ways. Some of the scenes seem a bit obvious to me – look, a Senator on the take! – but most of the comic is wonderfully unique and intriguing.