RedEye: Chicago's Hip 21st Century Newspaper of the Apocalypse

by Timothy R. Sunday
File under: Fake Culture05 May 2013 16:36 EDT

RedEye is a very bizarre experiment in 21st century journalism owned and operated by The Chicago Tribune. Designed appeal to the young, hip commuter presumably only interested in trashy pop culture (the soft bigotry of low expectations?),it is given away for free on public transit and in various kiosks throughout the city that dot the urban landscape like one-eyed alien invaders.

"FREE DAILY"- and you get what you pay for. Every morning these rags flood the CTA system, and quite naturally flow back into the wider ecology of the urban landscape as discarded trash- the medium always matches the message. It's spamming institutionalized as journalistic practice.

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There are no real journalistic standards for what goes in this publication beyond the lowest common denominator of tabloid interest. But Redeye isn't just a celebrity gossip rag in a national sense- it also pretends to provide real coverage of happenings in the city of Chicago. This means promoting stories about crime, crime, and more crime.

Now don't think that this coverage is your traditionalist "What in the world's gone wrong with our neighborhoods?" concern. Not at all- this is 2013, and talking about the collapse of society is so passé. Been there, done that. Instead, the paper has set up an online running yearly count of the number of murders in the city, keeping score like a basketball game. "The Chicago Bulls kept the New York Knicks to 87 points in tonight's game, marking the first game Chicago's defense has kept the opposing team to under 100 points in over a month. And in related news, it looks like we won't be reaching 100 murders this year by end of the month of April..."

But the running murder tally is just the beginning of the dystopian nightmare one experiences when reading RedEye. As if to purposefully disorient the reader's sense of moral and personal significance, it tends to publish extremely gruesome and shocking stories of human degradation alongside the fluff pieces on decadent yuppie lifestyles. The effect of the juxtaposition is extremely surreal: human life is so cheap that your weekend plans can quite comfortably be talked about in the same breath as murder. Parties, celebs, fashions, hostage situations, sports, suicides- it's all cool. 

Friedrich Nietzsche said that "God is dead" back in the 19th century. I doubt that even he could imagine the Kafkaesque casual banality with which everything would be treated in mass media like RedEye. "A man jumped to his death, ho-hum. Maybe RedEye can suggest something to do this weekend." Neither reverence nor sacrilege is possible in such a universe. Everything is leveled on the plane of tabloid insignificance, expendable lives and deaths devoid of meaning. But really, who cares? RedEye is free, and nobody actually reads it anyway. Precisely the point.

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