These strange days: What ya talking about Willis?

A few decades ago there was a television show called Different Strokes that featured Gary Coleman as the cute kid in an inter-racial adoption family.  The show seems to have been doomed in that many of its stars had really hard lives after the show ended and several died young. It was an interesting show for the times, although, I don’t remember much about the show other than that catch phrase of: “What ya talking about Willis?”

The phrase never left my personal dictionary and phrase-set. I believe it is still in popular culture although I do wonder how many of the younger generation have heard of the phrase or even use it. The use of the phrase helps to punctuate ridiculous situations and statements.  It is akin to Scooby Doo’s “huh?” raised-ears, cocked-head moments.

You may be wondering what has got me waxing nostalgic and thinking of a phrase that’s over two decades old. Well, what else but the current state of society?  It seems that every time I put the television news on, someone just had a “what ya talking about Willis” moment. Despite obvious evidence to the contrary people will go on television and make all sorts of wack-a-doodle pronouncements as facts. We have arrived at a point in time where truth is truthiness  and it really doesn’t matter. Take for instance, the fact that several radio/Internet personalities came out and said that Hurricane Matthew was not real and just a liberal conspiracy. There are planes in the middle of the storm providing 360 degree visuals yet somehow it’s not real. Can you believe people believe these pronouncements? They call them hurricane truthers. 

A long time ago, opinions used to matter. As a country, we pride ourselves on free speech.  But at one point, indeed, opinions were worth seeking. Now, half the time when people are interviewed, from pundits, to celebrities, to everyday people on a focus group panel, I don’t believe a word they are saying. I also believe that they don’t believe what they are saying. It’s become a point of pride for many to just say completely outrageous things to just say them and get noticed. Seriously. Do you believe those panels of “undecided” voters?  I hate to say it, but many so-called undecideds just want to get on television.

What’s the point of being on television anyway with a fake, outrageous opinion? It’s not like you are going to put on your resume that you were an undecided voter on a focus group on CBS network. Or maybe the stint does go under the acting skills section in the resume.
What is even crazier nowadays is that this crazy, rambling, unintelligible speak we get on television news has bled out into the workplace as well. We are all familiar with the employee that speaks just to speak and be heard. Now, however, we also have those that speak to sound crazy. They get a kick of just being the crazy one in the workplace meeting. Sometimes I think there is a hidden camera in the room and we are being auditioned (without our knowledge) for some reality show. Perhaps there’s a Big Brother workplace segment. 

So, what is going on Willis? Why all the lies and nuttiness these days? Have we lost all respect for the truth and normality? How did we get to this point? It seems that the more and more social media brings instant connection and gratification, we feel the need to up the ante on our public personnas even if there is a way to instantly verify it is all a lie. However, because every minute brings a new level of crazy the previous craziness becomes quickly normalized. We’ve become inured to certain outlandish lies as they are so obviously lies. Indeed, what ya talking about Willis? Fact checks frankly don’t matter anymore. This is the postmodern world where there are no universal truths. 

4 replies »

  1. God, this is so true.
    I think two things contribute majorly:
    – TRPs (television point ratings), so every TV channel tries to outdo the other by empanelling loose cannons as ‘experts’, and they expectedly say unsubstantiated things for shock value or whatever.
    – Every ‘win’ is a result of lobbying, including some prestigious prizes in the world. Lobbying can be used to declare that Hurricane Matthew is a conspiracy, and they need not explain how 800 people or more died. In India, the equivalent is Pakistan declaring there were no surgical strikes on the terrorist camps in Pakistan by the Indian Army!


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