Better than the ‘National Enquirer’

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One of my favorite movies is “Men in Black.”
For those who don’t know, it is about an elite undercover operation that keeps track of aliens that live among us. Not aliens like the border hopping Canadians that clog our social safety net, but real aliens, from other planets, who could threaten our way of life.
And how do the Men in Black find out an alien has arrived?
They read the “National Enquirer.”
Of course, the “Enquirer” is full of more than alien reports.
You name it, the “Enquirer” has it because, as they say, “enquiring minds want to know.”
Well, I am here to tell you that there is another source for such.
If you are online, go to msn.com.
Now I am not certain how msn.com came to pop up on my computer screen, but once I began reading it, well, it was hard to tear myself away.
Unlike the “Enquirer,” msn.com has a lot of hard news, most taken from the Associated Press, Reuters and the BBC, but once you get past that, msn.com puts the “Enquirer” to  shame.
Wanna know the latest about Jennifer Lopez or Johnny Depp? You’ll find it there, along with bikini pictures of stars and starlets, anti-aging super foods, a report on how scientists are slowing the speed of light. You can also find nine ways doctors and nurses avoid getting sick and how “sodas (Cokes for us down here) affect each body part as you drink it.”
And that was just one day.
Each new day there is something different – just like the “Enquirer.”
Msn.com does the Enquirer one (or more) better, for when you click on a story that interests you, you will find other links to other stories just as interesting – all without having to rush out to the supermarket to get the next edition.
And what is behind all this free, online entertainment?
Selling stuff.
Yessir, when you go to the site of something that interests you – like “10 Real Life Nerds Masquerading as Celebrities” – the site will be so arranged that if you are not careful when you click, an ad will appear offering you something marketers think folks curious about “Real Life Nerds Masquerading as Celebrities” would be inclined to buy.
That is where it really gets interesting.
For example – just for research, mind you – I clicked on a link to “Cheerleader Uniform Malfunctions,” and right away I am offered a chance to join a Christian Singles Club.  Is there, somewhere, research to indicate that Christian Singles are interested in Cheerleader Uniform Malfunctions?
Or that people wanting to read a Smithsonian article on how modern science is finding a way to read ancient scrolls would also be interested in Viagra?
I clicked to read an account of how climate change has moved the “Doomsday Clock” even closer to midnight and the end of the world as we know it, only to find that this unsettling revelation was brought to me by a company pushing penny stocks,  and by folks selling “affordable luxury cars.”
I never would have guessed that readers worried about Doomsday would be interested in such, but on the other hand, “get it while you can” might be motivation enough.
The list goes on and on, topics of interest paired with ads targeted to those who would be interested in those topics:
Efforts to end the ban on women going topless in Chicago, sponsored by a “Dental Plan for Seniors.”
Portland, Ore., strippers lobbying the legislature for better working conditions brought to you by Best Roth IRA and the Top Five Medicare Plans.
The mind boggles at the many ways a stripper could lobby a legislator (“a lap dance for your vote”) but why would retirees on Medicare want to know?  Dirty old men need love too,  I suppose.
In addition to selling stuff, msn.com appears dedicated to reducing the number of productive hours you have in the day.
You sit down at the computer, all ready to do what needs to be done, and the next thing you know you are reading about “10 Foods that will help you live to 100.”
I’m not sure a diet of asparagus, legumes, garlic, mushrooms, nuts and sweet potatoes, washed down with green tea, will make you live that long, or if it will just feel that way.
A little red wine (in moderation) and a few fatty fish are no substitute for a barbecue sandwich and a beer – at least, that is my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.
But when it comes to exposing aliens, the “National Enquirer” remains supreme. So far msn.com has failed to find a single one.
“Men in Black” better keep reading the “Enquirer.”
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.

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