It was off to the gym again tonight, to run on the endless road to nowhere for thirty minutes. These running machines are in a row, with the outside world behind you, so that you're running away from it, and before you , like wasps' nests, hangs a set of TVs. They aren't supposed to have sound, but the patrons have defeated the little metal plates covering the volume knobs, so as you run towards them, you are faced with sound from different channels at different volumes from various sources.
Today, the TV facing me was playing the Spike channel - the men's channel - silently, while a TV around the corner and invisible to me was showing Fox "news". This means that as I ran, I was watching UFC fighting while toad's cloaca Sean Hannity worked up a froth of stupid and pointless anger over some trifling thing that most adults can deal with silently and with due respect. It was an odd montage, then, noses exploding in gouts of flying blood while Hannity called for all kinds of mayhem to be perpetrated on various fellow Americans.
I used to be able to listen to Fox "news" and manage to find some kernel of actual fact every now and again. Now the level of violence and antagonism - not to mention idiocy - is so high that it's not worth the damage to my blood pressure. This is why you bring mp3 players to the gym, of course, and this is why highly compressed music, music that's very loud all the time, with minimal dynamic range, is essential in that environment. 
With Hannity disappeared, the UFC spectacle is very different. I don't know what the rules are but the gloved, bare-footed fighters seem at liberty to box, kick box, wrestle and strangle their opponents. Usually one boxes while the other backs away and occasionally kicks. Eventually one falls over, and the pair wrestle on the mat. One will get a hold on the other who will continue to kick and punch, so it's a case of one trying to strangle the other before he breaks the first's nose. There's plenty of blood but it's a curiously violence-free sport; Spike cuts from the punching to the participants chatting mildly (after their bruises have healed) about what they did wrong in the bout. Occasionally the ex-combatants hug each other. There are continuous interruptions of this type, and coupled with regular applications of the filmic effect where a few seconds of normal speed motion is followed by a split second of undercranking, the serious business of one man knocking someone's brain against his skull until he lets go of the other man shrinks to a small part of the experience. Possibly because it's the man's channel, or more likely because it's an American experience and living here for a long time is not sufficient to completely internalize the rituals, I didn't really follow it. I know where I've seen a similar thing before - in bondage porn, after the session is finished, the couple is often shown sitting together, smiling and hugging. Look, it's just a game! We're friends!
But if the take home message of UFC is that Americans don't like conflict with their violence, then what do I make of Sean Hannity? Apart from the fact that he's an elderly badger's fanny, of course?
 That and the fact that sudden loud sounds after a quiet passage really hurt my ears. My stapedial reflex isn't fast enough to damp down my hearing sensitivity.