I need to start hoarding…
Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
The book was published almost 30 years ago, in 1985
I read an interview this past week with someone who gets his news from a narrow band of information providers.
He reads The Wall Street Journal, a really good newspaper that tilts right on its editorial page and sometimes in its news coverage. He also reads The Washington Times, a more reflexively conservative publication, and listens to “the talk guys” on the radio during his commute to work. We know which ones because liberals don’t do well on the radio.
Even though he lives in Washington and works in government, he dumped his subscription to The Washington Post. He explained: “It was the treatment of almost any conservative issue. It was slanted and often nasty. And, you know, why should I get upset every morning?” He added that The Post was “shrilly, shrilly liberal.”
Just another guy in Washington who can’t stand hearing anything that doesn’t comport with his world view? Well, this one happens to work on the United States Supreme Court.
More often than not, when we tune in to cable or fire up the Web, we are staring into the mirror, not looking out a window.
Late Night comedy picked up their slack.
As a child I thought a lot about what kind of news reporting could be considered objective (I still think that is something to be aspired to), and came to the conclusion that the bias of choosing what items to report on is hard to avoid.
But really, this… sigh. But if they are called ‘shows’, after all, they are more about entertainment, right?
The most amusing thing is this IS exactly how the BBC report on practically everything.
It’s ALWAYS like this and it makes me furious.
THIS IS BEAUTIFUL
not gonna lie i prefer this a hundred times more to the sensationalist sort of OMG FUCK LOOK AT THIS THING reporting in America.
Which is why I believe it’s high time we take a long hard look at how we are now responding to these inevitable events. If we allow catastrophe to become an industry, cultivated by law enforcement and “entertainmentized” by media, then that’s what we’re gonna get more of.. more live car chases, more TV coverage of the hunt for the latest bad guy(s).
We are creating a kind of perpetual feedback loop; bad guys want big-time attention and an over-eager media supplies it. Law enforcement craves action, and the bad guys gladly provide it. Afterward the media lionizes the first responders.
Then the closing scene: a sad parade of women bearing stuffed animals and flowers with their puzzled children in tow, preparing the next generation of drama seekers.
I read Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” some time in the 80’s. And it is all so true: news are entertainment, religion is entertainment, and yes, it seems that catastrophies are a form of entertainment, too. I need to think about this.
Farhad Manjoo, Slate. Breaking News Is Broken.
Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking soundbites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, ‘that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘The Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machinegun?”
The obscure 1995 Leonardo DiCaprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.
The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. Kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”
In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, “The NBC Nightly News” and other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them.
The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.
A Roger Ebert quote that sticks out in my mind
From his review of Gus Van Sant’s Elephant
Elaine Riddick was 13 years old when she got pregnant after being raped by a neighbor in Winfall, N.C., in 1967. The state ordered that immediately after giving birth, she should be sterilized. Doctors cut and tied off her fallopian tubes.
Riddick was never told what was happening. “Got to the hospital and they put me in a room and that’s all I remember, that’s all I remember,” she said. “When I woke up, I woke up with bandages on my stomach.”
Her records reveal that a five-person state eugenics board in Raleigh had approved a recommendation that she be sterilized. North Carolina was one of 31 states to have a government run eugenics program. By the 1960s, tens of thousands of Americans were sterilized as a result of these programs.
To read more about this story, click here. Dr. Nancy Snyderman’s full broadcast report, ‘State of Shame’, airs Monday, November 7, at 10pm/9c on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams.
This was / is so wrong on so many levels.