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.
We get stories much faster than we can make sense of them, informed by cellphone pictures and eyewitnesses found on social networks and dubious official sources like police scanner streams. Real life moves much slower than these technologies. There’s a gap between facts and comprehension, between finding some pictures online and making sense of how they fit into a story. What ends up filling that gap is speculation. On both Twitter and cable, people are mostly just collecting little factoids and thinking aloud about various possibilities. They’re just shooting the shit, and the excrement ends up flying everywhere and hitting innocent targets.
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.
What is NPR afraid I’ll do, insert a seditious comment in a synopsis of Madame Butterfly?
Freelance radio host Lisa Simeone was fired by her bosses at Soundprint, a documentary program addressing topics such as climate change and education that airs on NPR affiliates, because she helped organize an Occupy Wall Street-related protest in Washington. NPR’s code of ethics prohibits its journalists from participating in rallies that involve issues it covers. Simeone — who still hosts a show called World of Opera — says applying the rule to her is like “McCarthyism,” because she doesn’t cover news. (via theweekmagazine)
“The practice of removing children from parents deemed “undesirable” and placing them with “approved” families, began in the 1930s under the dictator General Francisco Franco.
At that time, the motivation may have been ideological. But years later, it seemed to change - babies began to be taken from parents considered morally - or economically - deficient. It became a money-spinner, too.
The scandal is closely linked to the Catholic Church, which under Franco assumed a prominent role in Spain’s social services including hospitals, schools and children’s homes.”