Wednesday, Jan. 9, 42 A.B.

A Much Too Hasty Return To A Terribly Annoying Normalcy

So: I turned on CNN Headline News when I got up this morning and found the lead story to be about Thomas Junta, the Massachusetts father now on trial for allegedly killing Michael Costin in the course of arguing with him about the way Costin ran a hockey practice involving his son.  The continued U.S. bombing of Afghanistan was then briefly mentioned before CNN quickly moved on.

This makes it official: Less than 4 months after Sept. 11, the Freak Show nature of television news has triumphantly returned.

What exactly makes it a Freak Show?  The fact that over 70 people were murdered in Columbus alone last year, yet none of those tragedies made the national news - apparently because none contained the titillating novelty of a man killing his son's coach on the grounds that the coach had allowed too much rough play.  In other words, it's the peculiarity of the case which draws attention - not its objective significance.

Much like bearded ladies draw more paying customers than normal women in desperate need of health insurance.
It's also another example of the way stories involving white, middle-class Americans tend to trump more important stories involving non-white, non-middle-class foreigners.

Or am I over-reacting?  I hope not.  I really DO try to think things through and consider them from all angles before I spout off.  Alas, the more I think about today's CNN coverage, the more it annoys me.

Once again, a relatively easy to cover, unimportant story has eclipsed the harder to cover, more important one.  Once again, the isolated death of a single white American male is being accorded more coverage and analysis than the continuing deaths of many others.  Once again, a very strange death which doesn't involve me at all is being highlighted while the deaths being orchestrated by my elected leaders with my tax dollars in an alleged attempt to safeguard me are being downplayed.  Once again, the producers responsible for the TV news I see seem more like refugees from an Orwell novel than graduates of reputable schools of journalism....

I don't know why I was so surprised by CNN's lead story today, but I was.  Even after both ABC and CBS ran lengthy stories last week about the death of former President Clinton's dog, Buddy, while continuing to refuse to tell me much of anything at all about the hundreds of civilian deaths in Afghanistan.  I love dogs as much as anybody, I think, but the spectacle of Clinton's car-struck pet being given far more attention than the deaths of dozens of Afghani children... well, I still can't believe I'm actually awake rather than entangled in some Lewis Carroll-inspired dream.  Had Clinton's dog been an Afghan hound rather than a chocolate Labrador, the mad irony of it all would be complete.

My newspaper continues to do a better job (for example, its version of the Junta-Costin story appears on page 8 today) and yet its editors and writers cannot entirely escape the suffocating Ameri-centrism which characterizes so much of the media (and our society in general).

Case in point:  Among my piles of clippings is a story it ran about measles on Dec. 21.  Most of that story's 8 paragraphs heralded the virtual elimination of measles in the United States.  It was the last paragraph which carried the unexpected stinger: "The disease still rages outside the West.  It kills more than 800,000 children worldwide each year, more than half of them in central Africa."  WHAT?  What editor thought the story here was that only 95 Americans suffered from measles last year rather than the fact that the toll this disease continues to take on human life in general amounts to something worse than a World Trade Center catastrophe every day and a half?!

If given the chance, what might I say to such an editor which might scream louder and make more of an impact than the facts themselves?

What am I to do with a society which gives rise to such editors?

Good grief - what else might it be giving rise to?!

Excuse me - I need to go make sure my doors are locked!


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(©Now by DJ Birtcher while cowering in a dark corner
throwing knick-knacks at the appropriate keys)