Life, Death and Journalism

I don’t watch television because I don’t like how the media destroys the real story and sensationalizes it. The Internet is a far better source for factual information, and with streaming video, you can see everything that is broadcast on television if you want.

You’ll also see stuff on the Internet that never makes it past the television network editors. The television networks all seem very prone to portray scripted stories that only vaguely meets the so-called “unvarnished truth”. Fair and balanced reporting is not something you can find on any television network in America.

This should be a national crisis, but it’s not. The fact that we blithely accept what passes for news today should be cause for serious alarm. It isn’t news, or even newsworthy most of the time, it’s almost always mindless, meaningless brain-filling junk, except of course, when tragedy strikes.

I don’t know if foreign networks are this bad. But I’ve noted on a number of occassions that the news that really seems to matter is far more often reported in the foreign press, long before the American press picks up on it, if ever. Scooping the lazy journalism in America apparently isn’t that hard, everybody else seem to do it quite easily.

Yet even on the Internet, it’s impossible to escape the images of death. The images that I’ve seen in the past week are highly disturbing. There is a slide show of all the Virginia Tech victims as they were in life, and the other videos of the bombings in Baghdad. I won’t post either of them here, but you can find them if you look online.

These images of life and the brutal reality of their sudden death, is a contrast in humanity. This is a story being endlessly told around the world, except the humanity gets lost among all the media sensationalism. Long after we’ve had our tolerance level grossly exceeded, the media will still be endlessly sensationalizing these stories in a disgusting and cheap attempt at higher ratings, as if that is the most important thing in the world.

Yet all they invariably wind up doing is desensitizing the rest of us to what really happened. They take a tragedy and they turn it into a three-ring circus, complete with clowns, jugglers and flying trapeze artist. We’re being entertained in the blood of the victims, and the pain and suffering of the families, while the media pundits and politicians mount their soapboxes and blare from their bullhorns, screaming to be heard.

This in itself is a national crisis among a crisis, the never ending fear-mongering by the media and the reactionary politics that such fear mongering invariably brings. Just like the journalism that euphemistically passes for “news”, this scripted reaction cheapens the reality of tragedy and created an entire generation of voyereuristic “newsphiles”.

I think this practice is appalling and I don’t watch much television for this reason. Grief and loss should not be televised and dragged through the public consciousness again and again. It’s disrespectful to everyone, not just the affected and unhealthy for all. It desensitizes us and inures our consciousness. The reality of stolen human lives being ripped away is cheapened by the endless repetition of videos and images played over and over until our senses are assaulted to such a degree that we soon feel nothing. Nothing at all.

This is wrong. We need to be told what happened, but we don’t need to have our individual experience and the pain we feel to be lessened, or broadcast on prime time. Our senses must not become deadened by a constant and incessant barrage of senseless and insensitive “news reporting” that adds nothing but higher ratings for the networks. We all know it “leads if it bleeds”, but do we realize what this really means?

These techniques of endless repetition are classic mind-control techniques, now being used on the entire television watching public. And it shows in people’s reactions to every crisis. We’re no longer affected like we once were when shown images of death and destruction. We can watch Palestinian children blown to bits and it means nothing because such images have long since carried any true meaning or feeling.

We’re no longer moved to action either, but resort to meaningless platitudes to hide our insensitiveness and total lack of understanding and grasp of the real situation.

Where is our rage? Where is our anger? It has been inured by media sensationalism into a brain deadened state of total mind control. We accept what we’re shown and question nothing. The media Gods have decreed their will right into our living rooms.

I cried when I watched the images of the recent victims. I felt something, something that I don’t often feel if I let myself become desensitized. But my rage and anger and pain was mine. And I needed to feel that when senseless tragedy occurs because it reminds me of how human I really am. It’s a coping mechanism on how we deal with the reality of death and suffering. We need to feel rage and anger and pain and our total humaness of emotions. But what the media is doing is to package this up into scripted and edited little sound bytes surrounding by Tide commercials and car promotions.

What do we feel when we watch the news? Anything? Nothing? Are we so dead within that we don’t even recognize our condition?

Wherever there are humans, there is both life and death, joy and suffering, hope and hopelessness. Humans have an unlimited capacity for self-inflicted harm. Senseless death such as what we’ve seen in the past week has no meaning and no purpose. There is no room whatsoever for journalism or politicians to sensationlize this. None at all. This is not the time for grandstanding or self-promotion. It is a time for grief, reflection and healing. I can’t think of anything else that is more important.

I’m not trying to trivialize these recent tragedies, not at all. But I am trying to come to grips with them. It so goddamned unfair to have life stolen away from the young in such senseless acts. Suicide bombers or serial killers or mass shooters, the stolen lives of the young has a particular painfulness to it.

But there must be hope, despite all the tragedy. The future is bleak, but when is it not? The human animal will undoubtedly endure much, much more in the days to come. The corner we’ve painted ourselves into will demand this of many of us. We have no choice anymore in the matter. We will see multiple tragedies unfolding simultaneously. Will we feel nothing? Or will we react as the media moguls decree for us?

We’re not robots. Not yet. Soon, perhaps, when we get our implants, but until then, we’re still human. Can we still feel? Can we still discover within ourselves the emotions that remind us of our human frailties and our weaknesses? Can we truly feel empathy for the tragedy that befalls others? And if we can’t, what are we then? Are we even alive anymore? Or are we dead-men walking, headed towards a scripted finality, without hope and without thought?

These are times when we are supposed to feel, because it reminds us that we are still alive. And being alive is quite literally, the best that we can do. But what we do with that life and the time that we have, is what matters. None of us knows when our time is up. Time, and how you spend it, is the ultimate global currency. I hope we all learn to spend it wisely.


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One thought on “Life, Death and Journalism

  • April 20, 2007 at 9:30 pm
    You captured a feeling I was having all week. I got rid of out satellite tv 2 years ago. I forwarded this to people I think will care. I will see if it generates any comment.

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