Thursday, August 4, 2011
Shock the Monkies
Is is just me, or are you all also getting tired of the escalating hysterical tone creeping into every corner of our news media? Just this morning, a local Albuquerque news anchor was reporting on an incident in Newport Beach, CA, involving a teenage boy who was digging a pit on the beach, when the pit caved in on him, trapping him for about 20 minutes. Twenty minutes. About the right amount of time it takes for a good half dozen people on a crowded beach to notice what happened and to dig him out with their hands.
Hardly anything to get worked up about, right? And if you think about it, the story is more funny than scary.
But here's our local reporter: "The boy will appear on this morning's Today show in an exclusive interview to talk about his frightening ordeal."
Note the excessive use of hysteria-laden adjectives here: "Exclusive," "frightening," "ordeal." Had I written that back in my college days, my professor would have bled all over it, sent it back to me in the form of a paper airplane with the words Dumb Shit written on the wings, and then applied his boot to my butt before giving me an F and sending me off to the nearest Wimmin's Study class.
Where, at some point in the middle of Post World War II Feminist Thought: A Praxis for the Community, it finally would have hit me: "The teen will appear on this morning's Today show to talk about what happened." D'oh!
Of course, this isn't the worst of it. Turn on any national news outlet, from NBC Nightly News to MSNBC to Fox to CNN, and you'll hear a similar sort of editorializing used to report on everything from localized events to national crises of confidence.
Which leads me to wonder: if everything is painted with the same broad brush strokes of anxiety and fear, how on earth are we ever going to be able to calm down long enough to think and distinguish real problems (our national debt, escalating military actions, cough, cough) from those created as paper tiger crises to propagate a political agenda (war on drugs, climate change, entitlement payments, cough, cough).
Oh. That's right. We're not supposed to think. We're supposed to follow.