Thursday, April 19, 2007

what's news?

While I have nothing to say directly about the events at VA Tech other than pretty much the same sentiments that everyone has: it's a tragedy. While that's true, I'm a bit miffed as to why it is front page news. Still. Even in New Zealand. The Dominion Post, which services pretty much all of New Zealand below Taupo, had a large photo of Cho Seung-Hui brandishing his firearms on the front page. I understand that there's a fairly compelling human interest story. But this is also an event which can bring forth many points of discussion about American culture, higher education, psychology, basic human interaction and decency. (Gun control is being discussed of course, but somehow I doubt any progress will be made on that front.) There's an odor of exploitation that permeates media's coverage of these sad events, events which are fairly isolated and have a relatively small sphere of influence.

They're sensationalizing the people involved. They're playing up
Cho Seung-Hui as some kind of one-dimensional evil villain, like someone out of Batman's rogues gallery. He doesn't make a statement. He has a diatribe. He's disturbed, anti-social, eccentric, and a loner. He's been dehumanized and is now a character in one of the media's stories about terror. And then there are the victims of the massacre, who have articles about them such as the one on the washingtonpost.com today that begins "Like a string of jewels come stories of priceless lives cut short on a day when the unthinkable occurred."

158 people were murdered in Baghdad two days later in similarly senseless bombings, but their lives aren't described as priceless and their stories don't sparkle like jewels. Their stories don't do anything because they're not reported. There is no follow-up. No real effort at making these occurrences human occurrences. The Washington Post article about these bombings interviewed one witness. ONE. A man who witnessed another man's head being eliminated. Maybe if news sources like the Washington Post reported on Iraqi bombings--bombings that are a symptom of a larger problem of sectarian violence in a region rife with tension due to religion and cultural differences that have global consequences--like they are the VA Tech shootings, people would actually care what's happening in Iraq. I only seems fair that Iraqi deaths should be noted as people not numbers and commented on by their friends and family instead of state officials.

And one last note: the washingtonpost.com is posting photos and bios of people killed at VA Tech. Why haven't they been doing this for US soldiers killed in Iraq?

7 comments:

aducore said...

I agree with you on pretty much every point, and just wanted to add one thing.

Violent crime rates have been falling for at least a decade now, yet if you watch the news you'd see an increase in the number of reported violent crimes. This inverse relationship between what's going in the real world and what's being reported is probably causing people to have a distorted view of reality as pertaining to public safety. I'm not much for conspiracy theories, so I don't believe that this is due to some government initiative to garner support for increased homeland defense funds or whatever, and is probably just due to the fact that the news corporations have realized that people are more likely to read stories about violence than they are to read stories about more mundane things (Tool's "Vicarious" comes to mind.) The problem is that this isn't honest reporting; it's skewing the world portrayed in the news to be more exciting. The reason there isn't heavy reporting about incidents in Iraq is probably that it's less surprising that soldiers are being killed. Also, it doesn't represent some out-of-sight, out-of-mind aspect of our immediate surrounding that is only brought to our attention when some horrible incident like the one at VA Tech makes the news; soldiers constantly and knowingly run the risk of being attacked... I'm rambling.

Anonymous said...

In meager defense of the Post, they do post all casualties, but not with full cover stories of course.
-kyle

Benjamin Storer said...

At 13:00 my time today, CNN's top story was that VT held a moment of silence. Seriously?
Also, Virginia's governor today said, "...our Commonwealth begins the long and difficult healing process..." Perhaps this will make me seemed callous, but as a citizen of said Commonwealth, I don't have any healing process. Thirty-three people I don't know were killed. How is this different from the thousands of others I don't know who were also killed that day? I can't mourn them all. These kids weren't special.

Emiko said...

you make such a good point. and i agree that there should be bios about the dead soldiers and the iraqi's... and the media should cover these things. but the media be what it will. It always will. Also, there is a difference, slight and insignificant to the iraqi's i'm sure, but mass killings in war, and mass killings in daily supposidly non threatening life, has always been treated differnently.The element of the unexpected, and the helplessness that there is nothing that allowed the people to know ahead of time, to perhaps avoid being killed...now why is there war in the first place... and can a individual chose to go to war, is there a way out for the individual to avoid war, in case he gets dragged into it... no answers 

plus, america hates it when their own people die in their own land. is my perspective. it's easier to let go of people dying across the ocean... maybe??

but also, there was big coverage when there was that mine that got closed and people got trapped right? american civillian life, is a level onto its own that demands protection, sometimes through the deaths of other non civilian-military life?? not my wishes but thats what american actions seem to say? rambling, will ponder some.

Kathryn said...

Many people have voiced the opinion that you have, but I think you said it the best. Loss of life is ALWAYS tragic, and humans are all humans.

On an unrelated note, DUDE, I didn't realize I had an account with Blogger. It has my name and everything. When did that happen?

Flushy McBucketpants said...

i don't know... do you have a gmail account? 'cause they use the same login and password now.

Emiko said...

now does that mean i have another gmail account with my blogspot username and password? eh? mysteries of life!!