Friday, October 14, 2005
such a magical misteria
Remember the band Def Leppard? In the 80s they rocked it like it was 1999, or some such year. That was the time when if you had big hair, lots of lights, and big sounds it didn't matter if your lyric lines were typically three words long. Then Grundge came along with loud sounds, long, messy hair and long lyrics, and relegated most of the big hair bands to the "Behind the Music" bin. (most of them - rightfully so) You know you watched them all! It was like Pokemon; they pretty much followed the same formula, looked different, but still - "ya gotta collect them all!" At the end of the episode, the band promised they were "off the stuff" and in the studio recording their comeback album. And then most of them were never heard from again.
While doing media fly by's this past week, it has become apparent that Def Leppard needs to come back and play their hit, Hysteria, on the airwaves. Maybe then, if we can figure out what the song means, it could have an impact- kind of like We are the World without Quincy and Michael. Well, maybe not. As best I can tell the song is about a women causing a man to feel hysteria. Close enough.
Let's turn to Wikipedia for a definition. Boy, remember the good ol' days when we turned to Webster and Britannica? Yeah. Seriously, if only Google and Wikipedia could join forces they could be a super force for good. Kind of like the Superfriends. Instead we would drop Aquaman out of the group and vote in Googlepedia. Admit it, Aquaman was a bit of a dork. Anytime the bad guy was enacting his plan, he was kind of MIA. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Women were all off either stopping the earthquake or saving the plane from crashing, where was Aquaman? Riding his seahorse. A seahorse. While wearing green tights and a tight orange shirt.
But I digress.
Wikipedia defines Hysteria as "a diagnostic label applied to a state of mind, one of unmanageable fear or emotional excesses." Think about the state of the media recently in terms of their coverage of the Hurricanes, other natural disasters, missing kids, and sharks. Every summer we enter a slow news zone. Slow news for the national media outlets is pretty much a time without scandals, politicians, and active stuff going on in Washington. That means we enter a sort of summer hiatus, because the politicans are at home campaigning, greasing palms, and burying bodies. So other things become big national news. Some stories are national news and deserve decent coverage. But in the summer we go from "sharks have attacked swimmers in Florida" to "FLORIDA SHARK NIGHTMARE: DAY 15: EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE!" We go from "Missing child in Texas: Authorities seek your help" to "ATTRACTIVE MISSING RICH GIRL ATROCITY: DAY 35: ONLY ON OUR NETWORK!" Why all the hysteria? These are stories that need proper coverage, but we can't forget that just because one person is missing- that there aren't thousands of missing children who need to be found and families that need help. But it is precisely this type of hysteria- coverage that draws our focus away from the reality of things and puts on the blinders. One of the worst examples is the Hurricane coverage.
Now that it is fall and the politicians have returned to being offline "gold farmers", the media has been in post mortem mode on the hurricane and trying to mine the last bit of political hubris they can out of it, while licking their chops in anticipation of political poll numbers and one minute congressional speeches. You know- the stuff we really don't care about? While the dust is beginning to settle in the gulf area, its becoming more apparent how hysterical and biased the media coverage was.
Remember these gems? The flood waters were supposed to be toxic, so much so, that apparently if anyone survived they would glow and have superpowers. Guess what - not really. How about the death toll? It was supposed to be upwards of 10,000 in New Orleans alone - we have "frinkin'" mathematician Nagin to thank for that one. Guess what- not really. How about the Viking-like pillaging and raping and gang-raping of 7 year-olds that was supposedly going on? Guess what- not really. What about the story that over half of the local police force quit or didn't show up for work? You guessed it - not really.
Now the national media is busy patting themselves on the back for such hard hitting coverage. Meanwhile, they blame us, Joe Viewer for believing the rumors. In general, we are racist and we fear the poor. And it was these latent tendencies that caused us to buy into the rumors. Not only that- we don't know what we are talking about if we support and believe in our President. Even the New Orleans citizens who were moved to the Houston Astrodome were expected to buy the journalist bias. When asked what they thought of Pres. Bush's speech about rebuilding efforts, correspondents were surprised that the so-called "evacuees" had faith in the President. Espcecially after Kayne West's hard work. The anchors couldn't bring themselves to admit what was happening. The best they could do is say reaction was "mixed." They couldn't possibly be the ones causing a false sense of hysteria, could they? I mean it's not like anyone in the media has an agenda, right? Besides, the federal government is to blame, right? The so-called journalists were just there doing their job, right? Well guess what- not really.
"Journalists" showed us, hour after hour, day after day, interviews with traumatized victims and local officials who really didn't know what was truly going on. Don't you remember the brave journalists in their pressed button down casual shirts and the ladies in their news logo ballcaps? It was all very LL Bean. (Did they all see the commercial: "Look your best, even during a natural disaster. Gap - Media") Meanwhile, they were on the ground talking to these people in their worst moments. It was a ratings bonanza. In fact, CNN has recently aired a commercial touting that millions of us tuned into them during the Hurricane. Journalistis impartiality, my eye. It was the media that failed us in their reporting. They pushed the "hysteria"-type reporting to the front lines and thus we have the "unmanageable fear or emotional excesses" on the news and in the minds of the public.
"Journalist" were giving us completely unreliable information and they knew it- because they could not fact-check anything. Every tear - jerker story they feed us came from victims who were angry and desperate. People who needed help. The people were being exploited for the news outlets interest. They knew the sources were unreliable, and no court in the land would take any of it as evidence in a trial, because it is called- heresay. No actual victims or first hand accounts of some of these rumors have surfaced.
"Journalist" also took on face value, reports from local officials as gospel. Now they say- "Well, what else could we do? They were reliable sources?" Um- check again. The numbers and stories that the mayor and police chief were tossing out there were fantastic and sensationalistic to begin with. The same people who throw in skeptism and alternative views when interviewing the President, gleefully threw these stories on national television. And the stories were wrong. Now the fallout has begun, and the news outlets are throwing you and me under the bus. The mayor should be under fire, but he is getting a pass. While he is under some scrutiny in disparate places, for the most part he is some sort of role model- except to the citizens of New Orleans who should know better. And apparently he is free to make racist remarks without impuignity.The police chief may have resigned, but it is getting the "Section B, page 2" treatment.
What is happening is journalistic slight of hand- like some third-rate magician. While "journalists" like Keith Olbermann cover up the rabbit with a hankerchief, they distract us with a little flash bang so we don't see the rabbit going down the hole. The real problem is that we may be too apathetic. We shrug it off, and say "we've seen that trick before" and sit and wait for the next one. What we need to do is to not buy a ticket to the show in the first place. If there is anything that we preach here at The Shelf it is- think for yourself.
The media have done a good job pushing the hysteria. Its time for us to stop buying into it. For all the so-called professionalism and journalistic integrity, this is nothing more than the 21st century example of "yellow journalism" and muckraking. It's almost as bad as William Randolph Hearst telling his correspondent Fredric Remington before the Spanish-American War : "You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war." What else can I conclude when I see Matt Lauer almost having a TV-gasm when talking about this weeks poll numbers on Bush. The media is even analyzing his blinking. Or when Lauer, who's Today Show has spent the last few weeks building houses in front of their studios, indirectly accused Bush, who came to help Habitat for Humanity in LA, of seeking a Photo-Op. Um, Matt- what the hell else have you guys been doing for the past few weeks? Why build the houses at Rockefeller Square and ship them to Louisiana, instead of building them in LA? Time to issue these guys their walking papers, people. Don't buy into the hype and do your own research. They can only put the blinders on, if you let them. Schoolhouse Rocky was right: Knowledge is power. Only don't forget that having no knowledge puts you in someone else's power. Take that power out of their hands. Take the opportunity to calm down the Hysteria. Def Leppard, where art thou?
well, it's no trick to make a lot of money... if what you want to do is make a lot of money.