Friday, August 27, 2004

Friends in the News: Okay, not really friends, more like acquaintances.

I heard a fairly disturbing news story on the radio the other morning. It bothered me enough that my mind kept coming back to it. Aspects of the story really affected me. I was going to blog about it last night.

Only when I got home and checked my email, I discovered I knew the people involved. They were far enough removed from me that we could probably walk by each other in the mall and not really notice who we were passing, but close enough that none of us would have had to say, "Who?" if the other person was brought up.

It's highlighting something I've been thinking about for a while now--how safely anonymous so much of our news has become, how free we think we are to pass instantaneous judgment on situations we know nearly nothing about.

I've realized one of the reasons I've blogged less than I thought I would when I started is that I'm hesitant to offer commentary on things I know little to nothing about. Often when I post about news items, I post a link with no commentary because I figure you're as capable as I am of forming an opinion on the matter.

And then along came a news item I felt perfectly comfortable linking to and blogging about and commenting on, and I discover I'm linked to the people involved. Some people I care about deeply are really in turmoil over how to deal with what happened.

And after talking with them a little, I realize the situation is so much more complicated than five inches of newsprint.

None of this stops me from being opinionated or telling you what you should think about the issues. It definitely doesn't stop me from being right all the time.

But it does reinforce something I've been right about all along--the media is not motivated by caring, or by goodness, or by altruism any more than any other kind of business.

They're just granted first amendment protection for the people they chew up and spit out in the name of the almighty dollar.

Unlike police officers, who are forced to show up at places and situations you and I would run away from so that peace can be restored, all the while hoping it's not as bad as they think, the media runs like maggots to a carcass, hoping the maximum amount of flesh, of depravity and vileness is exposed, the more meat to suck a few dollars out of.

The sad part is, if we all just ignored them, the invisible hand of capitalism would make them go away. If we all stopped slowing down for the crashes, stopped huddling around the wounded body, stopped staring as the media branded people with bright scarlet letters so we'd all know their sins, they'd be forced to turn to other, more worthwhile and fulfilling things with which to fill the broadcast time.

So go out and rent Mad City and start looking at that anchor out of the corner of your eye.

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