To the average American, April 15th represents a day of dread… tax deadline day. But this day, today, in 2013 its significance shifted…In a mid-sized corner of our nation, the world’s attention was diverted to focus on an annual tradition that will never be the same again. Someone detonated bombs in Boston near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
My Twitter and Facebook feeds lit up in direct proportion to the explosions that occurred in Boston. People were thinking, feeling, and praying for those impacted by this event…and trying to (yet again) make sense out of the senseless. Others were immediately propelled into fits of outrage by the lack of humanity at the root of it.
After three hours of online reports, comment threads, and posting/reposting support and encouragement to the online world, I had to shut it off. When living in a world of ‘real time’ reporting and instant (mis)information, the media is notorious for converting this kind of situation into (what Aaron Sorkin calls) ‘Tragedy Porn’. The news reporting circle-jerking cycle is this:
–>Breaking News (continued shock converting to sadness)
–>Speculation (contrasting and comparing Event’s significance to similar and equally horrific other Event)
–>Tedium (finding the neighbor of the third cousin to a witness who was born within 100 miles of the Event decades before it happened)
–>Saturation (inundation of the airwaves of destruction and aftermath from every angle in slo-mo and super zoom with enhanced imagery so perfect that the only thing missing is a John Williams/James Horner collaborative soundtrack)
–>Day2 –>Rinse –>Repeat.
The older I get the lower my tolerance becomes for tragedy porn. I think it peaked somewhere in my early 30s…probably between the ’96 Olympic Park bombing and Columbine…and 9/11 certainly did me in. The destruction keeps coming, and I can’t do anything about that. But what I have learned that I can do, is to stop rewarding the tragedy pimps and whores with my attention. I’ve worked in the news business, I know plenty of reporters, photographers, and editors alike. They are compassionate, and classy, and know better than to degrade the profession by indulging in schadenfreude for ratings.
But then again, there are the Geraldos and Jerry Springers, too. They barely pass for consideration as human beings, and they live to arouse your libido with titillation of gruesome detail. As long as we pay them, they’ll continue to prostitute what scarcely qualifies as news.
Here’s my suggestion, watch the news, get informed. When you hear “We’ll be here on the scene to bring you developments…” shut it off, and leave it off. From this day forward we should vow to shut down the talking heads unless they have something significant to say. Make them earn our attention by requiring them to give us that which is worth watching.
No more watching of those misbehaving media children who try to command your interest while shoving a camera and microphone in the face of grief stricken loved ones and ask, “How do you feel?” Really?!? Hey, Mr./Ms. On-the-scene-for-every-catastrophe “reporter”, stop being an ass- hat. Try instead to be a beacon of light to show us the miracles. Instead of body counts, show the lines of people waiting to donate blood. Remind us how many police, firefighters, ems, and ER teams are on duty every day, and how many more come to help when the emergency happens. Miracles are our reinforcement of faith in humanity. Miracles like:
- Every single first responder on the scene, running into smoke, fire and certain chaos to help anyone and everyone they can.
- People clearing schedules and canceling plans to go give time, blood, or money (or all three).
- Workers who go into the aftermath and help with recovery and identification of those who did not survive.
- All those who offer of themselves financially, emotionally and spiritually to assist victims, survivors, and loved ones.
I salute and honor everyone who has ever lifted a finger to help someone else, most importantly if there was no gain to be made by the helper from the helpee. THAT is my America, land that I love.
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” ~Albert Einstein