Monday, June 27, 2005

Sharks R Us

A Better Nation here, attuned to manic Monday channel-surfing mode:

Whether mesmerized or made anxious by the news, whether behind the camera or parked in front of the TV or computer screen, we are practiced, steely hunters for the headlines, wanting to soak up the scoop, taste the salt in our victims' wounds.

FOX, CNN, MSNBC and other news outlets are all circling the bloody tide for the fast-forming headlines this Monday, switching on this manic Monday between the BTK serial killer Dennis Raider rather coolly admitting to the gory details of each of ten counts of murder, a long missing somebody in Aruba, the Supreme Court decisions on internet file swapping and the high court's mixed decisions on displaying the Ten Commandments in and at a courthouse in Kentucky and at the Texas state capitol - and separate shark "attacks" on Saturday and Monday afternoon.

With cameras outside Judge Rhenquist's house at dawn and one cold-blooded camera on David Raider for a solid hour, our media and we are circling. Sharks R Us.

Mixed messages abound.

And what do we see? The FOX-inspired spin circus eating up CNN, even eating away at PBS, and any semblance of authoritative, neutral, unemotional, objective news. The FOX reporting drama is like an ancient, sleek and slick marine hunter on a raid. Do the news producers and talking heads feel we really need the emotionalizing of such compelling news stories no matter what? Wrought with conjecture and expressions of shock and drama? God, the adjectives come frothing up.

Rumors of Chief Justice Rhenquist's impending retirement swirl, with cameras following the infirmed justice's every faltering step. If there is no actual news, make conjecture and mere anticipation the news.

Spin outside the Supreme Court, with a minister thanking God for allowing the justices' health to allow them to come down with the decision to allow the monument outside the Texas state capitol building to stand (even as they ruled that a similar display inside the Kentucky capitol would have to go).

Mixed messages.

Announcers act as if the admissions of Dennis Raider are like none others ever heard in court, a first, a precident. No, he's not the only straightforward and well-prepared serial killer to come forward. It's the news outlets themselves that are the serial killers of objective news.

And file sharing - yes, you too could be a bit of a crook, just like the all-stars. Lifting music? Movies? iPod addict? Pirates. Pirating is the theme. Stealth and stealing on the high seas.

Meanwhile, closer to shore, a shark attack ends in death. "Shocking"? Well, sharks are pretty much the same as they've been for hundreds of millions of years. And people aren't a whole lot different from the Dark Ages themselves, it seems.

And Arubu? What is it with Aruba? After a month? Cute, blonde, virgin. That's it. Lose a pretty teenager, and you can keep the headlines coming. Never has so much media money and airtime been spent on such a small story. But then the words "shocking" and "astonishing" and "graphic" and "never before" and "anticipating" crop into nearly every report.

Sharks are just doing what they do. But are we? Are we just doing what we do? Are we as compelled to catch the scent of blood? Sharks tend to bite and go away. But us humans, we circle closer and closer and sit mezmerized, watching the sensationalized teasers and watch long after the blood trail has begun to fade.

It's a day for being reminded how much like those sharks we are.

Was it always this way? What about the kind of mature journalism we used to see twenty and thirty years ago. What would Walter Chronkite say about all this? He does say things, and in true Chronkite understatement, he shares his sly disparagement.

The ratings go up when there's blood in the water.


At 6/29/2005 4:54 AM, Anonymous rq said...

After a second read, I do like the shark images. We Americans are a bloodthirsty bunch.


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