Thursday, April 19, 2007

Serial Enablers

As everyone now knows, the Blacksburg Killer, on the day of the massacre, mailed a set of videos containing his rantings, and a "manifesto" to NBC News during the two-hour lull between his shootings.
So, what does NBC do with the manifesto and tapes -- products of a raving murderous lunatic ? Of course we know -- it broadcasts them on The NBC Nightly News. Never mind that it gives the Killer just whnt he wanted: attention to adorn the bloody conclusion of his sorry life, complete with rapt audiences of other weirdos someplace no doubt "inspired" by the lunatic's work. The nutjob wanted to make a "statement," so he sat down, did his rave and went merrily on his way shooting and killing, cause he knew full-well he'd find some media enablers.
See, there's no way this wasn't being broadcast -- Jesus Christ on a Starship with an order from the President couldn't stop it -- after all, this is news. It's also, as a psychiatrist put it to NBC's crosstown rival ABC, a "social catastrophe." No, I'm not linking the ABC piece -- it quotes the Killer's videos.
Social Catastrophe. Yeah, that's about right. I imagine it's more a ratings catastrophe for the other networks who didn't get it first. If the act of reporting itself would end all life on this planet: the TV newsies would still kill each other first fighting for an exclusive.
Israel v. Hezbollah, Duke Lacrosse, Don Imus, "manifestos" by crazies, suicide bombers saying good-bye on tape. . .I'm sure you can add to the list, seasoning as to taste. When you get tired of that game, tell me why television journalism isn't a social catastrophe ?


Candidly Caroline said...

As tasteless and voyeuristic as it might seem, I would have run the tapes, also. The purpose of the press IS to bring information to the public.
Of course, much gets lost in translation bringing information to the public and in DECIDING what information to bring to the public, but that's our job. Responsiblity obviously should be employed with that power, but a one time showing of a relevant piece of a puzzle after a tragedy that affected so many is not an abuse of that power, in my opinion.

El Jefe Maximo said...

I understand the dilemma of editors and reporters, charged with reporting the news for the public. What worries me is (1) the extent to which circulation of such imagery turns the media into the makers of news, rather than reporters of it; and (2) the ease with which media consumers in bad faith -- such as Mr. Cho – are able to exploit the journalist’s drive to scoop the competition and interest the public to gratify their own desire or need for exposure and to make a statement.

My concern is particularly with visual media (television and the internet). I would not have reacted so strongly to, say, simply printing Mr. Cho’s rantings, as opposed to showing the tapes on television.

The wide publicity of video for Mr. Cho’s act will almost certainly cause other deranged persons to seek to emulate him and draw attention to their own rants and rages against society – this effect has been observed and commented on in connection with suicide bombers in the Middle East. At what point does this become unacceptable ? I don't know -- and I don't want us to discover that point, either.