[OT] 22,000 dead, and This White Guy - Western Media and the Devaluing of Brown People
This is a technical blog, so note that I don't do this all the time so forgive me ahead of time if you don't like my rants.
I'm looking at the home page of CNN.com. There are currently over 22,000 brown people dead, and apparently this white guy. I feel for his family, but I feel more for the countless hundreds of thousands of displaced and suffering others.
I am tired of the American Media (last night it was ABC News) who spend 5 minutes on a massive natural disasters, and then gloss over it when we are told "and no Americans were injured." Notice the text of this CNN blurb - 22,000 dead and 27 Western People, which details the counts of British, French and Italians.
This is unspeakably ethnocentric and it makes me a little ill. I'm not trying to be P.C. here, but these are humans, and whether it was a hundred Somali Fisherman, or this guy from Illinois, I expect more from a leading news organization. This is like a home-town newspaper concerned about its native son away on mission.
We must never forget that tommorow isn't promised to us. One day there will be an earthquake off the coast of Oregon. No doubt that will get media coverage.
God help us all, but thanks for the time I've had.
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
It's a difficult time right now, a stunning loss of life. Save the criticism and lashing out for issues where change can and should be made--in the case of personal reporting, and for the no-less tragic loss of Ben, along with the other countless individual fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters who lost their lives--let the tragedy be spoken of freely, honestly, openly. The expression of grief, shock and sorrow should be unfettered by what is politically acceptable, what other countries will think of us as Americans, how we might appear; those concerns are the very definition of self-centeredness. Grief any other way is staged.
I hope the illness that you feel when reading about the loss of life of non-nationals becomes sorrow for their families, no less deprived than any other whose losses are hidden in the numbers being reported.
It's sad, possibly dangerous, and, in this case, understandable.
At the moment I got notice of this posting, I was reflecting on my own responses. For some reason the numbers seem to matter first: 22,000 killed, 33 foot waves, 9.0 on the Ricter. I scan the news quickly to gather these details. I commit them to memory so I can quote them in conversations.
Then I try to understand them. Twenty-two thousand dead means something. I should be able to feel the loss, something visceral, like a tremor in the Force, but it's hard to grasp. Even poring over the photos of the destruction, it's hard to make it real. I have to calculate it into something else. In my neighborhood there's an average of 3 people per household...22,000 people means 7,333 households...in my neighborhood there's just over 3,000 households...if we include the neighborhood to the east.... But still, it's hard to really feel it.
Then, I think about the waves. I've spent a little time in the surf. I've been slammed by 5 foot waves that pounded me into the sand and started dragging me to the sea. A 33 foot wave terrifies me. I know something about what that means. It's the stuff of nightmares. This is my way in--picturing myself, my wife, and my child standing on the beach before a 33 foot wave. This makes it personal; this makes it real.
I guess what I'm getting at is that it is hard to grasp things of this size. We have to bring it down to the small, to make it personal, in order to get the response that it deserves. And it is only when I've personalized the horror that I can project it onto those affected. Another way to think about the photo of Ben Ables of Evanston, Illinois is that it helps people to see their brother, their son, their best friend, their lover in the disaster, and that makes it real. Is it a problem that mainstream America doesn't get the same feelings from a picture of Buyung Lelana of Aceh, Sumatra? Probably. But I wouldn't want to minimize what we're asking of them.
My external observer viewpoint is that US media have long sold out any credibility it had as reliable news source. Nowdays they just whoring themselves out to get highest rating as specific form of entertainment. Entertainment is not about reporting news, its about reporting what people want to hear and making as much coin as you can out of it. Chorus of willing and compliant media yelping few years back on "undeniable massive Saddam's WMDs stockpiles" in media (without SINGLE dissenting voice of real investigative journalist) was quite sobering litmus test. guess there is no investigative journalist left. bunch of " soap opera news" like CNN, and Fox in glorified role of party-line propoganda channel.
Not pretty, but a fact of life.
I get most of my news these days from NPR and the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com). Whenever I see "mainstream" media at the gym, etc. I'm pretty appalled.
I think I can see where Scott is coming from..but not only about MSM but about the over-extending reach of the US Government/Media/Culture. For example, as a US Citizen I believe that it's not our job to monitor the ongoing election in the Ukraine...and I don't want any group outside of the US monitoring our national election either.
I've read two very interesting books on the medium of television and how it affects us. I think that many of the ideas apply to other mediums in MSM. I have not had a TV in six years and get my news online. (I've created a nice .Net screenscraper that produces my RSS Feed. ;)
"Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" by Jerry Mander:
"Amusing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman
I'm from Sri Lanka, one of the countries worst hit by this quake.
Although we can't do much about the dead, over a million people in Sri Lanka alone have been displaced and are facing various hardships ranging from the spread of water borne diseases to lack of clean water and shelter.
The Red Cross is doing a wonderful job in helping out, your smallest of donations along with those of the people you know (relations, colleagues) will go a long way towards helping out those who have been battered by this quake.
First, there were the numbers: 22,000 (at the time) dead, 33 foot waves, 9.0 on the Richter. Second, we checked to see if we were OK, i.e. how many Americans died. Third, we cried over the children. And now, were focused on the on-going struggle to survive. Peoples' hearts (American hearts) are pouring out to those that are suffering, regardless of race. While I don't believe this one event erases our racist and nationalistic tendencies, it may just be an exception to the rule.
Just that value of human life is very relative, although in theory it shouldn't be.
We refer to this as 'racially-adjusted' reporting.
This means that, for example, two famous (white) actors getting engaged will be a bigger news story than the death of a hundred 'brown' people. there is some kind of attenuation played out in the minds of editors that racially-adjusts the events into some very distorted proportion.
good work with encouraging further donation Scott, -- the scale of this disaster is just staggering.
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