Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Voyeuristic Element of Infotainment

(Feb. 18, New York, NY) It’s never about a person; it is always about an event. This is an old complaint, a tired observation and commentary on who we are, as a people, when it comes to life. Not the phony arguments about “Life” as posited by the right wing conservatives. (Their hypocrisy is another matter.) Life, as in, that time each human being spends on earth as a sentient, cognizant being fully imbued with all the capabilities, emotions, desires, etc… as we all are. There is a baseline of commonality beyond those that define a species.

The theories and arguments are really not important. Even cancer has an unknown etiology. It’s not about movie and TV violence, violent music lyrics, video games or sports. It is not about somehow being culturally immune to and callous about the loss of human life. Notions like these seem to say that we were somehow victims of some force or forces that somehow mysteriously altered us. We don’t know how, when or where this mystery alteration occurred nor what precisely created it. This entire line of thinking is such a flimsy, cheap, overused, excuse that most people seem to accept it as fact. May there exist some modicum of truth within these arguments? Perhaps. Are there external cultural influences that affect some of us more profoundly than others? Sure. Has our threshold for mayhem, murder and catastrophe been heightened by what we are exposed to in the various media? Most certainly.. But all of these elements have the feel to them that we were victimized. Victimization, such as this would imply, supposes mass susceptibility, negation of logic, reason and emotion on a vast scale that seems inherently implausible.

A female psychiatrist is hacked to death in the “Silk Stocking District”, Manhattan’s Upper East Side, in the 19th Precinct. Five college students are murdered, shot to death, sitting in a geology lecture at Northern Illinois University. The body of a female student is discovered in the desert outside Las Vegas: she had been raped, murdered and her corpse had lain in the badlands for approximately one week prior to discovery. Some distraught teenager shoots up a shopping mall in Omaha. The list goes on and a new list is being generated as this is being written.

During a recent week of events involving the unnatural loss of life, the Newark (NJ) Star Ledger reported that the City of Newark had actually gone 33 days WITHOUT a homicide. Points of reference? The absence of unnatural death was NEWS; news worthy of being reported. What does that indicate, if anything? Everything is relative, right? Certainly it is. Cable news outlets cover a single isolated abduction, murder or other crime with a zest and zeal unabashedly sordid and exploitive. Microphones are thrust into the facing of miners weeping wives as the fate of their husbands trapped underground is uncertain. Witnesses and survivors relate their experiences over and over again as if they are recounting a verified alien abduction. We eat it up. We suck it all in and quickly thirst for more.

There is a “chicken or the egg” component to this phenomenon. Do we drink it all in because it is put in front of us in all its sensationalistic, Technicolor, hi-def, pod-casted digital wizardry or is the media writ large merely satisfying our appetites? Yes, this debate has been on-going since the 1970’s. Perhaps most of the questions that define the issue are rhetorical, they merely serve as prompters for us to take a look at ourselves.

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