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D for Desperation

Throwing the Remote Special Report

I guess people have started taking their country back.  As you’ve probably heard by now, Clay Duke, a disgruntled Florida resident opened fire on a school board meeting the other day.  He was pissed off about a recent tax hike, and the fact that his wife had just been fired from her teaching job.  Reports say that he walked into that meeting prepared to die. Fortunately, the only one of his five shots to hit its mark was aimed at his own head.

Before the shooting gallery began, Duke spray-painted the famous “V-in-a-circle” icon from V for Vendetta on the wall and held court on his woes.  The scared and sympathetic Superintendent tried to reason with him, and was shot at.

My beef in this whole situation isn’t with Duke, a disturbed ex-con and amateur anarchist.  Sad as it is, this is the logical conclusion to all the talk in recent years about revolution and ordinary folks rising up against the “oppressive federal government”; when politicians the news media stir the hornet’s nest of suspicion and fear—especially in a down economy—there’s a chance people will listen and, worse, take them seriously.

No, I take umbrage with the way Nightline covered this story.  I get that it’s their job to show the tragic footage that was captured by a stationary camera in the meeting chamber—in the competitive world of 24/7 news and a billion information outlets, once something’s fair game, only suckers take the high road.  But anchorman Bill Weir went a step too far (okay, it was probably his producer’s idea) when, towards the end of the segment, he said, “Here’s another look at the moment of horror.”

This isn’t 1983. The number of homes with DVRs is on the rise, and even people without the ability to rewind live TV are more likely to have the Internet than not.  There’s no need for instant replay on television anymore (I’ll give you sports broadcasts, mostly because I neither watch them nor care what they do with their airtime).  But showing the clip again, and beginning it from the point where the Superintendent begs for his life, has nothing to do with journalism and everything to do with sensationalism.  I could barely get through the footage once; I stopped the playback before it started again.

ABC News should be ashamed of themselves, though they’re only a tad more culpable than the other news outlets.  Sure, the media can pat themselves on the back for keeping this story alive by couching it in the heroic exploits of Mike Jones, a security guard who wounded Duke; but I have a feeling we would’ve seen this tape looping endlessly no matter how the incident shook out.

Is this all part of a greater cultural sickness?  Are we, the viewers, as much to blame for this kind of sick coverage, with our voyeuristic need to consume all available information all the time?  You’ll notice that widespread coverage of our two ongoing wars stopped about two minutes after large numbers of soldiers stopped dying, and the only time we hear anything about our educational system—outside of whining about teachers’ unions and libertarian efforts to disband the department of education—is when someone gets shot (maybe our national math and science scores wouldn’t be so laughably pathetic if teachers started taking hostages on a regular basis).

The real tragedy is that we may all be guilty at some level.  If you doubt that, answer me this: Did you click on the first link I embedded in this post?  Did you watch the video?

If you did, don’t worry.  It doesn’t mean anything; which, I think, might mean something.

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Reader Comments (1)

HA! I did something right...I didn't bother to click on the first embedded link in your article because, like you, I find no pleasure or benefit to "revelling" in the tragedy of others - ad infinitum. And yes, that does mean something.

January 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMom

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