Thursday, September 08, 2005

Directions for Making an MSM Story: Unwrap. Inflate.

 
Does every MSM journalist get his own bicycle pump or do they use the electric kind you see on those inflatable beds? One thing is for sure — they can’t tell a straight story anymore, it has to have larger-than-life qualities or it’s boring. This is probably a function of the state of television “news” — blather is necessary because they stick you in front of a camera for waaay too many hours and the little red light is blinking so you have to say something, anything, in fact, until the little red light goes off. And you’re in front of that camera not because you are smart or insightful but because you look good and hava taken elocution lessons and paid a great deal of money for your haircut and your suit.

This may be the reason that actors think they have the credentials to make important statements about government policy or world events. They watch too much television “news” and they think it’s real. Compared to the films they make, it is. But the hubris that accompanies being a familiar face in what passes for public life means this: what matters is not what you say but how much face time you get to say it. It’s the 21st century version of “I-don’t-care-what-you-say-about-me-as-long-as-you-spell-my-name-right.” Since no one can spell anymore, what does that matter? It’s all about being seen.

Which brings us to the inflatable death figures for Katrina. Remember the tens of thousands who were supposed to have died in the conflagration of 9/11? Remember how the figure kept being notched downwards? The mechanism here is the same. It is not enough that terrible damage was done to 90,000 square miles of America. In addition, we need large numbers of floating dead, abandoned bodies, human flotsam and jetsam washed out to sea. Preferably with pictures of the gory details.


The Guardian is the first sign that the newsworld may be coming to its senses:
     The mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, said that the total of dead left by Hurricane Katrina would “shock the nation”. Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco said that people should prepare themselves for “thousands” of dead.
But yesterday the total of those officially listed as dead in the state stood at 71. How many lives has Katrina really claimed?
When everything is totted up, we still won’t know for sure. But right now some people are guessing maybe two hundred or so.
    “The estimates are always far in excess of the reality,” said one American reporter who specialises in covering disasters as the rescue operations were coordinated outside Harrahs casino in New Orleans. “I would not be surprised if we were looking at as few 200 to 300.”
If you want some perspective on the body count look at the Hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900:
    Galveston 1900On the evening of September 8, the tempest of wind and water slammed into Galveston. In the language of today’s National Weather Service, it would be called an extreme hurricane, or X-storm. Within a few hours of making landfall, the storm had scoured vast sections of the city clean of any man-made structure, deposited towering walls of debris in other areas, and killed upward of 10,000 people.
The Galveston storm remains the worst natural disaster ever to strike the U.S., its death toll eclipsing the combined carnage of the Johnstown Flood of 1889 and the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.
Imagine what CNN could have done with that story: unwrap. Inflate till the damn thing bursts. Throw away. Find new story. Unwrap...


Hat tip: Wally Ballou.

6 comments:

a4g said...

I'm just sorry we missed 24 hour coverage of the Great Boston Molassas Flood of 1919.

Wally Ballou said...

I blame Woodrow Wilson for that. Too busy making the world safe for democracy to make Boston safe from molasses. He was undoubtedly prejudiced against the Irish, too (hey, who isn't?)

Papa Bear said...

I think the New Orleans figures will turn out to be well overstated.

OTOH, Mississippi may turn out with a greatly higher toll than the media are currently letting on. ref, this FreeRepublic thread

cathyf said...

If you want a great read, try Isaac's StormIt's the story of the Galvaston hurricane.

cathy :-)

Baron Bodissey said...

Actually, that's what the link above refers to. Dymphna and I both read the book; I was riveted by it.

J said...

Come on. The MSM isn't sensationalizing the death toll purely to titilate viewers/readers. They want it to be a high as possible so that they can blame Bush for the death of thousands.