Even good news outlets are prone to allowing meaningless flapdoodle to infuse their reports. I was listening to National Public Radio (NPR) on the way in to work this morning. They were talking about the recent murders of three police officers in Baton Rouge. (By the way, you should in no way construe from this that we consider NPR to be a good news outlet. They’re not. They’re one of the very worst.)
Here’s a snippet, reported this morning as straight, hard “news,” by the “reporter,” one Wade Goodwyn: “The cop murderer Gavin Long did Baton Rouge no favors. The city is raw with fear and … (I forget the rest)”
Oh? What on earth does “the city is raw with fear” mean?!?
Well, let’s try to answer that question. It means this: Everyone Wade Goodwyn approached to speak about the murders, said the same thing — some variation of one or more of the following: (1) I’m really, really upset, or (2) I’m really, really afraid, or (3) what’s happening to our city? or (4) our city’s coming apart, or (5) how could this horrible thing happen here? or (6) I’m afraid to go out of doors or go shopping anymore, or (7) this city’s a war zone, or … on and on and on and on. You get the picture.
Why? Well, what would you say to a reporter who sticks a microphone in your face and demands that you react to the murders of three policemen in your city? Would you tell the truth? The real truth? No. Here’s the real truth: “Holy mackerel! That’s horrible! Secretly I’m relieved that this didn’t affect me directly, but I’d never say that publicly. I will experience some moments of sadness for the people the officers left behind, but if I were to spend time reflecting on everyone who lost their lives today, I’d have no time to get through the day and pay attention to my own family, so I’m just going to get going now and get on with my day, Mr. Reporter.”
That’s the real truth.
It sounds cold, but that last phrase: “If I were to spend time reflecting on everyone…” is a simple fact that everyone knows and understands.
We don’t, however, tell these idiot reporters the simple truth, because we don’t want to appear like cold, insensitive jerks. Instead, we — read this well — say what we think puts us in the best light possible. That’s it. It’s purest, undiluted, no-doubt-about-it hogwash, but we all say it anyway.
I’m guessing that the reporter — who himself has never experienced any of the feelings that people report to him — knows that his interviewees are simply trying to make themselves look as good as possible. Reporter and interviewer do this same elaborate, meaningless, nonsensical dance every time there’s some atrocity somewhere.
Think of the phrases you hear. Things like: “The city is still reeling from the [fill in the atrocity here]” or “People are hoping desperately that the healing will begin after [fill in atrocity here]” and the like.
No, they’re not. Anything like the murders of three police officers in Baton Rouge affects directly at most several hundred people. These are the families, friends and colleagues of the murdered people. Those people are upset. Really upset. With every right to be. But every time some moron “reporter” comes on and reports as news what is obvious twaddle, then he steals from those who have real reason to be experiencing real grief.
However, they represent only a really tiny portion of the city’s populace. Baton Rouge has a population of about a quarter of a million people. That means that if the murders affect 200 of those people directly — which would be quite a lot — then only one person in 1,250 was actually affected. While that’s awful, it hardly means that the entire city has somehow come unglued, and that there are a quarter of a million people rambling, shell-shocked in the streets with tear-stained faces. Let’s face it.
And, what does “the city is still reeling…” mean anyway? How, pray tell, does a city reel? You and I know what “reeling” means. It means staggering around, barely able to keep one’s balance, banging into things as one totters from wobbly step to wobbly step. That’s “reeling.” Several dozen people might actually be reduced to that sad condition after such an atrocity as happened in their city, but that’s it, and that’s not the entire city. Not even close.
I just hate this really crappy reporting that everyone does that’s meant only to show somehow that the broadcasting “news” outlet “cares” about the people affected by atrocities. They don’t. And, if you’re honest, you don’t either… not as much, that is, as those who are directly affected by the atrocities. They care, and they have reason to. And it’s not right, in fact, it’s morally very wrong, for any of us to pretend that we have the same depth of feeling or involvement as those who are directly affected. We don’t have the right to dilute the real victims’ experience with fake emotions of our own.
Look, I hate, hate, hate that there are the racist scum out there shooting policemen in cold blood. Hate it. But, when it happens, I have to get up the next day and go to work and be productive and get stuff done. I have to have at least roughly the same demeanor I always have, and I have to be ready to get my job done. If I were to spend time reflecting on everyone who lost his life… Etc. You get the point.
Bottom line: all the stuff that “news” organizations do to lard their “reporting” with syrup about people’s emotions and feelings is nothing more than a steaming, rank, pile of runny, codswallop. It contributes nothing to greater understanding of What’s Actually Going On. Moreover, it’s just a big lie anyway.