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AdLib On February - 22 - 2013

oscar-pistorius

It’s that time of year, when the media provides wall to wall coverage of our favorite kinds of celebrities…murderers. At a time like this, we can’t help but remember the hit(job)s of previous years and their stars such as Casey Anthony starring in “Whatever Happened to Baby Caylee”, Drew Peterson in “The Usual Suspect” and of course O.J. Simpson in “Liar, Liar”.

The relationship between Americans and their murderers is remarkably intimate and narcotic, many people crave daily coverage, whether or not there is any new information, they’re satiated to hear “experts” ignorantly blather on about why the murderer may have done it or listen to the same reporting over and over in hopes of getting at least one little scrap of new information.

And for the media, exploiting the murder of a pretty blond girl or woman is a heaven-sent goldmine. Fortunately for the media, there are enough provocative murders to keep them swimming in profits. If there weren’t, who knows, each news division might have to hire murderers as consultants to commit a murder during sweeps weeks (Fox News already has the edge on this).

It is a base instinct of all human beings, we are all tempted to slow down and look at a car accident as we drive by it, we are all fascinated by life being endangered or abruptly ended as well as the intense emotions that accompany it.

We have to deal with our base instincts all the time but what makes us civilized and wise is our ability to override them with our intellect. For most Americans, when we see someone with food we would like to eat, we don’t grab it from them (Chris Christie aside). When we see a car we’d like to have, we don’t steal it. When we see a stranger that we find physically attractive, we don’t grab them.

The urge to take such things is totally normal but giving into the impulse to have it now is what can be destructive (as the candy and soda display at the supermarket checkout line can prove). It doesn’t help having a pusher like the media, waving another “murder high” in front of our faces, it can wear us down and get us to give into our base instincts…but when you know you’re being manipulated, that can be just what’s needed to become just plain pissed off at the manipultion and turn away.

What difference will the drama surrounding and trial the of Oscar Pistorius make in your life? How will the massive media attention given to it improve our society? Is it not bread and circuses, distracting us and devouring our attention that might otherwise be spent on what really matters in our lives and nation? And in a perverse way, is it not glorifying those who murder, turning them into household names and turning their horrible act into history (wasn’t this one of the motivations of the Aurora movie theater killer…BTW, not using his name so as not to give him that recognition)?

It is not disrespecting or trivializing the victims or the act of murder to declare that we do not need to have murders turn into trans-media soap operas. They are detestable acts done by detestable people and real people’s lives are horribly destroyed by them. They do not need to be filtered from any news coverage but they are hardly appropriate as a ongoing major news story that blots out stories that are more meaningful in our lives.

Ironically, it is the inability to exercise discipline over base emotions that often is at the root of why murderers commit their crime. Instead of being brought down to their level and giving into our basest selves, wallowing around for weeks, months and possibly even years in the murder of one or more human beings, perhaps it’s better to take away from a tragedy everything we can that might help in the future, share our compassion with those suffering such a terrible loss…then turn back to the issues that truly impact our lives.

Written by AdLib

My motto is, "It is better to have blogged and lost hours of your day, than never to have blogged at all."

19 Responses so far.

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  1. kesmarn says:

    AdLib, thanks so much for putting the spotlight on the media equivalent of an all-Twinkies and Pepsi diet. After reading this, I thought I’d do a little experiment.

    Since I don’t have access to any TV news other than PBS, I went to the trusty iPod to check out Wednesday evening’s version of Brian Williams and the NBC Nightly News.

    For starters, this half hour of “news” was all of 18 minutes in the no-commercials podcast version. So — what was the best way to utilize that 18 minutes to fill in the American public on the important issues of the day?

    Well, I took notes:

    Lead story: Evil Chinese hackers are out to get us! Be afraid.

    #2 There was a huge explosion in a Kansas City restaurant. Check out this amazing video.

    #3 SNOW in Arizona. whooeee… lookee here at this snow-covered golf course.

    #4 Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his wife. Humbled. Take heed, people. Cautionary tale here.

    #5 McCain lets his constituents have it in a town hall. Watch the video of a screaming idiot and then watch McCain call him a “jerk.” Conflict is drama and drama sells.

    #6 Hey, geezers, you too can retire to live on a college campus and annoy the young ‘uns by monopolizing class time. If you’re rich like these people.

    #7 Here’s the First Lady’s new portrait. Like her bangs?

    #8 Highly pixelated video of the asteroid — 8 seconds.

    #9 NYT selling the Boston Globe. Meh.

    #10 Baseball players are going to be wearing safer helmets. You needed that information to make informed voting decisions.

    #11 Americans get 11% of their calories from fast food. Ya think?

    #12 British study says kids born now will spend 25% of their lives in front of some kind of screen. (Watching Brian Williams feed them Twinkies?)

    #13 Here’s an 11 year-old basketball phenom. “Watch me instead!” says our Spunky Girl Reporter.

    The End.

    Nothing about the sequester. Nothing about Japan’s PM Abe coming to Washington. Nothing about gun control (too long after Sandy Hook?). Nothing about the Middle East.

    And yet — after watching that 18 minutes — Americans think they’re informed and feel proud of themselves for sitting through it.

    • AdLib says:

      Kes, wonderful idea and very telling results, well done!

      When I read through the list of items, the smallness of the view of America and the world was so apparent and the need to throw visuals and hooks at the audience so they won’t change channels couldn’t be clearer.

      So, what did we learn today? It snows, bangs look cute, people eat lots of fast food, kids will watch a lot of tv and some little kids can dribble and shoot a basketball really well!

      What do we call such a collection of revelations?

      News.

    • Hey kes, really a sad state of affairs (no pun intended) in American “journalism.” I can understand someone wanting to take a brief respite from the world of politics and the state of the world in general, but this is not journalism as it should be. Serious journalism should be about national and international events and outcomes. It used to be, that if a person wanted a little distraction from the serious and heavy reporting of events, they could always turn on the tele and watch a movie or sitcom, or a good doc on PBS. Then it was a choice that people had. Now, to find any relevant news pertaining to world events, one has to actually search for it.
      I seriously think our media is a big part of what is wrong with America.

    • Kalima says:

      Well said kes, and I now have a good reason to continue with MB. Thanks. ;-)

  2. There is that old saw in media circles, “if it bleeds it leads.” I’m not enough of mental health expert to know what causes us to slow down and rubber neck at some horrible car crash, or plane, train, what ever, or some gruesome murders like Tate/Labianco, or Ted Bundy, Jeffery Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy…et al.
    I do think there is the gore factor, people want to see it, but there is also a question of why. Why did these people do what they did? What on Earth could have motivated such horrific acts?
    It’s like controversy in general, the media knows that controversy sells, just look at our 24/7 news networks and you need not look any further for proof of such a claim. Look at all the books by people like Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, just to name a few.
    It’s purely what was once called “yellow journalism,” or sensationalism. It makes the average person’s heart skip a beat, giving them a vicarious sensation, and maybe a slight shot of adrenaline.
    I think it also comes down to the profit margin. Book writers, journalists and news anchors know there is money to be made by covering horrible events, and writing books about those events.
    I think it may have started with Truman Capote and his fascinating book “In Cold Blood,” about the gruesome Clutter family murders.
    Then again, crime mags that go back even further made millions on detailing murders and their victims. In Cold Blood made Capote the most famous author of his day, and one of the wealthiest.

    • AdLib says:

      KT, absolutely, controversy sells but I don’t see this as controversy, it’s news porn. There’s something perversely sexy to people about domestic murders…though they don’t find other kinds of murders, such as gang-related, of great interest (when was the last time you saw the media obsessing for weeks and months on the murder of a woman who was black or Latino and shot in an urban area?).

      There was In Cold Blood and there was Ed Gein who was the basis for the Hitchcock film Psycho but you can go back to the early days of movies and the old WB gangster films, with anti-hero sociopaths murdering left and right.

      And consider all the crime dramas on tv, all the CSI shows and murder-based tv. Americans are fascinated by murder and murderers, titillated might be truer.

      As I said, it is a base instinct, not abnormal but when there’s no major voice in society saying, “Wait a minute, this is not something we should give into,” and in fact we have a media that urges us to give into these base instincts, it is hard to combat.

      BTW, it also makes people so easily manipulated, when they are encouraged to indulge themselves, they lose sight of the big picture…which many in the 1% are all too happy to see.

    • SallyT says:

      KT, you are right, this has been around way before Cold Blood. Cold Blood stands out in our memory but I watched a PBS special on the Real Billy the Kid and it was just the same back then. He wasn’t really as bad as he was depicted but that didn’t sell, so, they embellished and increased the number he killed when in fact he wasn’t even there. In looking at his story now, he actually started out on the right side of the issue at hand.
      Guess we would have to add Lizzie Borden to this, too. Now that was double murder, of the parents no less, and trial of the century. It has been going on forever, huh KT.

      • Sally i agree completely. We could even go back to ancient Rome and the gladiators. Roman citizens flocked to see gruesome mortal combat between humans fighting humans, to weakly armed prisoners having to fight lions and tigers, where the prisoners were literally ripped to pieces by these tremendously powerful animals. The crowds would cheer and cheer according to the amount of bloodshed and gore. Pretty sick, eh? Now we have the NFL, which is by far less bloody, but it is still a form of fairly brutal combat between humans.

  3. Kalima says:

    AdLib, I couldn’t agree more and although every international news outlet has this story on their FP, I’ve posted only two links to this story in my MB updates because everyone else is in such a frenzy about it and it’s very off putting. The man shot his girlfriend four times through the bathroom door, and the fact that he is a winning paraplegic athlete should have very little to do with it. Personally I don’t care if he is granted bail or later imprisoned, I just wish that the media would spend as much time documenting the injustice of starving children, more than a billion people without access to clean drinking water, the genocide going on around the world and not just in Syria, the daily rapes and murders of women worldwide, and the greed of corporations making life unbearable for millions around our globe by stealing their land and contaminating their environment to only later pay fines, which they can well afford, for something that can never be replaced.

    I don’t give a flying nun about Oscar Pistorius. I don’t know him, his conviction will not change my life, and I’m so tired of the media circus that surrounds him. He shot and killed an unarmed woman, I hope he gets jail time and hopefully soon we can move on to more important things. There are plenty of those.

    • AdLib says:

      Kalima, there is no way to avoid such another media fueled firestorm over a famous person killing a pretty white woman. However, we’ve all been through this circus so many times before, I would have hoped that many would just say, “This is ultimately unimportant in my life and disgusting exploitation which I refuse to again participate in,” but there seems something Pavlovian about how the public drools at the mention of a murder of a pretty blonde woman.

      You don’t see the same reaction when women of color are murdered, which statistically happens multiple times every week.

      All of the critical issues you list are far more worthy of our attention as a nation and the time taken away from those things to watch the media chew and regurgitate the same exploitation of a murder is disgusting and in the end, harmful.

      For our media, murder is money and for the public, murder coverage is morphine.

      • Kalima says:

        I feel sorry for those who don’t have or can’t find enough things to occupy their daily lives, because when you are busy with your own life, you don’t have time for this nonsense.

        One thing I do know is that the two stories I did link to were the first breaking news and one yesterday where the top detective was being charged for murder in an unrelated case, and for me it was the end of this craziness, so I won’t be linking to it again. The most annoying thing for me is that getting the international news out every day has become that more difficult with every source I use now having this all over their site, so I’m having to dig a bit for those important stories now bumped off their Home Page.

        When the media starts giving the same amount of coverage for the victims and their families, maybe it will be worth linking to some stories again, then again, maybe not.

        For those who are addicted I say, get a life.

        • AdLib says:

          Kalima, you do a fantastic job with Morning Blog and always have your priorities in place. I mentioned in my article, this is a news story and it should be covered to the degree that is warranted, you did well on this.

          What I’m talking about is the wall-to-wall coverage as if this was first contact with aliens or Hurricane Katrina.

          And as you say, especially for those who have far too much time to waste in their lives, this kind of exploitation can be just what they think they need to fill the empty hourse of their lives. For the rest of us, we don’t have the time to waste when so much that matters is going on around us.

          • Kalima says:

            Oh I knew you weren’t talking about MB AdLib, I’m not much for gossipy stories unless it’s something that is also very humourous or involves a politician who is still running part of a government somewhere. I only pointed out that I had linked to only two stories about this murder to explain how disinterested I was.


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