Friday, December 14, 2012

Oh, a media frenzy

Earlier this week, news media in northern California and Oregon especially were focusing on the aftermath of a mall shooting in suburban Portland, Ore. Driving through Oregon yesterday I heard some discussion about it, gathering the interesting fact (if it is a fact and not just something the reporter made up) that suburban Clackamas County is referred to locally as "Clackistan" and its denizens as "Clackistanis."

Three people including "the shooter" (and when did mainstream media begin using that term anyway, and did it come from Hollywood, from the military, from video games, or what?) died in that event, which seemed bad enough until today, when over two dozen died in a school shooting in Connecticut.

Mainstream media pushed the big red button that reads "Wall To Wall Coverage," so during my drive through eastern Oregon and over the Idaho border I heard "breaking news coverage" on NPR. And I listened to all of it, when they finally took a break and ran "Fresh Air" for an hour.

I asked myself, why listen to all that coverage which lasted, what, over three hours? I think the reason is, for once it's not drivel. Not that NPR is relatively high on the scale of broadcast drivel, which was epitomized for me this morning when I turned on the "Today" show while packing in my motel room. The hosts sat around chattering and "joking" without humor and laughing anyway, in that awful way straight people do when they have nothing to talk about but social time to fill.

So when the hours-long coverage of the school shooting came on today, it was actually a relief. Finally, something actually happened. Finally, people have stopped bullshitting for hours on end.

Of course that only lasts so long. I remember the moment on Sep. 11, 2001 when the incident had started to sink in. The moment was the point during the afternoon when, on network and cable news, the coverage acquired branding (recall the graphics reading "ATTACK ON AMERICA" and so on) and theme music which led onto and out of each news segment. And when they start the slow-mo, soft-focus montage of teddy-bear memorials, that's when you know it's really over.

At the moment I'm sitting in a McDonald's in Mountain Home, Idaho, where my order of a salad from the menu so flummoxed them that they took 10 minutes to prepare it and gave me a fried apple pie for free by way of apology. (The wi-fi works here, hooray.) They have a TV on the wall playing Fox News, where Mike Huckabee just assured gun owners that "You can't legislate prevention of events like this" because "this is not a law issue, it's a heart issue." I doubt very much he feels that way about abortion or drugs, but at least they are not showing teddy bears yet.

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