The do's and don't's of social catastrophes.NBC News was the intended recipient of the last will and manifesto of young Cho Seung-Hui, the Virginia Tech shooter. As is standard protocol in all news organizations in these kinds of tragedies, NBC notified the authorities. Let there be no doubt in anyone’s mind that NBC also made numerous copies of these items, including the video clips. This is what news organizations do; it is their bread and butter, their leg up on the competition.
And then under the professed creed of “good journalism” NBC News flooded the airwaves, in ‘living’ color, of young Cho Sueng-Hui’s personal and societal rants and reasoning’s which – in Cho’s tortured mind – were his raison d’ etre for the carnage he wreaked that day.
It didn’t take long, Thursday morning April 18, family members of victims cancelled their planned appearance on NBC’s “Today” show. Soon after that the requisite headlines began flashing across the web; “Backlash leads to pullback on Cho video,” “Flack over killer’s video spilling over to newspaper pages too.
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ABC News, home network of the saccharine and “I feel your pain” Diane Sawyer took the solemn, folded hands, bowed head approach (kind of a velvet brickbat thrown at the competition), on ABC’s “Good Morning America” show by trotting out Dr. Michael Weiner, forensic psychiatrist and ABC News consultant who intoned thusly: "If anybody cares about the victims in Blacksburg and if anybody cares about their children, stop showing this video now. Take it off the Internet. Let it be relegated to YouTube," Welner said. "This is a social catastrophe. Showing the video is a social catastrophe. "
Those two words, “social catastrophe” in relation to airing Cho’s video rants, very much piqued my interest. Oh, the meaning, the implications, social catastrophe! So broad and yet so narrow, so equivocal and yet so unequivocal; so, so, Orwellian? So Dickensian? So pop-psyche? So breast-beating, mea-culpish, newspeak bullshit?
Yes, what happened at Virginia Tech was a “social catastrophe” indeed. It was a tragedy, indeed. And this writer has no intent to make light of the heartbreak being endured by the victim’s families and friends. What I do want to (must) ask is just what constitutes a “social catastrophe?” Who is the prime arbiter?Just who – or what – deems one heartbreak more valid to enter the national emotional soul than another? Is there a scale type of measurement, you know, like a Richter Scale of calamity? Which, depending on the numbers would dictate the level of affecting outpouring and anguish? So too these, oh hell, let’s call it the “Social Catastrophe Scale,” with a category five being absolutely the most horrendous and a category one being the least upsetting.
This would go a long way towards dictating just what – and for how long – coverage the networks and print media devote to the subject. Like a uniform rules of engagement type of thing. A category five could run ad-infinitum which would allow every last $$$$$$ bit of green to be gathered. It would also ensure a steady stream of on-air talking heads, aka “consultants” thereby maintaining that employment stream.
A category four,run a bitless than eternity, not quite a forever; kind of, sort of, like an Anna Nicole Smith type engagement. Category three, a few months perhaps until the buzz dies down. Category two and one… well, you get the idea I’m sure.
But now, the really hard part, just what qualifies to make it to the “Social Catastrophe Scale?” Categorizing them is easy stuff, what qualifies to get into that league? Could we envision a sort of American Idol Catastrophe Show? Instead of Simon, Randy and Paula we could have a rotating panel of judges depending on the catastrophe itself. Say, for something like a Katrina type devastation someone like Pat Robertson would make a good judge. He employs the right verbiage, ala “Plagues of God” type stuff that is always good to throw out if you want to moveup in the category ratings. Jerry Falwell and perhaps Ann Coulter, to add the feminine component could join Pat on the stage. The possibilities are endless…And, you see where I’m going.
On April 14, at 5:35 p.m. a 56-year-old Asian man became the 111 homicide victim for 2007 here in the City of Philadelphia, my city. (As of this publishing it is now 113 victims). For me, this is a social catastrophe.
In Baghdad this week, in one day’s carnage 183 human beings were killed. Factoring in the U. S. sanctions coupled with this insane war more than one million Iraqis – many of them children – have died. A people murdered for oil. For me, this is a social catastrophe.
Since the beginning of Bush’s war more than 3,315 American service members have lost their lives in Iraq. In Afghanistan that number is 376. The number of wounded service men and women stands close to 30,000. For me this is a social catastrophe.
In Darfur genocide far surpassing anything in modern history continues unabated. For me this is a social catastrophe.
A city known as New Orleans was allowed to be destroyed and then “ethnically cleansed” by rich, white, corporate bloodsuckers led by George W. Bush. For me this is a social catastrophe.
You, dear reader can add you own social catastrophes to this list, I could go on “ad-infinitum” but you get the idea. How dare some bought and fucking paid for self-styled expert stand in humanity’s face, bleating to Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America” about “social catastrophe.” I have a bulletin for you Dr. Weiner, this entire country known as the United States is a “social catastrophe. ”
The good doctor scornfully disdains, as he intones thatCho’s video be “relegated to YouTube,” much like certain folks’ consign others to the back of the bus, as it were. Cho’s ramblings are not meant for mixed company however, death and carnage, dismemberment and Saddam falling through the trap door, are acceptable visuals for the nightly news.
Cho’s video is verboten in the mainstream, as are photos of military caskets, but an Iraqi child dying in his mother’s arms with half his face blown off by Amerikan ordnance is quite okay for screening in front of U. S. children.
Is it any wonder that the rest of the global community thinks we’re nuts? We are. We are stark raving looney-tunes here. And the beat goes on.
“Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.”
- Nora Ephron
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