Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Masturbatory, Self-Interested Death Orgy

Minutes after the second spate of Virginia tech shootings became news people had turned tragedy into a tool to support their causes. The postings I personally saw -- on Americablog -- connected the incident to both gun control and the war in Iraq. Meanwhile, on the right (Townhall), the incident was being used to illustrate the heartlessness of the left (turning tragedy into support for gun control) and to then say "I wish some of those students were carrying guns."

The frenzy has already started in the media, I'm sure. Have they chosen music to go with the Blacksburg graphic yet? What's the catchy phrase, is it "Virginia Tech Tragedy" or "Columbine II" or "Blacksburg Slaughter?" It may be too early for the shots of cute weeping children, but I'm sure the satellite trucks are ready for the upcoming mourning ceremonies and the inevitable pilgrimmages which allow people to say they were there (and maybe get on TV and be part of an event).

The real frenzy will begin once we know the ethnicity and social affiliation of the attacker. In the few clips I watched yesterday the poor news anchors were virtually PANTING for this information. Does "Asian" mean, like, a muslim from India or Pakistan? Or was he a Christian fundamentalist? A recent immigrant? An over-achiever? Did he watch violent movies, was this an example of jilted male rage, and what sort of music did he listen to? Where are his parents, HOLY COW, WHAT AN INTERVIEW, find his parents! Are there any copycat killers? Exacly how many morbid records did he break? Let's interview pundits with contrary opinions about how the incident was handled, speckled with families of the slain, heroes of the day (quick, find a hero!) Let's even raise our ratings by condemning the way the news media latches on to tragedy in order to raise ratings.

On Sunday we might find out which element of American foreign or domestic policy prompted God into doing this. There will be an "outpouring of sympathy" across the country, in which people hope silently for more camera time and get a thrill out of the "bonding." If they ever read this blog entry, they will accuse me of not "feeling" anything and insist that they have every right to be -- not just sad or regretful -- but totally and verbally broken up and outraged about what happened. There will be an unspoken desire to keep the story alive so we can all feel excited and in permenent danger. The school officials will be rightly or wrongly crucified. The Bush administration will accuse democrats of crassly pursuing corruption investigations while the rest of the country is "in mourning."

Very little of it will be honest, most of it will be destructive, and it makes me damn sick.

10 comments:

VanillaJ said...

Damn. I agree like, 100%. There is something really sick about the commoditization of human misery, whether it be for idealogical leverage or for corporate products.

Take the "Let's fight breast cancer" campaign that major corporations have taken on as their own. It's one of the more sexy causes, and while I think support is warranted, ironically, many of the companies that adopt this cause produce products or ad campaigns that actually hurt women in other ways. Check out: "www.thinkbeforeyoupink.org" to see what I mean.

I friend of mine who worked for an anti-poverty NGO spoke of the 'pornification' of starving African children in the effort to emotionally blackmail potential donators. When you look at those images, you kind of forget that much of the money is lost to administration and corruption. Never mind that that child will not get the benefit of the money in ways the contributors intended.

Anyway...

Eric Little said...

Late last night, NBC's cable news channel was rerunning footage of the news coverage that had been taped earlier in the day while the shootings were happening. Why? All I could think of was Kevin Costner's high, flat voice in "JFK" chanting, "Back, and to the left . . . back, and to the left..."

We need a new word--"pornography" doesn't fit: maybe "thanatography"?

JJ said...

Where does the word thanto come from, Eric?

How about
1) necrography or
2) carnography

Not my suggestions, but someone on rasfw came up with it.

To quote:
Just as sexual lust has its brand of
literature, pornography, blood lust has its, necrography. It comes
from the Greek roots for corpse and writing, and parallels
necrophilia and necromancy.

But seriously, in my experience there were exactly 2 times when there was news so shocking and apparently world-changing that I was very much a gawker. The feeling I was experiencing was, "Fck my life, this is far more world-changing and interesting than my life." ;-)
I needed to KNOW as much about the events as possible.

Once was with 9/11.
Previously, absurd as it sounds with Princess Diana. :-)

JJ said...

P.S.--seems that a latin root for battle, killing, or blood would be a better
prefix than "necro". War-SF deals with killing; once the people are I am enough of a geek to actually relish the word Carnography - writing about carnages. :-/

Pornography - writing about(or by) whores. :-)

Eric Little said...

jj, "thanatos" is the Greek word for "death." "Eu-thanasia" = easy, good death.

Those suggestions you've come across are much better. I like "necrography" because of its sound ("cr"-"gr") and more words in English associated with it: necropolis, necromancy, necrophilia, necropsy. And every epic has its journey to the land of the dead, the underworld: a "nekyia." (Geez, Google reveals there's a San Francisco performance group that calls themselves Nekyia: "raw, sweaty, sexy, soulful music and dance.")

But thinking of vultures like Geraldo Rivera as "carnographers" sounds appropriate too.

Sean said...

As soon as I heard about the shootings, I decided to turn off any news that comes out for the next 2 weeks. They will milk this thing until people are sick. The sad thing is that no longer report news for news sake. They only exploit things so they get more viewers and thusly more revenue. It makes me sick to think what our media has become. I only try to get my news online right now, that way I can censor the stories I don't want and I can focus on things that really interest me.

d3 said...

Sadly, these types of events increase ratings for the 24-hour news channels.

During these times, I tend to tune out, because there is nothing that can really be learned from the reporting (other than a few basic facts of what, when and where, which is somewhat irrelevant).

It is almost impossible to understand the why of these situations. The most common thread seems to be that these incidents are perpetrated by lonely, alienated individuals.

And there seems to be an increasing number of these types of individuals in society. If the media could figure out why this is happening, then maybe they would be providing a service.

Muffy said...

"Pornification," that's certainly it. And yet I wonder if, in order to get the attention of the average person, news MUST be "pornified"?

I doubt it...somehow we managed to keep moderately up-to-date before tabloids and 24-hour news channels...

As for the people who specifically pornify death, I vote for "carnographers." I also vote that we force them to do newscats without their Sensational Language Dictionary...can they write about the shootings without saying:

...spree, terror, sorrow, suffering, unspeakable, rampage, murderous?

Muffy said...

There are times when I'm glued to a news spectacle as well, and 9/11 did that to me too. But there's an important boundary between these events.

9/11 was frightening and fascinating partly because it was very much a mystery, and because the implications of the mystery were far-reaching. At the time we didn't know if more hijackers were boarding planes, or if the government was blacking out information. We also didn't know how they'd managed to pull such a thing off.

The implications of school shootings are, however, non-existant. You just can't prevent things like this from happening without removing fundamental freedoms (and I'm including gun control measures here too...it seems to me to be an ATTITUDE problem more than an issue with gun control, otherwise there'd be just as many shootings in Canada).

It's more complicated than I can possibly put in a comment, but what I mean to say is: the people that this school shooting affected were:

* The students, dead or alive or wounded,
* The parents of the dead or wounded students,
* The first-response people,
* And whoever was in charge of making sure such things didn't happen.

People UNAFFECTED by this event are school alumni, politicians, pundits, and everybody else who is right now packing up their stuff so they can visit and be a part of something.

Remember right after 9/11, all those people you'd talk to who would say "golly, I almost went to New York on vacation, shudder!" thus wedging themselves into the drama? I wonder if people will do that now: "Golly, I almost went to Virginia Tech, shudder!"

Muffy said...

"I only try to get my news online right now, that way I can censor the stories I don't want and I can focus on things that really interest me."

Me too, though I do worry about putting myself in a news-blog echo chamber, where I only hear about things that support my biases. So I try to expose myself to other influences (eg. "The Toronto Sun,") when I'm feeling up to the task.

As for why people are doing this more now than they used to...are they really? Killing sprees aren't particularly new. They can be deadlier if the methods are more sophisticated or the situation is ideal. Though I do think that as population density increases, statistically we're just bound to have more nuts in the mix.

Though sensationalistic news reports certainly don't help. By stating that this is the "deadliest school shooting," that just gives some sick bastard the impetus to beat the record (and get his picture spashed on the news, and have his journals read, and have his peers be interviewed about him...)