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Friday, February 18, 2005

Hammer's Mail Bag

Posted by: Hammer / 8:26 AM


Blog to be Named Later is not, in fact, a news/political blog.

From a regular reader who must be humored because he gets me Packer tickets:
How come Hammer doesn't attack the sensationalist bias of main stream media?

I'm watching GMA Tuesday before work and they have a piece about tasers. Some wanker from Amnesty International is there with a campaign to get tasers banned because worldwide there have been 70 police related fatalities due to tasers. 70. WORLDWIDE. Big friggin' deal. How about AI getting something going to protect the 70 people a day that die of hunger or homelessness in DC? I swear, ever since Mandela has been released AI contributes absolutely nothing to the world, and anyone in the media that gives them a mouth piece should be banned from whatever airwaves they are on.

God bless anyone who thinks Hammer doesn't complain about the media enough.

Television news is awful. Wretched. Abysmal. One of the main points in Barry Glassner's The Culture of Fear is that reporters are always hyperventilating about something, and usually the wrong thing. Whether it's 70 taser fatalities, road rage, breast implants, street crime or -- my personal favorite -- identity theft, news reports emphasize two points to a misleading degree. First, they take the absolute worst case scenario as their only example of the phenomenon. Second, they use dubious statistics to assure us that everyone will be affected, sooner or later. For example: someone in California shot someone on the highway. According to recent reports, 1 in 3 Americans witness road rage every year. When you juxtapose these ideas, it seems like 1 in 3 Americans is bound to see a roadside shooting each year, because the reporter never mentions that "road rage" includes honking your horn or giving some idiot the finger.

Another example: Hammer himself was a victim of identity theft. Yes, I used to be known as the Self-Leveling Laser. A credit card issued in my name but one I never used (thanks MBNA) was used to try to buy $1,000 worth of Hong Kong martial arts videos. (As near as I could tell.) The charge was rejected and I lost no money, but I'm still a victim of identity theft. Woe.

Television news doesn't just suck because they go for cheap sensationalism over real news. Television news sucks because a morning show will spend more time covering Phil the Groundhog than Social Security. Television news sucks because they'll spend a week promoting a movie from a sister corporation and never mention the effects of bankruptcy reform. Television news sucks because they don't get basic facts right. Last night on CNN Headline News the news reader mentioned the Postcards from Buster episode where Buster goes to Vermont and meets a lesbian couple. I've never seen the show, but everything I've read says that Buster goes to Vermont and meets a girl who shows him how maple syrup is made. The girl mentions that she has two mommies. That true statement from a girl living in state that recognizes civil unions is what Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is concerned about. The mommies are not included in the show.

Back to the reader's question. I don't blog about sensationalist bias because I don't watch a lot of television news. I get my news mostly via RSS from online papers and a few excellent blogs -- Eschaton, Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, Daily Howler, Political Animal, and Blog to be Named Later.


To be fair to the media, they are giving viewers what they want. The average American doesn't want to watch news about bankruptcy reform, they'd rather watch the groundhog.

Luckily there's NPR.

By Anonymous Abigail, at 7:53 PM  

I disagree moderately. There is an audience for substantive political discussion. One of the networks or cable news channels could devote some air time to bankruptcy reform, class action limitations, or social security privitization. None of them do: instead, they compete to see who can do the best job of covering Phil. Big media is, fundamentally, risk-adverse. It's all about following trends and trying to stay near the front of the pack. There is very little energy devoted to charting a different course.

By Blogger Hammer, at 6:23 PM  

Amnesty International does nothing? I'm sure you would get an argument from the hundreds (thousands?) of political prisoners who get one of those little postcards that say someone knows they're alive. And of course they were reporting on the horrible conditions in Iraq when all the right wing dicks in power today were happily turning a blind eye.

By Anonymous Jambo, at 1:02 AM  

Personally, I think Amnesty does a lot of good work. I think the emailer would agree. On the other hand, with every problem Amnesty could be drawing attention to, 75 taser deaths seems trivial. Treatment of detainees in the war on terror comes immediately to mind. Of course, it's possible that the show wanted to do a taser story and found someone from AI to discuss the issue, rather than AI pushing the issue independently.

By Blogger Hammer, at 12:54 PM  

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