Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Numbers

I was listening to Democracy Now! yesterday and heard this in the headlines:
TV Networks Focus on JonBenet Ramsey Case Over NSA Ruling
The major court ruling on the National Security Agency surveillance program has received scant coverage from the nation’s three major networks. On Thursday, ABC, CBS and NBC all led their nightly broadcasts with the latest in the 1996 murder case of child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. ABC devoted twice as much time in its broadcast to Ramsey as it did to the NSA story. CBS offered seven times as much airtime to Ramsey as it did to the NSA story. And NBC devoted 15 times more airtime to Ramsey.
Think Progress has a time breakdown for the three networks—though I think they're being generous to CBS, whose Ramsey story seemed to me to stretch much longer than 3:23. (I knew I should have broken out that stopwatch.) The Tyndall Report hasn't updated for last week yet; it'll be interesting to see how closely their numbers match Think Progress's. These are the broadcast nets, of course; I don't have cable, so I can only imagine what the necrophiles there have been doing now that the original absent pretty white girl is back in the headlines.

No, wait—I don't have to imagine. Go to The Daily Show's page and dig up the clips titled "Algebra of Cable News" and "Rob Cordrry '97" (both premiered Thursday, 8/17/2006). They've got the whole "I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused" thing down pat.

Ugh. Back later with some Random Flickr Blogging, hopefully.

Check out Juan Cole:

But although I mind this pollution of the air waves with something that is not, whatever it is, news, the main thing I mind is the racism.

The case of Abeer al-Janabi, the little fourteen-year old Iraqi girl who was allegedly raped and killed after being stalked by a US serviceman would never be given the wall to wall coverage treatment.

That is frankly because the victim was not a blonde, blue-eyed American, but a black-eyed, brunette Iraqi. Both victims were pretty little girls. Both were killed by sick predators. But whereas endless speculation about the Ramsey case, to the exclusion of important real news stories, is thought incumbent in cabalnewsland, Abeer al-Janabi's death is not treated obsessively in the same way. In the hyperlinked story above, CNN even calls the little girl a "woman" at first mention, because the US military indictment did so. Only later in the article is it revealed that she was a little girl. The very pedophiliac nature of the crime is more or less overed up in the case of al-Janabi, even as looped video of Ramsay as too grown up is endlessly inflicted on us.

The message US cable news is sending by this privileging of some such stories over others of a similar nature is that some lives are worth more than others, and some people are "us" whereas other people are "Other" and therefore lesser. Indeed, it is precisely this subtle message sent by American media that authorized so much taking of innocent Iraqi life in the first place. British officers have repeatedly complained that too many of those serving in the US military in Iraq view Iraqis as subhuman (one used the term Untermeschen). Where did they get that idea?

Sick and sad and all too predictable. We have become a nation obsessed with bread and circuses -- only in our case the bread is cheeseburgers and junk food, and the circuses are the hours of mindless infotainment paraded in an endless stream on our "news" channels.
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