Meet the New News, Same As the Old News...

Monday afternoon, after reaching the midway point of the second day of our marketing think tank retreat, we took lunch and decided to relax for a few minutes. One of our party got online and ran across the news about the Virginia Tech shootings. At that moment, only 32 students and professors were counted as being dead, but it was enough to send us up to the rec room television to check out CNN for the full story. Shocking, yes; terrible, without any semblance of doubt. But we still had an agenda to fulfill, and a great many details left to hash out. So, after we finished our midday noshing, it was back to work as usual. The rest of the nation and CNN had stopped, but we hurtled onward.

Monday evening, after sitting in marketing meetings for the second straight, very long, extremely exhausting day, we decided to retire upstairs and watch a movie: Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny. Complete nonsense; not all that great -- a bit of a disappointment, really -- but funny enough for me to have purchased the DVD (I am loyal to the D), and sufficient enough as escapism to let one's mind relax from the day's efforts and brain strain. Turning on the TV again reminded us immediately of the day's national tragedy, for it was still on CNN, and CNN, quite expectantly, had decided there was nothing else in the world going on of such import (like other Americans and Iraqis dying in Iraq), and the station had turned into the 24-hour Virginia Tech Tragedy Channel.

A vision popped into my head of millions of Americans trapped on their couches, despondent over a sudden and savage jolt of insanity and violence and investigatory bungling that will never be fully understood even after years of analysis, and all staring at the screen as if there was some way they could turn the clock back and stop the vile little shit who caused all of this damage. And, because I am primarily a cynic, I also had a vision of a certain sick percentage of the rubbernecking audience who were waiting for the body count to rise (which, sadly, it did, if only slightly). And then, my boss, co-worker and I all watched the Tenacious D movie, and we laughed and laughed and laughed. And then we went to our respective bedrooms for the evening.

Did I feel bad that in the wake of such horrid tragedy that I chose to no longer engage in the awful news and watch a slapstick musical stoner comedy? I can't speak for my co-workers, but for me -- no, not particularly. I had gotten the story straight off, and didn't need to watch an endless repeat of the same details to make it resonate any deeper than it already did for me. I feel sorry for the families of the victims, but as far as I know, I don't know any of them, so the story doesn't hit me on a personal level. And I have to say this honestly, I don't believe that my sitting there in front of the television for 72 straight hours watching the slow-dripping of a single news story is going to make any difference, good or bad, for what occurred Monday morning. You are just watching television, and you are doing it with the mistaken belief that if you keep watching it, it will mean something. And in two, four, ten, maybe seventeen months, there will be a new national tragedy, and you will watch that, too.

When the World Trade Center went down on 9/11, I watched in horror like the rest of the nation as it crashed to the earth on live television, and watched the updates of the rescue efforts and death toll with my co-workers throughout the day. And that evening? Well, since it was my birthday, and I didn't feel much like celebrating on a day when the rest of the nation was crying, I canceled my dinner plans, and Jen and I stayed home. But we didn't watch the news. On television, it was nearly inescapable (even more so than with this story), so I flipped on the DVD player and watched Blazing Saddles and Caddyshack, back to back. Silly, stupid, awesomely hilarious movies. And I laughed... and I laughed... and I... well, I laughed some more, but I never forgot what I had witnessed on a black-and-white 19-inch television on a table in our receiving department that morning. I was purposefully engaged in escapism that evening after a full day of jaw-dropping disbelief, but the horror of the World Trade Center tragedy was still resonating in my head, and never left it. As it never will.

And now, with this fresh sickness looming on our airwaves unceasingly this week, and with the terror that this stupid fucking little shit has now unleashed across our nation (almost immediately, there were copycat threats being reported at other schools), I am avoiding the news like the fucking plague. Mind you, it's not that I don't keep up on the latest developments in the story; I have been, such as the details involving the package received by NBC today. It's just, unlike many people that I know or have witnessed, I don't feel the need to keep glued to a single, monotonous broadcast in order to feel something about what happened. I don't need a reporter loop-feeding the same information over and over to me in order for me to understand why someone would do something like this, because no matter what, it won't reverse what happened. I don't feel the need to shut down the rest of my thought processes in order to tell myself that what I feel about it matters. Because, in the end, it really doesn't.

And it really doesn't matter that I choose to soothe my shocked nerves and frazzled brain with a stupid slapstick musical stoner comedy. Really, it doesn't...

After all, the last news story that CNN and most of its sister outlets treated with the same passion and devotion involved a big-boned Texas model drug fiend who died and touched off a court battle over her remains and her baby between a bunch of money-grubbing nincompoops. And many of the same people who are glued to their televisions over this actually tragic event did the same for this last insanely frivolous one.

Now, that's a true National Tragedy...

Comments

squeak said…
Let's not forget that the big story of the previous week was the shocking revelation that Don Imus is an asshole.
Rik Tod said…
Yes, true... but I was referring to the last story that totally shut down CNN as a source of more than one story at a time...

And also true about Imus... it is so very shocking...

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