Wednesday, March 07, 2007

They Always Report The BAD News...

This morning on the news I heard that Comerica Bank is relocating their headquarters from Detroit to Dallas to be closer to their market.

The entire focus of the newsitem was on the fact that they were leaving Detroit. They talked about how the sports stadium there is called the Comerica Center, and they talked about how they sponsored sports teams and were a part of the "community" in Detroit, and how their leaving will create a hole there, etc.

But I thought about how this news was GOOD news for Dallas. It is a large financial institution coming to town. They bring jobs to the Metroplex here, they will spend money locally, the economy is strengthened, and this is all good news for Dallas.

So as I lay there listening to the story it struck me that every time a news reporter covers a story, they ALWAYS gravitate to the negative side to it, in order to report the bad news only - even if, as in this case, there is good news as well.

I guess they feel that "news" is really all about reporting BAD news.

Recently, I watched the movie "Bowling for Columbine" by Michael Moore. In the aftermath of the tragedy at Columbine High School, Moore did this documentary film about violence in America.

He notes how in Germany, they had about 160 people killed by guns in the previous year. France and England were about the same. Canada had I think 69 deaths. Japan had 39 deaths from firearms. The United States had over 11,700 deaths by firearm that same year.

At first, I thought it was going to be an indictment against American culture because of the fact that we have so many guns in circulation. I especially thought this when he went to a bank in his home town of Flint Michigan because they were giving out guns to people for opening an account there. He opened an account and then proceeded to browse through the catalog selecting his weapon of choice. The teller said they have over 500 guns in the vault. As he turned to walk out with his new firearm, he made a parting comment about the questionable wisdom of passing out guns in a bank.

he also went to visit Charleton Heston to ask him questions about the NRA and some of the decisions they've made such as hosting an NRA rally in Littleton Colorado within a few days after the Colombine masacre, and hosting another gun rally in Flint Michigan the very day after a 6 year old boy brought a handgun to first grade one day and shot a 6 year old girl to death.

Also, in the news lately was a story about how a well-known avid outdoorsman writer who has a TV show and regular column about hunting etc., has just lost his job and career and support simply because he suggested that assault rifles were probably not appropriate as hunting guns. The NRA jumped on him with both feet and he is now gone. His TV show cancelled, his sponsors removed and publicly distanced, his articles cancelled, his career over.

Due to the gun-friendly climate in this country, and the Columbine tragedy, and because of the death statistics, I thought Moore was trying to make a point about guns being the cause of the high violence and deaths. And frankly, I think that is what he probably INTENDED to make the film about. But it didn't quite work out that way.

During the course of the film, he went to Canada and found that Canada's 10 million households actually own 7 million guns. So Canadians have plenty of guns. But they don't have the violence or the crime rates that we have here. The US has 10 times the population of Canada, but it has almost 200 times the number of gun-related deaths.

A number of people he interviewed on the street thought it was the history of violence, but Moore pointed to the massive violent history of Germany, and of England who basically conquered and ran most of the free world for 200 years. Yet they also were nowhere near the same violent death rate of America.

Is it movies or video games? Nope. Canadians see all the same movies and play all the same video games as Americans.

Finally, it seemed to come down to the evening news here. Specifically, it came down to fear-mongering. Moore seemed to discover that what was really causing this violence is the fact that our news scares the crap out of us every day. It makes us fear everyone and everything. It makes us arm ourselves against everyone else.
It makes us distrust our neighbors. He points out (with incredulity) how people in Canada don't lock their doors. He interviewed people everywhere in Canada and they said they didn't lock their doors. So he went up a few streets to see for himself if it was true. He just walked right up to people's doors and opened them to see, and sure enough - they were all unlocked.

So there seemed to be a general pervasive feeling of trust and comfort there.

Then he tried to draw the connection of how generating fear causes people to buy material goods. Guns, ammunition, survival things, food, etc. people stockpile when they are afraid. It's interesting. I don't know if we can really draw a straight line between the gun manufacturers and the news producers trying to scare people into buying more guns, though. That seems a bit far-fetched.

But somehow, the culture of our news has been skewed toward scaring people. That much is clear. It's the reasons behind it that are a bit foggy...

And the news producers have become EXPERTS at frightening people. Have you ever noticed the news teasers they have during the afternoon, trying to get you to watch the evening news?

"What your child's teacher may be doing to your child without your knowledge!. News at 6!"

"What you don't know about your favorite restaurant might kill you!!! News at 7"

"The hidden danger recently discovered in your water supply, and how you can protect your family!!! News at 7"

"The internet friend your child has, just MIGHT be this local pedophile!!! News at 11"

"Do you have a late model GM or FORD car? Find out tonight why your wheel might just fall off if you take a left turn at the wrong speed, and how to tell if your car is one of the ones affected!!!"

"Terrorists have infiltrated the Metroplex!! Film at 11!!"

It's all about shock value. It's all about generating fear. Ironically - that is exactly what the terrorists themselves try to do. They hope to create anarchy by instilling fear uncertainty and doubt. But these people use fear to get your undivided attention. So they can sell advertising time.

People are rivetted to their TV sets when they are frightened. That makes them watch all the comercials because they don't want to miss that important fact that got them there in the first place. The teaser that hooked them in. And while they are fixated on the screen, the advertisers blast their psychologically designed adds directly into their subconscious. Later, the hypnotized viewer doesn;t even realize WHY he turns into every store in the mall to buy something.

I know a woman who used to produce the news for one of the 4 major network stations in St. Louis. They told her how to sell the news, and how to target market it for specific demographics, and ignore the news that was not compatible with the messages the sponsors wanted and how to silently endorse the sponsors' products, or at least their principles, etc.
She got so sick of the way they forced her to produce and package the news and the manipulations of the news and the public that she finally just quit and went and took a producer's job with the Public Broadcasting TV network station there. She is MUCH happier now.

1 Comments:

At 3/08/2007 11:57 PM, Blogger Roscoe Van Zandt said...

The bank in Bowling for Columbine where Michael Moore gets the gun when he opens the account is NOT in Flint Michigan, but up north in Traverse City, Michigan. It's called North Country Bank and Trust.

The movie is very good and I'm glad you liked it. You have quite a few of your facts wrong about the movie in your review, and should re-watch it.

 

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