– TEENAGER SUICIDE, BOSTON BOMBING, WOMEN RESCUED AFTER A DECADE –
For a few weeks in April and May in 2013, a succession of tragic events hit the headlines. The deaths of teenage girls who committed suicide both in Canada and the United States, were everywhere in the news media. They were sexually assaulted and bullied on social media. Public was outraged and the coverage relentless. Then the bombing in Boston happened: the attention has been shifted to the terrorism. The tragic deaths of abused victims simply disappeared from the media and from the mind of the public. Arrests of two Al Qaida saboteurs in Canada, then the dramatic rescue of three women after a decade in captivity in Cleveland rapidly followed. A busy time for media. Tragedies have come and gone in people’s mind in rapid succession. Media wait for next big headline event to stay on top of the rating competition.
I remember in 1994 in Africa. I was in South Africa as a member of the team of international observers of the first democratic election which elevated a former political prisoner to the president of the Republic. Daily press conference was a massive event. An huge theatre was packed by the international press. Then one day, before the final result was yet to be announced, suddenly the theatre was nearly empty. Genocide in Rwanda was unfolding. International press corps were ordered to fly to Rwanda. Genocide was more exciting than the historic democratic election, I suppose. Am I being crass?
Neil Postman published in 1985, “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” He was a professor of Communication at the New York University. He laments that news has become show business.
We live in an age of information deluge. Our nerves are numb; nothing is serious anymore. Too much information is making dramatic events meaningless. It is impossible to make its flow stop or slowdown. But rape is not funny, neither is terrorist bombing. What can we do about this problem?