Saturday, August 19, 2006

Spectator Sports

Although I do not indulge in the ostentatious resuscitation of former and impending disasters that has become cable news, nonetheless I endeavor to remain abreast of current events. So it is that I, like the rest of America, am aware that someone by the name of John Karr has confessed to the 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey.

Leaving aside the specifics of this particular case, I am left wondering at what point individual tragedy became a spectator sport. There have always been violent people. I'm sure back in caveman times, there must have been a Cro-Magnon by the name of Grog who just couldn't deal with the stress of the daily hunt and decided to take his stone club to a few of his subterranean neighbors.

But although there have always been violent people, has there always been a market for this narrative, or are we just more degenerate than our predecessors? I admit I do not know the answer, though I suspect the reality is that our means simply provide us with a way to fulfill and even exceed our macabre interests to a degree unimagined by previous generations. Either way, violence on this scale, although undeniably unfortunate, should not be the subject of national interest.

To be sure, I do not mean to belitte the death of another human being. But really, nothing involving Scott Peterson or OJ Simpson or John Kerr is the least bit relevant to my life. National news should not become the aggregation of personal loss. It is a disservice to us, yes, and to the victims as well, who do not deserve to have their own grief aired for public examination.

Not only isn't it the proper subject upon which to focus national attention, but this fascination with individual incidents stems, I suspect, from voyeuristic and degenerate impulses. Unfortunately, we live in a society where the loss of life, although far from trivial, is nonetheless accepted. These reports serve to titillate, not to inform. They provide details, unnecessary and preferably intimate, their value increasing in relationship to their extremity.

Tragey is a spectator sport now. Popular, lucrative too, and completely unworthy of a humane society.


Laura said...

You're very right about this. I really hate it when the media gets a hold of a story like this one and completely obsesses about it. Not to mention, all they're doing when they show Karr on TV is giving him personal satisfaction, whether he commited the crime or not. What ever happened to just reporting the news?

I hate watching the news and usually try to avoid it - I go to Google News, look at the headlines, and then I'm done with it for the day.

By the way, I enjoyed your "unconscious mutterings". :)

Jackson said...

It's the same part of people that leads to traffic jams due to rubbernecking. We are interested in the juicy bits of other peoples' lives and always eager to learn how we are better than others.

And as far as the news...I do believe as you suggest it has long since passed the point of seeking to inform and now seeks almost solely to entertain. That, or to misinform. I try to take my news from more than one source and figure the truth to be somewhere in the middle.

Reeholio said...

I agree. Not only is this "news" in the US, it is also major international news. Every night since he was caught, we have been bombarded by it here in New Zealand too. Surely there are more important events that could be reported on and shown on our national news. Unfortunately news these days is more about ratings rather than actually being informative.

B said...

LP, ref: your comment on my blog - apologies, I had not noticed it (been off the blog circuit for a bit). See my blog for reply.

Cheers, and keep the amusing and inciteful posts coming....

Guruh Roy said...

well, what makes peoples more interested on certain things is their personal lifes issues. Most peoples loves to know other peoples lifes rather then anything else.

Claude said...


This is going to seem fairly random. My friend and I got into a conversation about pig latin and naturally he brought up "Barnyard Commandos."

I barely remembered the toys/show, and he couldn't remember the language that the sheep spoke.

An extensive google search lead me to a post you made back in 2005, and you couldn't rememeber the name either!

But with more searching, I found out the name: "Baa code."

I know it's a year and 5 months late, but thought you'd like to know...


LeperColony said...

haha, that's awesome. Thanks for letting me know.

mushroom mama said...

For an interesting discourse on this, read "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman. (Unless by chance you already have). Basically, yes nightly news has become solely a source of entertainment: a way for people to feel 'informed' about 'current events' though it really just gives people the most shallow view possible, spun by the personal view of the reporter or network. It allows people to imagine that they have some kind of deep understanding of the events in the Middle East, or even just across town because they watch the news. Really how can anyone understand the complete situation anywhere outside of the walls of their own home? Yet we allow people to pretend they can, and these are the people who become our policy-makers.

Enough ranting for today.