Thursday, August 20, 2009
The bomber and the Nike swoosh: Compassion or stupidity? Cable news builds a case desperately
Photo: Danny Lawson
Allow me to briefly build on Matt's astute comments about carelessness and local news.
This morning I tuned into the cable coverage of the flight to freedom for the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. This character was the only person convicted of the murder of 270 persons in 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Because he is dying of cancer, the courts in Scotland agreed to let him go home to wife, children and family. Was the decision unspeakable compassion or unspeakable stupidity?
The cable outlets -- MSNBC, CNN, and Fox -- all traded on the pathos of the moment. Perhaps something was betrayed in their over-the-top attempts at making this release appear monumental. I'm not saying it wasn't monumental: I'm just saying sometimes we betray our true intentions when we go over the top in news coverage (and humor...but that is another story for another time...).
Here's an example: on Fox news, the news talker attempted to describe the hurt and anger the families must feel today. Fair enough. Then he said they would carry that anger, "into the next life."
He's a reporter, so you have to wonder where he gets his information about what we carry into the next life. He was stretching for something and as a thoughtful viewer you have to ask why.
But over-the-top reportage was not limited to Fox, for once. All three news talkers seemed driven to build the case with deeper and deeper emotional gut wrenching against this release. Have you ever been in one of those conversations where friends or family members are attempting to convince somebody how bad their recent ex-lover was for them?
Are we afraid our viewers, our society, has grown jaded to terrorism? Are we afraid terrorist acts have become commonplace in our world?
Or are we just tugging at the heart strings of higher ratings?
One last image of this situation to put in your crop and mull over. Close-up photographs of the Lockerbie bomber boarding the flight to freedom show him dressed all in white -- irony is such a bitch -- and on his head? On his head is perched a white cap with a Nike swoosh. You can imagine the PR staff at Nike must be drinking Maalox by the bottle this afternoon.