Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Gloat Factor

9 - 11 March 2009, I got hit with Associated Press-written news about how folks were going on killing rampages all of a sudden and businesses large and small were bellying-up from sea to shining sea.

The killings were of course all done with guns so they called the shooters gunmen. The gunman did this. The gunman did that. Heavy emphasis on the guns. We have that part. How about a little more on motive? The AP journalist writes that a gunman walked into a church and shot the preacher who held up his Bible in reflex. There seemed a sinister delight in telling us how the Bible turned to confetti and fluttered down around the preacher.

The bland quotes from the congregation made the people seem predictable and dull. There was nothing dynamic about the story save the shooting itself, the shower of confetti, and the mocking quote about how the congregation was "screaming and praying." The AP journalist got a lot of mileage out of the confetti Bible. It read to me like the writer was gloating over the news -- light years apart from the tragedy. He wrote like he was far removed from the gravity of the event, as though he enjoyed a sinister immunity. To me the story had the mild flavor of ridicule.

So too was the news about a similar senseless killing rampage in Alabama. This man went 'round shooting folks on a spree. He killed relatives and random people before committing suicide. Again the word "gunman" was used over and over with bland quotes from locals larding the text. A matter-of-fact nonchalance pervaded the story. There was a lack of empathy and compassion from the writer. It was like she was writing a grocery list.

Then I get to the piece about how Circuit City was saying goodbye. Again there seemed a pevading theme of gloating ridicule. Like "ha ha, you American businesses are going down, jack. And you're never coming back." The gloom and doom that rains upon the American economy seemed to delight this writer. It read to me like he was gleeful to write about how Circuit City's sky was falling. If a store that has been 60 years part of our American lives can fold on a dime and "be left broom clean and vacant," what does that say about other small businesses?

The AP writer gloats on about how store employees were saying their last goodbyes as the place was getting "fleeced" of all its inventory. Amazing how deep into visual details this guy went to describe the sad scenes of our failing economy, wringing every last pathetic scene from the now jobless employees down to the makeshift signs outside of the store.

Throughout this text like some kind of carnival side-show, there were long lists of retailers and businesses that were going under. Like, "come jeer at who else in America is losing their *sses." That's what I got from it -- the way the piece was arranged and lain out. The list was so long that I had to finally abandon the tour. It seemed that everyone was on it. The question to ask was "who was not on it?" I felt that this list would have been the shorter one.

The "gunman rampage" stories were laid out similarly, larded with carnival picture-shows of other outlandish acts of crime that have shocked people lately. Like "isn't this all so entertaining?" I realise that these AP writers were marching to the tune of somebody above them who approves and encourages such journalism.

It is journalism like this that makes me glad that mainstream newspapers are doing so well at the moment.