I flew to Puerta Vallarta on the Monday that was St. Patricks Day. The lost Malaysian plane drama was in full swing. I came home a week later and it was still the lead news item, even though no new info had been uncovered. (A day or two later investigators did discover some debris.) Now, either I’m a sociopath who is incapable of feeling sympathy for the victims or our “news” is really pulling a pathetic stunt with it’s non-stop coverage of the tragedy.
I certainly felt for the victims of natural disasters like Katrina, Haiti, the tsunami that hit Thailand and the nuclear reactors melting down in Japan. But all of those featured gruesome, heart-wrenching new footage of people trapped on top of houses wearing rags while begging helicopters for water, bodies washing up weeks later with desperate relatives trying to identify them or the horror of the nuclear reactors which we still don’t know the full effects of. (Many are saying don’t touch the radioactive seafood from anywhere near that region and that “that region” has extended to California’s coasts.)
Of course, a missing plane with hundreds presumed dead is also grim. I’m sure the poor families are eager for closure. If the planes were hijacked by terrorists, then by all means let’s try to pinpoint the rascals. I fly a lot. If it was a technical malfunction, let’s please root out the problem to avoid others like it in the future. But to beat the disappearance of this flight to death for weeks with no new information is completely imbalanced. A plane went down and almost certainly, all were killed if it hasn’t been found by now. Until there’s something new to report, this story is dead in the water. Jon Stewart made several digs at CNN’s bizarre coverage, yet CNN’s low ratings spiked as a result of it. But is giving the people what they want for ratings short-changing the people who want actual news that’s more vital than a finite number of people dying in a plane crash?
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with curiosity, and I’m interested to know of major new developments in this case—but not the colors of the debris found. Until there is new info, let the sanctimonious snapping turtle Nancy Grace cover this 24/7—she excels at mock outrage. Trotting out bereaved relatives claiming that their mother or girlfriend was the greatest while slideshows of these people are aired is total tabloid fodder. And you have to wonder which news items are getting bumped in favor of this plane’s disappearance. Look at the ads on any news channel and you’ll see plenty of ads from banks, whose unfair practices caused the mortgage crisis and were given millions of tax payer dollars in the bail-out. You’ll see plenty of ads from oil companies, whose financial interests we actually send young men and women to die in wars for. And who are permitted to frack and erect pipelines despite the clear dangers to those who live nearby. Pipelines like the Keystone which Obama may well approve despite his “commitment” to environmental issues. Since one in four huge corporations pay ZERO taxes due to the loopholes that they bribe our lawmakers to create, you can rest assured that these corporations advertise on there as well, and their frighteningly close relationship with our government isn’t going to be reported on. I think most Americans would be very interested to learn, with our own tax deadlines approaching and some of us feeling the pinch, that many of the businesses which make the most pay nothing.
It’s just like the Chris Christie scandal which is still the #1 news item on MSNBC after several months. (In truth, the NJ governor did give a press conference yesterday on an investigation which deserves to be disputed—but that explains yesterday’s coverage saturation only.) A bridge got closed for a few days in August and there are allegations of corruption. A plane carrying 239 people can’t be found. Certainly, these stories are of interest. And if all passengers are miraculously found safe on Gilligan’s Island, I’ll join the world in rejoicing. But until then, these tales should not dominate the news for months or weeks. A democracy can’t work without an informed electorate and our “news” media isn’t informing us about issues that matter. I think Americans of any political affiliation would agree that the country is a mess, from the economy to our crumbling infrastructure to NSA’s out-of-bounds spying on US citizens. How do you escape a mess when your news outlets continually spout useless information? As the fact that we elected George W. Bush twice proves, Americans aren’t too smart. And with Obama’s 40% approval rating, many of us are questioning why we gave him a second chance. So if you think that glutting the airwaves with non-details about a plane that crashed is going to help you choose the effective leader who’s going to lead us out of this mess that affects all of our personal prosperity and even safety, keep tuning in to Fox, CNN, MSNBC and network news. And good luck to ya!