You’ve heard the expression if it bleeds, it leads? If not, it refers to the inclination of many television news programs, especially the local news stations (many of them affiliates of NBC, ABC, CBS) to begin their broadcast with some report on blood having been shed somewhere. Somewhere as in likely not anywhere close to 99% of the viewing audience. In my Chicago area, there is usually no shortage of gun violence leaving one or more persons dead, be it a result of a targeted or seemingly impulsive killing, on a street corner or in a club, outside the club, at a gas station or in someone’s home. The victims of these bloody narratives might have paid for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because he or she owed money or drugs. Not that the reason matters to Brad Blowdry and Brenda Breathless, the human templates for the typical duo who serve as the bearers of this deadly news, who usually mechanically shake their heads to acknowledge their disapproval and sadness about the story before moving on to other important matters. Like the weather. Even if the weather is PERFECT, the staff meteorologist dutifully breaks down the essentials of temperature, wind speeds, and a glimpse of what the future may hold. If the weather is in the least adverse, it will be broken down with intricate analysis and a promise that Mr. or Ms. Weatherperson will keep close track of developments.
The exception to this first several minutes of the broadcast occurs when the lead-in, bloody story is really, really big news, as in yet another mass shooting. However, even the mass shootings seem to get coverage proportional to the number of dead involved in the event. Seriously. There’s been so many of them that a “leader board” could be charted for quick visual reference to the historical magnitude of each. Three or four dead? Borderline sensational, unless it has happened in the nearby broadcast area. What video is there? Is the shooter dead or on the run? 10 or more dead and it demands longer, more probing consideration. If the carnage is in the dozens, it’s “team coverage” and unless the horror played out locally, reporters are dispatched to ask local authorities what is to prevent such an incident from happening closer to home? If the mass shooting has a quantifying shock value to consider, it even kicks that all-important weather report out of the broadcast completely (leaving the viewer to step outside to get a hint). But, one way or another, the newscasts, even the national evening news, stick to lead-ins that offer a story whose implications are capable of eliciting a what the hell?! response from its audience. Maybe the lead-in isn’t bloody at all. But there’s turmoil out there somewhere, right? Oh, is there ever…
Naturally we all hope there won’t be another mass shooting–anywhere. Or that the innocent child isn’t picked off as collateral damage on the mean streets of urban USA. But that’s hoping for a lot, no?
Sensational news? For me, it has become difficult to be shocked by much anymore. I’ve lived to see decades of coverage that invokes how bad things can be, far and wide. Unfortunately, we now even have “fake news” as a common usage term—even invoked by the news media that the expression seeks to mock! Truth? You want the truth? Can you handle the truth? So, the weather report has been cut due to that HUGE story. If someone says it’s cloudy and about to rain, and someone else says it’s sunny and not going to rain, do you treat both opinions as having equal credibility , or do you simply step outside and check the weather yourself? Weather reports aside, in journalism, it used to be check it out before reporting/repeating something. Not so much these days. Otherwise, how is it that there’s so much anger and divisiveness in the air these days, with shouting matches replacing honest, reasoned debate? Fake news? That expression has come along in just the last few years. It comes from the human mouth or the digitally delivered Twitter-mouth of a certain someone residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Methinks that come tomorrow, the fake news perpetrator will be hogging the headlines more so than he has ever hogged them before–and we know how the media loves to simply repeat his blatherings, rather than stepping outside and looking for what’s really there to see. Or not see what has been purported to be there. Why? What’s so special about tomorrow? That Mueller report, of course. Barring a mass shooting of grotesque proportions or an invasion by alien creatures from deep space, it’ll be a day when that elusive “truth” will be debated and argued over (reasonably? Hmm.). Except, there isn’t going to be much to actually see in the report. It’s clear that AG Barr will have redacted chunks of the 400 page document. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for either the media or congress to demand to see what has been blacked out. I mean, c’mon. When has the media or congress done anything to challenge the typically implausible, reality-denying, derisive, hateful, nonsensical, impulsive, petty vitriol that has emanated from 1600 Mar-A-Lago?
That’s tomorrow’s big story. In case you missed other news from far and wide: 150 children–on average–per day die of malnutrition in Yemen. A piece of legislation was advanced by our usually less-is-more modus operandi that guides most of congress to end U.S. support of that Saudi-backed war. Benedict Donald vetoed the legislation. He seems to prefer the bloody Saudi regime more than those Yemenite children. But we know kids don’t count for him, as in the children of the brown-skinned refugees, offspring of those “rapists and drug dealers” that he insists are their parents. Who must be kept out of our country. Which he says “is full”. And speaking of the Saudi regime, I read a blurb stating that in spite of the proven regime-ordered murder of Mr.Khashoogi, a reporter who actually worked hard to expose the Truth about the corrupt and bloody Saudi royal family, that business is again booming for them. So much for the consequences threatened following the grisly documentation of that murder/dismemberment.
Oh, and back to AG Barr. He ordered that those migrants/refugees being held by our government near the southern border cannot be granted bond. Thus, they may remain in confinement for…well…until hell freezes over, which would be an ironic twist on weather reporting being kinda overblown by the media. Not to mention, when there’s the not so unusual historic storm or weather event there’s no mention of the documented climate change that threatens Mother Earth. Which reminds me of another blurb I saw reporting that a couple hundred Extinction Rebellion protestors were arrested in London recently. Talk of ironic! They get arrested, while the Saudi Prince who–as proven– ordered Khashoogi’s murder is not. Isn’t this one wacky world, my fellow humanoids?
Oh wait. Another irony. Extinction Rebellion? Climate change. The end of life on planet Earth. Guess who doesn’t believe that’s a problem? Hint. He doesn’t seem to like children..
But what the hell? It’s all bread and circuses that really matters to many of us. For instance, back to Chicago for a moment. Very recently, there was the annual (starting in 1999) Star Wars convention in town. That “bleed and lead” mentality at play with news broadcast? I recall at least a couple of local stations actually LEADING with THAT “news” when the convention started. And 30,000 or more people packed the convention hall for the 3-day event (almost 100,000 for the weekend?). I wonder: do those attendees–most of whom are grown adults–have a life at all? I also wonder how many of them pay attention to what is actual news.
Bread and circuses. One more blurb I have to mention. And this really is important news! Kim Kardashian wants to become a lawyer.
Star Wars? I don’t get it. Never got Star Trek either. But one thing I’ll say for Star Trek (which has its own convention too) is that it did provide one of my favorite expressions, one that seems so fitting in our Mad Magazine, Looney Tunes world-at-large:
Beam me up Scotty. (implying that, and this is NOT fake news, there’s not much intelligent life detected by Scotty, from wherever he needs being beamed back from; or at least I like going with that tag).