Our Contemptible Media
One takeaway from the tragedy in Newtown is that if there’s an element in the Bill of Rights that needs revisiting, it’s the first and not the second amendment. The absolute gleeful joy that members of the media have taken in using the tragedy to advance an agenda is exemplified by the likes of Piers Morgan, who at least has the decency to admit as much:
Of course I am, you moron > RT @coelkhntr I think you are somewhat gleeful that a tragedy happened to help you push your cause
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 19, 2012
Okay, Piers was being sarcastic, but this is a case where sarcasm revealed some truth. Morgan has been a leading crusader for gun reform in light of the shootings, and he has used his platform to bully gun rights proponents. Here is Morgan embarrassing himself on national television with Larry Pratt a few nights ago. And here he is with John Lott.
When a media personality causes you to yearn for the insight and wisdom of Larry King, you know you have reached the absolute bottom of the barrel.
Now Morgan’s rank opportunism in the wake a tragedy is not even the most disgusting aspect of media behavior in the past week. Matt Lewis details some of the more egregious behavior.
The media originally reported the wrong name of the alleged shooter. (The suspected killer was Ryan Lanza, they breathlessly reported. Turns out it was actually Ryan’s brother, Adam.) Then, some in the media advertised Ryan’s Facebook and Twitter pages. (This, of course, brings to mind Brian Ross’ irresponsible and premature on-air suggestion over the summer that the Aurora shooter was a Tea Party member.)
As if those cases of egregiously mistaken identity weren’t enough, producers and reporters began trolling Twitter, seeking to proposition friends and relatives of the victims for an interview.
Meanwhile, others staked out the young survivors, and then proceeded to conduct on-air interviews with these young children. This was unseemly and superfluous. As TIME‘s James Poniewozik wrote, “There is no good journalistic reason to put a child at a mass-murder scene on live TV, permission of the parents or not.”
While the media preens about gun control, the fourth estate ignores its own role in potentially prompting these horrific events. A forensic psychologist named Park Dietz thinks the media has blood on their hands.
“Here’s my hypothesis,” he said. “Saturation-level news coverage of mass murder causes, on average, one more mass murder in the next two weeks.” The reason, he says, has something to do with the USA’s size. In a country so large the likelihood of one or two people snapping becomes quite high.
“It’s not that the news coverage made the person paranoid, or armed, or suicidally depressed,” Dietz said. “But you’ve got to imagine this small number of people sitting at home, with guns on their lap and a hit list in their mind. They feel willing to die. When they watch the coverage of a school shooting or a workplace mass murder, it only takes one or two of them to say – ‘that guy is just like me, that’s the solution to my problem, that’s what I’ll do tomorrow’. The point is that the media coverage moves them a little closer to the action.
The 24/7 news cycle may not be the cause of these massacres, but the intense coverage . . . doesn’t help.
What the past few days have shown is that the media’s leftist tilt is not the primary problem. While there are some noble and decent reporters – Jake Tapper comes to mind – overall they are a wretched hive of scum and villainy. All right, maybe they’re not that bad, but one wonders what motivates certain members of the press. One relatively minor incident from the world of sports demonstrates what I mean.
The New York Mets recently traded Cy Young award winner RA Dickey (weep), along with a couple of other players, for a couple of high-end prospects from the Toronto Blue Jays. One of those prospects, pitcher Noah Syndergaard, had sent out a tweet (before the trade) to one his friends, mocking him for buying crocs. In the tweet Syndergaard used the “f” word, and not the one that is the synonym for coitus. This “anti gay slur” caught some people’s attention, and the tweet was subsequently deleted.
Enter New York Daily News Mets beat reporter Andy Martino. Martino sent out a series of tweets himself reporting on the story, grabbed a screencap of the now deleted tweet, and then filed this story in the News reporting on the situation. Yes, this was truly the sort of award-winning, investigative work that is at the heart of journalism. Martino caught some flak for reporting on what really seemed to be a trivial matter, and justified it via twitter:
Lots of vitriol on decision to report on slur. I’ll say this: kids have killed themselves over that word,even when it was meant as joke….
— Andy Martino (@MartinoNYDN) December 18, 2012
…and Syndergaard did the right thing with what sounded like heartfelt apology over bad joke. Young people take athlete’s words seriously.
— Andy Martino (@MartinoNYDN) December 18, 2012
Except that Martino brought far more attention to the tweet than if he had simply ignored it. Instead, bored perhaps now that the major news of the off-season had come and gone, Martino decided to write a story about a silly tweet, and continued pursuing it in other venues.
As I wrote on twitter, thanks to Martino for so perfectly encapsulating why I wrote my novel. Most members of the media deserve mockery because they chase insignificant stories, create news where there is no news, and come to completely wrong-headed conclusions based on those stories. Martino’s behavior is not nearly as oafish as Morgan’s, but it is representative of a media that has become all too easy to caricature.