WASHINGTON, May 5, 2015 – As Baltimore exults in the dispensation of preliminary justice, the various cable news media provide wall-to-wall hysterical coverage. Unfortunately, however, the leap from story of the moment to story of the moment saturation coverage leaves many, if not most, important stories around the world in the dustbin of more than temporary disinterest.
It is almost as if conflicts and policy hotspots need to hire their own publicist in order to stay in the news. Ratcheting up atrocities isn’t always enough, unless it’s on video. Beheadings always grab widespread attention, at least temporarily. For every unfortunate Christian beheaded by ISIS, there are dozens of people burned to death by barrel bombs in President Bashar al-Assad’s ongoing butchery in Syria where the regime kills dozens if not hundreds of innocent people on a weekly basis.
Assad just has the good sense not to film it and post it on the internet.
All the while we are transfixed on Baltimore, and rightly so, for it would appear that little else is happening in the world. Well, not if you watch CNN, FOX or MSNBC.
The happiest person on the planet this week is Hillary Clinton. Baltimore has been the camera obscura that has wiped the recent media memory-scape clean of the climatic Sunday morning talk show firestorm over the Clinton Cash expose extravaganza.
Maybe now it will be “old news”.
While Baltimore fulminated, war escalated in Yemen. Syria continued its descent into the Dante’ish hell of chaos we have allowed to metastasize unchecked for 4 years. Libya continued to be wracked by turmoil, while millions of displaced, in Lebanon, and Jordan, and Tunisia, and Algeria, unsettled the very fabric of the region.
Russia continued to occupy eastern Ukraine, while Africa continued to make southern Europe its version of the Mexican border. Actual events of pith and moment occurred, and you would never had known it had happened if you were watching American media.
It has become a ritual of 2015 that as the American news media obsesses on one topic at a time with round the clock coverage, those seeking serious news find themselves, time and again, gravitating toward BBC News and Al Jazeera America.
There we might hear actual news stories from around the globe that in decades past were considered important by American news outlets, or at least pertinent.
Meanwhile, Geraldo Rivera recreates the 70’s by marching between the protesters and the police creating a scene in both Baltimore and Philadelphia was that was as ridiculous as it was self-serving.
Leland Vittert on FOX acquitted himself nicely in a constant series of surreally courageous encounters with regular humans on the street, protestors or angry thugs, take your pick, who he actually let voice their opinions.
It was riveting television for what it was, and kudos also to WJLA in Washington D.C., who were far ahead of the networks in actual journalism throughout the coverage of these last five days.
But the drumbeat of self- flagellating coverage has perhaps been too overwhelming, which is not to make light of the events in any way.
The coverage results from the lack of transparency these last three weeks. Who would have thought that South Carolina would be more swift to face reality than Baltimore. Martin Luther King always said that discrimination and violence towards minorities was as pervasive in the north as the south.
All of which makes it heartening that some concrete action to clear the air about the obvious was taken, finally, albeit after weeks. In South Carolina it took days, because video made facts indisputable, and that made a huge difference.
In Baltimore we have created spectacle out of madness, and the media, and its shallow coverage, owns its share of responsibility.
Still, more is happening in the world.
There is an election in Britain on May 7 which has enormous implications. The United States still has no effective policy in Iraq, nuclear talks with Iran are skidding towards oblivion, the nation is 21 trillion dollars in debt, effective unemployment is 12%, and an actual serious leftist, the Jerry Brown of 2016, Bernie Sanders , announced his run for President against the kleptocratic android candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
God help us if there’s another plane crash and a police shooting or we’ll never see another thing on CNN. Not to mention that at night, CNN belongs to Anthony Bourdain and MSNBC is the Prison Channel.
The Prison Channel…seriously…all freaking solitary all the time.
God help us should anything happen on a weekend because outside of the Sunday shows you might as well be back in the 1950’s, except of course for BBC and Al Jazeera America…and the internet.
It’s a travesty of journalism, saturation coverage to the exclusion of anything else but the spectacle of news anchors and their egos, interspersed with a lack of any coverage at all but canned repeats and specials on the Old West…..and the Prison Channel.
It is important that justice be done in Baltimore, and South Carolina. Maybe the fact that black and white officers are indicted in Baltimore will remove the issue from a racial one to one of abuse of police authority, regardless of race, as it properly should be, so that actual justice can prevail.
But that does not necessarily mean that it requires coverage 24 hours a day, wall to wall, on every network. Ferguson and Trayvon and Baltimore may drive ratings, but the overkill of coverage clouds the facts and obscures greater realities.
There is more happening in America and the world than what the media elects to show us. We ignore it at our peril.
But of course, we can’t be accused of ignoring what we never hear about in the first place.