Saturday, June 7, 2014

June 7: Sensationalism vs. news

Much of today's news is about the killing of three police officers, about public sympathy, and the arrest of a man charged with the killings. But for all those pages of print, it tells us almost nothing.

Most of it is just sensationalism. People want to read anything they can get on a story like this, so journalists churn out page after page of irrelevant information - and even of invention. On A2, the mayor says Moncton's  spirit is not broken. Is it really possible anyone thought it would be? Terrible as this was, cities all over the world experience this on a a regular basis.

We have sent troops to other countries to kill - and locking the doors doesn't help against them. And the trauma is not for a couple of days but for months and even years. Our closest Allies kill millions and want us to join in. Imagine what it is to live in Syria these days with American paid 'rebels' raining death.

There, they cannot hide in their homes. They have to flee by the millions, leaving behind the elderly, the sick, and the injured.

On A9, a wildly overwritten story tells us that Moncton business and health communities have revived. Come off it. They were closed or limited for a day and half. Compare that to business and health communities in Vietnam, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan that got bombed out of existence.

There are stories expressing sympathy for the police and their families - as there most certainly should be. but must of the stories are just empty sensationalism - excitement for the sake of excitement.

It does not seem to have occurred to any reporter to ask the obvious questions. For example - none seemed to notice that the accused's reasoning on Facebook was drawn heavily from US sources. The idea of a right to keep and bear arms is a concept in the US constitution, not in ours. The idea of a militia, in the sense of being voluntary groups of independent citizens, is also American.  Both ideas are peddled by the National Rifle Association in the US - along with generous doses of hatred and fear.

Canadian gun groups are somewhat more reticent - though a leading one managed to blend bad logic with bad taste in timing when it said the Moncton shootings proved that gun regulation doesn't work.

It was, of course, a hell of time to make such a pronouncement. As for logic, one could as well say that the existence of drunk driving accidents is proof that laws against drunk driving don't work, and should all be repealed.

Incidentally, did no-one ask where the killer got that combat rifle he was waving?

The one story that has real news rather than sensationalism in it is by Chris Morris on D3, "Analysts concerned over media impact".  This one is well worth reading for its profile of the typical rampage killer. He's white, young, a failure, and possibly inspired by the media attention that rampage killers get.

I think we might also consider the roles of our politicians and news media in spreading rampage hatreds.
We have all our lives been trained by propaganda. We used to hate Germans and Japanese and Italians. But now they're all good. Then it was Malayans and Vietnamese and Algerians, and anybody else who tried to break away from the old empires.

Then Moslems became evil, with an evil that came straight from their religion. So it became okay to kill them by the million - but terribly evil for them to shoot back.

Listen to the speeches by Obama, Kerry, and little Stephen on Ukraine. They are pure hatred and threats - and all that reflected in the tone of reporting in most of our news media.

At the local level, read the editorials, some of the columnists and the news reporting, and you'll see hatred - of shale gas protestors, of a provincial health officer who is personally attacked, hatred of anything the Irvings do not approve of.

We live in hatred and fear. We see everything in the world through glasses that see only hatred and fear. The man who killed those police officers was created by our politicians and our news media - and us.

On the op ed page, Brent Mazerolle says nothing at all.

Below him, Gwynne Dyer writes about D-Day. It is the best column I have ever read in the irving press - and one of the best in any press. And it's all based on common sense - and without a trace of fear or hatred or propaganda. You must read this one for yourself.

The student columnists do their usual, good job. I'll just add a piece to Mike Elliott who talks about the transition from high school to university.  When you get to university you will meet people who (deliberately) give you the feeling that they are very,  very clever  - and you aren't. Some will be students. Some will be professors.

Pay no attention to them. They are suffering from a common university disease. They were always there, from my first class in night school to my last year as a teacher. Their arrogance can really hurt you. Ignore them.

The lesson of recent days in Moncton? We live in a world shaped by fear, hatred, propaganda, self-interest and greed. This has become stronger in the past century though the control of mass news media by a small number of monopolists who represent the world of big business. They, and their media flunkies, are the ones who have made this an increasingly dangerous world.

Oh, and for over a century, the Christian churches haven't said poop about it.


  1. First my heart goes out to the families of the fallen and injured RCMP.

    Next I must ask what in the system allowed five officers to be hit by a civilian gunman. This is where the true analysis must happen. Did the officers body armor fail them ? Is the body armor in general state of the art and well fitted to be comfortably worn at all times? Did 911 dispatch give them enough info to be adequately prepared ? Did they have access to cameras to allow them to see the reported problem before engagement? How do we change our systems to get this troubled man help long before it came to this? How many HR professionals turned a blind eye to this disturbed youth? Endless deeper questions that I haven't seen asked yet ...

  2. There are other issues as well. Perhaps they are unrelated, but on other social media sites there has been a link between this young man and the young man who was shot by the Moncton police, this was apparantly even mentioned on The National, but I didn't actually see it. I did just a little research on that case and really can't find much. Even somebody who was an eyewitness stated they couldn't really see what happened.

    But from what I read, it was stated that the young man who was shot by the Moncton RCMP was armed only with a knife, and had alcohol and drugs in his body. A few weeks ago the Fredericton Police did an investigation and 'cleared' the Moncton RCMP. One thing I read had the police stating that it seemed that the man already had knife wounds on him before the RCMP ever shot him-which seems kind of strange to shoot a guy who had just stabbed himself.

    We also know that civilians had spoken with this guy in the street, he only targeted police officers. Say what you want about influences from the states, but this is very different from that kind of 'random shooting'. In fact it almost seems like EVERYBODY else but police could have gone on with their regular business.

    I know that sounds harsh and 'blaming the victim', which I am certainly not doing. However, its definitely something that needs to be looked at. Its certainly ironic that most of the comments on various media channels were saying quite clearly that they wouldn't have blinked an eye if the police HAD shot this guy rather than arrest him, many saying they would applaud. So its an interesting scenario that if those stories are true, why is it acceptable for police to shoot somebody in retribution, but IF this guy was shooting 'in retribution', then thats pretty hypocritical.

    But again, that is all hearsay, and hopefully more actual analysis will come out in the future, although as you say, its doubtful readers will learn about it from the Irving media.

    One of the really creepy things I found about the coverage over the days of the lockdown was the CBC, because Irvings stories are behind a paywall. Once it was discovered that officers had died, you could almost hear the editor demanding reporters find out if any had a wife and kids. And sure enough, when it finally broke then those with a wife and kids were most prominent. You seem to be worth more ink if you have a wife and kids, and media even interviewed one mother of an accused asking 'how she felt'. So certainly there are OTHER creepy american influences invading Canada. I mean, is even approaching these people this soon after such a tragedy appropriate?

  3. Much of what you say is all too true.
    I was surprised he surrendered. As you say, his only target was police - and that alone suggests a severe imbalance.

    From what I had read and heard, I expected him to die in a final shoot-out, or to commit suicide. He failure to do either is a little puzzling.

    There are others like him out there. So I'm very curious on how and where he got his hands on that particular rifle - and just how many of them are in circulation in this province.