Terrorist bombs in London! And the television networks immediately kick it in to overdrive, featuring round-the-clock coverage of the same shots of wounded, dazed Londoners walking around with blood on their faces, again and again and again. How many are dead? We don't know. But we'll speculate, round the clock, about the number, and we'll update the total every ten minutes, and we'll make sure to keep showing those shots of the dazed Londoners with the bloody faces.
A little over a year ago, a similar event happened in Madrid, Spain. It turned out that 192 people were killed in a series of terrorist train bombings. And it appears likely that the London bombings, tragic as they are, will not be of that scope or magnitude. Yet we didn't see round-the-clock coverage of the Madrid bombings. Our regular programming wasn't breathlessly interrupted to broadcast the faces of bloody, dazed Spaniards.
I don't know, but I have some ideas. It might have something to do with the fact that those crazy Spaniards don't look like us or sound like us. They seem more remote, more "foreign," if you will. But those English lads and lassies could almost pass for residents of God's own U.S. of A. They look like us. They sound like us, but with those charming accents. And because of that, we watch in horror. It could have been us. It has been us. The Spaniards? Well, that's too bad, but they can go back to their bullfights and they'll be okay.
A couple days ago John McCollum raised the intriguing case of one Reyna Alvarado-Carerra , a 13-year-old Hispanic girl from Norcross, Georgia who was kidnapped a couple weeks before the suddenly ubiquitous Nattalee Holloway. Ever heard of Reyna Alvarado-Carerra? Neither had I, until John brought her to my attention. She wasn't deemed newsworthy.
Here's a wild guess: Because she didn't inspire fear, and fear increases news ratings.
Don't get me wrong. I think what happened in London is horrible. I'm saddened and disturbed by it, and my heartfelt prayers are offered for those who suffered, and for their families. And I truly hope and pray that Nattalee Holloway will somehow be found alive, and will be reuinted with her distraught family.
But Nattalee's story is national (international?) news, and the London bombings are round-the-clock news, only because they play into our fears. And it is the job of the U.S. news media to whip up fear, because fear means viewers. It also explains why Reyna Alvarado-Carerra isn't in the news. Reyna Alvarado-Carerra doesn't look like most of the daughters of all those worried and fearful moms and dads who expectantly tune in to the latest news. It doesn't matter that her case is just as important, and just as tragic, as that of Nattalee Holloway. Reyna Alvarado-Carerra doesn't look like Miss Teen U.S.A. She has no marketability. And sadly, in a world where neatly-coiffed talking heads still rationalize their dubious trade as objective reporting, the news today is all about marketability. Merchandising and manipulating fear is big business. Have you had your dose of horror today? Just flip on your TV.