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Fun with Tragedy

2005-01-30

Category: philosophies

People say many things that seem wrong to me. It usually happens when something bad happens. Try watching the new and listen to the interviews.

Sure, the reporters do occasionally say stupid things. A few weeks ago, while describing conditions after the tsunami, a local news anchorperson described how the survivors were being buried in mass graves. There are regular prime-time programs showing such flubs.

I?m more amazed by those who are not in the profession: the bystanders and victims. Sure, they are usually under stress at the time so I?ll give plenty of leeway on being disheveled. That doesn?t mean they need to say stupid things.

The bystanders will tell a reporter anything about the neighborhood and the people in it.

Reporter : What, exactly, did you see?

Bystander : Well, I was coming home from up to the store cause I had to buy my mama?s hemorrhoid ointment and that?s when I heard the gun shot. Now at first I thought old Deke finally came home and caught Loraine with Jimmy, but that weren?t it. That?s when I seen Chang run out of Jose and Maria?s place and I thought, ?That?s weird. I thought Chang was cheatin? with Latisha, you know, Howie?s girlfriend.?

Someday, if I can speak on the condition of anonymity, I will tell a reporter the most extraordinary tales about my neighborhood. It will all be crap, as my regular readers can attest. It will still be fun though. It seems the neighbor hood has had no pigeons, squirrels, cats, nor dogs since the Gourmand family moved in. They?re more suspicious than that nice Afghani fellow who collects those long, wooden chests in his garage.

The victims of violence tend to react in a reasonable manner. Those who are victims of natural disasters can say some things that really make no sense. Take, for example, tornado victims. A tornado will destroy an entire town, with all of its trailer parks and churches. The news crews seek out the most inbred survivor to interview.

Survivor : We was all hunkered down in the basement of the church. There was the sound like a freight train and everything got tossed around. I broke my arm and my kids got some bruises and broken ribs. I guess God was looking out for us.

I?m sorry, but I?m not thinking God was looking out for them. I think God?s planning to come back later to finish the job. We all know there is an aspect of Natural Selection that sends tornados toward trailer parks (the actual physics is a bit complex so I won?t go into it here). It?s just one of those things.

There are three possibilities for all of this. The first is that the news people really do this for their own amusement. They think if they find the most brain-dead yokel to interview, they don?t run the risk of making the reporter look bad. Most of the time, that would work.

The second likelihood is that the intelligent people are busy in the clean-up and repair after the incident. That leaves only the less useful to talk to the reporters (sometimes also less useful). It?s not that difficult to understand. If you approach the scene of a disaster that did not involve you, what is the correct approach? Do you offer to help, do your get out of the way of emergency service crews, or do you stand and stare?

The third possibility is that the person being interviewed is doing like I would do and is just having fun with the reporter. That?s the best one. Adopting a persona and telling the reporters something creative is every person?s duty.

That?s why I am charging you, my treasured readers, with this task. Anytime reporters ask you something, tell them something you make up. (Please note: this does not include discussions with Law Enforcement people, with whom one should always be thorough and honest.) If you can, make your story as outrageous as possible while still being believable. Try to plan a general story ahead of time so you?re prepared.

    Here?s a few ideas:
  • It was Space Aliens.
  • Strange government guys in suits (mention black helicopters).
  • It was gangs, all wearing purple jumpsuits and Panama hats.
  • It involved a rival news agency (If you?re talking to Channel 8, the people who caused all the trouble were from Channel 5)
  • Five-year-olds hepped up on sugar.
  • Neo-Nazis upset about their shirts not staying brown enough.
  • Explain that you?re very sorry; your mother told you bad things would happen if you touched yourself.
  • Start to tell them about what happened, then ask them if they have accepted tapioca pudding as their personal savior. As you describe the rest of the incident, keep coming back to the Tapioca thing and invite the reporter to your basement where you have pamphlets.

That should be enough to get you started. If you have other suggestions, feel free leave them in the comments. Now you have your mission. If we work together, someday we can make reporters harsh, untrusting, and cynical and that will definitely improve the quality of reporting in the world.


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