Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bombs, blasts and conspiracy theorists

Some days I think about buying one of them there new-fangled digital TVs, hooking it up to something and regaining the capability to sit like a stunned steer, watching the latest reality show unfold. Like yesterday, when two deranged young men paralyzed a major U.S. city and gained instant worldwide noteriety as the blood pressures of millions in the audience shot upward. Then the capture, Boston came out of hiding, celebrated and the audience joined in.

Meanwhile down in West, Texas, the confirmed death toll has risen to 14 with the potential for more bodies to be found, at least 200 injured; and I heard on the radio news while driving home from an errand yesterday that 60 had been killed by bombs in Iraq. Iraq? Where's that? And who cares? Other than Iraqis --- and they're mostly Muslim, you know.

What if --- and this is pure unfounded speculation --- the tragedy in Texas was caused by company managers who ignored safety regulations abetted by underfunded state regulators who failed to enforce them? And city officials who allowed schools, nursing homes and apartment complexes to be built within range of deadly chemicals? Would anyone, other than the people in West, Texas, care? The reality show we've all been attending to is set in Boston.

So I'm catching up on my reading about yesterday's news this morning after checking in for updates via the radio and Internet at the traditional times Friday --- morning, noon, evening and just before bed. I don't feel insufficiently informed. Blood pressure seems to be fine.

None of this implies lack of concern. But is turning tragedy into reality TV a positive development?  Isn't the audience complicit? And will we remember any of this two weeks down the road? We've forgotten entire wars.


Media types took a big hit in some circles for careless reporting and the rapid spread of misinformation in Boston, with some justification. It helps to understand that we don't hear too much from news troops in the trenches these days, still striving for accuracy and balance. The media types we're most familiar with are entertainers and their job is to spin whatever reaches them from the trenches into reality-show fare that will attract the largest number of channel-shifters. Blame the media? Blame yourself.


And how about them conspiracy theorists? They were out early, with the anti-Islamic contingent leading. Followed by some Christians announcing that that God had reached out to smite Boston because Massachusetts signed on early to same-sex marriage. Or maybe it was comprehensive medical care.

At some point today, both Boston, Massachusetts, and West, Texas, will become subversive plots of the Obama administration.

The upside here is that few take conspiracy theorists seriously. Mental illness can be dealt with through therapy and medication. We've all learned to pat our whacky friends on the head and say, "there, there, this is all in your head and you need to calm down."

The downside is, we're so accustomed to dismissing conspiracy theorists as nut-cases --- and most of them are --- that I'm not sure anyone would notice if a real conspiracy arose.

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