Pretty much whenever there’s bad news in the headlines, I’ve noticed that I start sing-humming “So Much Trouble in the World” for the rest of the day like the half-hippie that I secretly am.
These past few days, though — rewind, selektah! I’ve got a homegrown jungle remix of that shit bumpin’ in my brain non-stop.
Yup, it’s been a humdinger of a week on the continental death and destruction front. Little shrapnel here, little fertilizer there — throw in some ricin and you got a toxic stew goin’, baby!
Is laughter the best medicine? The day of the Boston bombings I still managed to injure my ribs cracking up over the new Louis CK special in an effort to avoid the coverage, but not without a guilty pang or two.
That said, I feel no obligation to stay glued to breaking news of the calibre we’ve been witnessing, and I’ll explain why.
In journalism school, I had to do this crazy end-of-term live-action assignment for a copy editing class, where for four hours we simulated a news room on a skeleton shift trying to piece together breaking news of a passenger ship crash in the Atlantic.
What started out with reports of a few fatalities and a successful deployment of rescue vehicles evolved over the course of the evening to hundreds of dead, as many missing and a FEMA-esque shortage of resources, while profs ran in and out of the room yelling clichéd shit like “This just in!” and “Stop the presses!”
It was exactly like putting together a gigantic double-sided jigsaw crossword puzzle with its pieces scattered around a never-ending maze. If you imagine that hard enough, this sentence should make you as dizzy as the class was by night’s end.
All of us, to a person, dropped the ball. No team managed to capture the whole story accurately, because detail after detail would shift and shift again. The point of the exercise, it turned out, wasn’t for someone to come out with a Pulitzer for being right. It was to show us how fucked up it is trying to find accuracy in mayhem when you’ve nominated yourself as deserving trust with information.
I’ll say it again: No team managed to capture the whole story accurately.
As you already may suspect about the media at large, there was a good cross-section of smart, dedicated people, pretentious assholes who wanted to be the first on any scene and dumbasses who couldn’t get the travel-writing class they wanted.
Guess what happened when we all worked together.
Arguments, bad feelings and back-stabbing, peppered with the occasional fact, usually one so attention-grabbing that it was easy to let less accurate details kinda slip by without having to account for them later.
So this week, as I scan news sites, social networks and all that happy crap online, I’m not appalled at the confusion. That part I understand.
And like everyone, I hate the press conferences where we’re officiously told nothing at all. But c’mon, whaddya want? Some FBI dude going like, “We comin’ for your ass, psycho who lives next door to you!”
Oh wait — that happened.
What really has my attention, however, is another war goin’ outside: the parlour conspiracy theorists vs. the totally indignant, country-right-or-wrong set.
For humanity’s sake, people: all y’all need to chill!
Who cares what time, say, a Facebook memorial page was opened at? Have you ever — and by “ever,” I mean “every damn day” — seen Facebook get glitchy and weird on you? If not, you must use a different Facebook than me.
But let’s of course not let that sort of truth-seeking zeal overshadow those who just want to tell us to shut up, that anything anyone could possibly say other than “let’s get us some revenge” is akin to terrorism itself.
Yes, you are the worse of two evils in this debate, from my perspective, but I’m feelin’ for those of you so impassioned by your beliefs that the very foundations of grammar have been shattered by the urgency of your crusading commentary against the boogie monster.
What’s a reasonably sane person to do, you ask, or a complete wingnut for that matter?
I don’t know any more than you, but I guarantee you it has nothing to do with being right or wrong. It has to do with listening, and not just hearing.
My class screwed our assignment up that night because we were too busy trying to hear what made sense in our individually garbled self-narratives, rather than remaining open to the big picture and adjusting our antennas accordingly.
The more weight individuals place in their own definition of left and right, in what constitutes conspiracy and what constitutes reality, the more we crush the collective human will to simply understand each other better.
The truth is anyone can report a detail. Facts take time to establish. When time doesn’t tell, don’t blame someone else for covering up the facts; blame everyone for ignoring them in favour of the details.
Listings will return next week. Peace to Boston and peace to you. ■