18 March 2011

Sometimes I have Opinions

I've never been one to follow the news, even having studied journalism. So when I was told about the channel here that shows news in English everyday, I wasn't especially thrilled. Internet news I'd do sometime, but TV + news was just about the opposite of what I did back home. Then somewhere between having an abundance of time and not much to do, I turned on the television and ate my breakfast like a proper American.

They show dead people on TV here. Did you know that? In all my years in the states, I don't recall ever seeing a body on TV, much less a whole room of corpses. I was beside myself, as this was definitely breaking the journalistic standards I was taught. I didn't pay much attention in school, but I learned at least this much. Did they just show a man bleeding to death in the street? Perhaps a slip-up of the cameraman. Given the current conditions of the world, there was not a shortage of these footages to prove that it wasn't. Reporters were front line alongside the rebels in Libya, recording the battle while being shot at. 5,000 are dead in Japan, and you see a room full of unidentified bodies. Maybe this is a bit gruesome, and by some standards perhaps unnecessary. We don't need to see draped stretchers to know there are dead bodies under the rubbles. We know.

I've come to think this way being accustomed to the sanitized news of U.S. We've become so advanced that we can afford to live in a separate reality. We'll eat chicken breasts but we don't want to even see the rest of the chicken(topic for another day). Tell us the number of casualties, but don't you dare show us a body. We know the world in theory, but in reality we're getting further away with every wall that's put up to soften the truth. Anyone will acknowledge that humans are not numbers, but what does that really mean? It's easy to say that five were killed in a clash with the army, but attach faces to these five and the pictures change. The numbers are suddenly real human beings with lives like yours and mine. Vietnam was the first televised war in the States, and the country erupted in one of the largest protest movements in history. It's not that we don't know what it means to die, but sometimes it takes more than a number for it to really register. How much respect are we really showing the dead if all that they've become are forgotten digits?

It's not that I'm eager to see more deaths on TV, but perhaps a bit less censoring will do us all some good. Not only have we been isolated from some basic realities of life, but the rest of the world barely exists for Americans. For a country of such high economic status, our international knowledge is abysmal. I was never avoiding the news. I was only avoiding the self-absorbed crap that America thrives on. I can only hope that one day the country will stop reporting on every burglary in the neighborhood and start paying more attention to the world outside our white picket fence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember when I was little they showed charred bodies with their guts pulled out on TV during the '89 Tiananmen Square incident. They don't show that kind of graphic on TV any more, but I've been haunted ever since. As a parent I don't think I want my kid to have the same experience, but I'll surely tell her there are less unfortunates in other parts of the world.