Americans tune out world, turn on TV gore


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halvey
November 16, 2004, 03:33 PM
I thought I'd never agree with anything this anti says, but low and behold...
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http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/columnists/laura_billings/10190971.htm?1c

Americans tune out world, turn on TV gore

LAURA BILLINGS

America loves dead people.

On any given night on network television, you can usually watch a fictional character suffocate in a plastic bag, get her brains blown out, get buried alive in an underground explosion, or have his vital organs cut into wafer-thin slices by one of several forensic scientist hotties, who can talk in grim and reverential detail about all the harm that can come to a human body.

No wonder when someone important dies in real life, it's not nearly as entertaining.

This is one of several lessons we can draw from the recent firing of a CBS news producer who overrode network policy by assuming that the 16 million or so Americans watching "CSI: NY'' last Wednesday night might be interested in knowing that Yasser Arafat had died.

You can see why someone might make that mistake. After all, we had an election recently in which voters claimed that concern about terrorism was one of the central issues that had driven them to the polls. Arafat, who actually happened to be a terrorist, not to mention a Nobel Prize winner, certainly seemed like the kind of complex character Americans would want to know more about, and whose death might be worth considering for at least five minutes before the local news.

Unfortunately, Arafat's passing was not nearly as compelling as the restaurant employees killed in a multiple homicide on that night's episode, or the fun little subplot about the amputee found dead in his bed.

Irate viewers called to complain. CBS apologized. And the producer, referred to as "overly aggressive," is now looking for other opportunities.

Perhaps this producer was unaware that a Pew Research Center study in 2002 found that only 48 percent of Americans could correctly identify Yasser Arafat as the Palestinian leader, after the four decades his name had been in the news. Of course, it could be worse. Fewer than three in 10 Americans could correctly identify Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, even though he's been in the public eye almost as long.

So much for that resolution we made after 9/11 to pay attention to what was happening in the world.

It really was just a few years ago that Americans claimed to be more interested in foreign policy and international news. For a while, we committed ourselves to worrying about women's lives under the Taliban, and decided on a preferred spelling of al-Qaida, and listened as Madeleine Albright and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman explained world affairs on "Oprah." In a 2002 survey of 218 editors of U.S. newspapers, 95 percent of them said that readers were more interested in foreign news and 78 percent were allocating more space to world news.

But did anyone pay attention? Probably not as many as should have. Four out of 10 Americans still think Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11.

It's true there was an uptick of interest in foreign reporting among college-educated news consumers, who were already inclined to follow international news. But a year after 9/11, the Pew Research Center found Americans had lost their alleged appetite for world news. In fact, 65 percent of people with moderate to low interest in international news said they didn't follow it because they felt they lacked the background to make sense of it. Some 51 percent said it wasn't worth watching because "nothing ever changes."

Another 45 percent said world events "don't affect me." And 42 percent said they didn't pay much attention to world news because there was too much coverage of war and violence.

Maybe that's the reason 66 ABC affiliates decided not to run "Saving Private Ryan" on Veteran's Day last week. Realistic portrayals of the horror of war, bombs and F-bombs — even if they do happen on French soil — may be too much for our delicate sensibilities and moral values. When we want to see war and violence, we'd prefer to see it celebrated in the form of a video game such as "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," which has already sold 32 million units.

As for those poor viewers who were subjected to world news and deprived of the last five minutes of "CSI: NY," CBS gave them a rain check. TV viewers' commitment to finding out how things came out on a cop show turned the episode rebroadcast on Friday into the night's ratings winner.

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psyopspec
November 16, 2004, 03:42 PM
One of the many reasons my cable is hooked up only to my computer and not my television. I get my news online, and for the 20 minutes per day I watch tv while on break at school, it's usually tuned to a music channel. Afterall, it's not any more of an insult to the intelligence than CNN or Fox.

cslinger
November 16, 2004, 03:56 PM
Afterall, it's not any more of an insult to the intelligence than CNN or Fox.


Yes it is. News channels at least run news. Music channels don't seem to run any music anymore. :D

halvey
November 16, 2004, 04:07 PM
I think he means the music channels on cable, not the music "tv" such as Vh1 and MTV.

It amazes me how much time and effort we put into entertaining ourselves.

Slotback
November 16, 2004, 04:19 PM
The American Public is the best entertained and least informed group around, IMHO.

Lone_Gunman
November 16, 2004, 04:51 PM
The American Public is the best entertained and least informed group around, IMHO.

Thats a poorly thought out statement.

Please, do tell who you actually think is better informed about news than Americans? We have our faults, and I agree many of us don't know whats going on, but when you say we are "least informed" who exactly are you comparing us to?

The billion Chinese who live under communist fascism?

The millions of Muslims living in repressive societies that forbid outside media infuences?

The people of developing African nations without electricity or running water?

Give me a break, we are not the least informed, and never have been. That comment falls into the category of the absurd.

Cosmoline
November 16, 2004, 04:51 PM
I actually think CSI, with its focus on science and "just the facts" style, is darn good television. I'd watch more TV news coverage if it was more like "CSI" and less like "survivor" or MTV.

psyopspec
November 16, 2004, 11:40 PM
Give me a break, we are not the least informed, and never have been. That comment falls into the category of the absurd.

True. Maybe a better phrase would be "The American public is the most misinformed group around."

Rebar
November 16, 2004, 11:51 PM
This is one of several lessons we can draw from the recent firing of a CBS news producer who overrode network policy by assuming that the 16 million or so Americans watching "CSI: NY'' last Wednesday night might be interested in knowing that Yasser Arafat had died.
More elite liberalism at work.

They cannot conceive that non-elite non-liberal America, having already decided that Arafat was a murdering terrorist, didn't think his death as newsworthy. Especially after the several previous breathless reports of his death.

They say the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference. The American people were indifferent to Arafat's death, and found CSI more important. That the MSM felt the need to lionize this dispicable person tells us a lot more about them, then our indifference does about us.

Selfdfenz
November 17, 2004, 12:26 AM
Lone-Gunman

There is a sentiment in slotbacks comment I can't help but agree with.
My TV is almost never on. I get my news from the radio and over the Net.

During the run up to the election for a few weeks I tuned in to ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX to get my compass readings on where the talking heads were going.

Informed I was not, propagandized I was.

S-

PaleRyder
November 17, 2004, 11:01 AM
The very first thing I thought upon reading about the CSI CBS thing was "Jeez, CSI is a frikkin fictional program, the Arafat situation is real news. WHO CARES about a fictional tv program? You can catch it in reruns. People ain't blowin themselves and others up over tv programs in this world."

Then again, I'm weird as far as tv goes. I watch a couple of programs on Scifi, Nero Wolfe and Sherlock Holmes on Biography Channel, and news. Other than that, the only time the tv is on it's usually on History Channel, Science Channel, Discovery, channels like that.
I don't watch anything at all on network tv.

Henry Bowman
November 17, 2004, 11:11 AM
Rebar nailed it! As far as we are concerned, this terrorist has been irrelevant for several months and in a coma for several days. His passing on to hell is of less importance than one of the stupidest shows on American television. Now that is pretty trivial, if you think about it.

grnzbra
November 17, 2004, 11:17 AM
This fool is complaining that people were upset that a TV program was interrupted to announce Arafat's death.

First of all, for a week we had been subjected to reports of him being near death. When it happened it was anti-climactic. Furthermore, he was the father of modern terrorism, so I could hold off my celebrations until after the TV show was finished. I really think these media types take themselves too seriously and have a very over inflated view of their own importance.

Seriously, why in the world does this person think that Arafat's death was a GOTTA KNOW IT RIGHT NOW event? That is almost as bad as the night they interrupted Dallas to report that the Chineese govenment weren't allowing them to report on the Tienemen Square Massacre. (We were treated to an on-the-scene reporter who was more concerned that he wasn't being allowed to broadcast than he was about what it was that he wasn't being allowed to broadcast.)

hubel458
November 17, 2004, 11:22 AM
Watching gore huh. Great, he invented it didn't he. Couldn't resist.Ed.

Dave R
November 17, 2004, 11:25 AM
Give me a break, we are not the least informed, and never have been.

I could not agree more. We could do "Jay Walking," or any other event that shows how uninformed people are, in Paris or London or Moscow or any other place.

So what people are more informed that US citizens?

I agree with others. The news on Arafat's death could certainly wait until 10/11pm.

I like Gunny Ermy's quote on Fox News. He was being interviewed because he was over in Iraq with the troops. As the interview was ending, he asked the talking head "Is this Veterans Day or Arafat Day? 'Cuz listening to the news, I can't tell."

Slick Pilot
November 17, 2004, 12:07 PM
The only thing I wanted to know could have been handled by a small banner at the bottom of the screen:

Arafat's dead, and we fed him to the hogs.

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