Walk away from disaster news coverage

· Sep 17, 2001 Tweet

The irrelevance of entertainment at this time seems glaringly obvious, and if the cancellation of a week’s worth of television premieres didn’t crystallize that point, surely a weekend without football, baseball, golf or hockey will.

But as we near the end of the first week in our collective student memory in which we have felt threatened on our own turf — whether it be the alumni carrying on bravely in New York or the student body in the seemingly safe Madison — there is a pressing need to peel ourselves away from the depressing 24-hour news marathons that have swallowed up many of our schedules. CNN has become a black hole that leads only to depression and cultivates only fear — something we cannot afford to reveal right now. Instead, we need to find the strength inside to let ourselves be entertained and distracted in other ways.

Surely, you heard at least one reference throughout the week.

“Where’s Bruce Willis — charred in smoke with broken glass protruding from his feet — to tell us, ‘It’s all okay, folks.'”

“Where’s Wesley Snipes when you need him?”

And while we were all tempted to smack that wisecracking, movie-quote-spitting goof-off across the back of the head, there is something to be taken from this. There is nothing here to be taken lightly, but this is a time when we must be strong — and hours in front of CNN will do nothing but weaken us. Maybe we should let ourselves be entertained. For isn’t the heart of entertainment the fact that it provides a diversion, an escape from reality? I can think of nothing we need more right now.

As many options as we have to help, there is really little we can do. To see what happens when anxious citizens let TV news dictate our reactions and mood, look only to the gutless scare tactics taken against American Muslims inside U.S. borders since Tuesday. One can only guess this comes from a feeling of helplessness and a desire to do something about it.

I admit, much like with the Columbine tragedy, I was sucked into the vacuum that is disaster news coverage. For two days, I was amongst the many who sat glued to their television sets soaking up hour after hour after hour of Ted Koppel, Dan Rather, CNN, FOX News and news tickers. Much like the 24-hour Open Pantry, they fed my need and my desire all night long, providing the fix to my news addiction.

Thursday through Saturday nights, I was amongst those who were able to raise their spirits enough to get out to the bars in search of some reprieve from the onslaught of menial and fear-inducing tidbits of quasi-information these networks were doling out like candy on Halloween.

“A black box is retrieved.” “Five firefighters found alive beneath an SUV.” “Black box beyond saving.” “Banging on pipes heard from beneath wreckage.” “SUV firefighters and pipe bangers just rumors.” “Three hundred suspects investigated ?”

Still, I found myself spending half my nights with my head cocked, watching intently to see what could possibly happen next. One begins to imagine what kicking a crack habit can be like by trying to pull himself away from such a situation. Each night, the stream of news ticker could make or break my day with either good or bad news. And while I am not asking, “Why should I suffer too?” I am instead suggesting that we be strong and carry on. If we become a nation of nervous wrecks dazed in depression, then we have lost — we have admitted our vulnerability.

A weekend without sports and whatnot to entertain us was needed — out of respect as much as for safety reasons. But now we must carry on, and nothing has the healing power and the ability to raise and evoke our spirits like a good movie. Every movie, whether good or bad, holds the power of distraction, and it seems likely that years from now, the movies that we watch today will be remembered with awe — for their ability to take us far away from the friends and relatives we know that lost lives, homes and jobs this week; from the grizzly television images, the horrifying details and the even scarier possibilities; from the brothers who wait to be called away and from the grandparents who can only shake their heads, again.


This article was published Sep 17, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Sep 17, 2001 at 12:00 am


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