7.26.2005

North American Narcissism

The US increasingly is only interested in itself. The US media increasingly displays only beautiful Americans rather than any information about the outside world. Now this might not be such a bad thing -- many people turn to television as an escape at the end of a long work day -- but there needs to be a little bit of balance. I'm beginning to worry that perhaps the rest of the world could reduce itself to rubble without the average US citizen even noticing. My worries were further fueled by the following statistics that I discovered in an editorial by Nicholas Kristof that ran in today's Times.

"According to monitoring by the Tyndall Report, ABC News had a total of 18 minutes of the Darfur genocide in its nightly newscasts all last year - and that turns out to be a credit to Peter Jennings. NBC had only 5 minutes of coverage all last year, and CBS only 3 minutes - about a minute of coverage for every 100,000 deaths. In contrast, Martha Stewart received 130 minutes of coverage by the three networks."

So, for those keeping score, the genocide in Sudan is worthy of 26 minutes of coverage TOTAL in ONE YEAR! Even people who watch the news could easily have been fixing themselves a sandwich during that time. Well, a few sandwiches.

Kristof lays the blame at the feet of his fellow journalists, which is partially fair -- journalists should be making a greater effort to make this kind of news more available and perhaps more accessible and meaningful to those who don't know too much about world politics -- but to a great extent the problem is that people just don't care anymore. We would actually rather hear about Martha Stewart. Somehow we have become so jaded by the endless stream of tragedies, that we can hear about something like this and stop thinking about it literally five seconds later. And that's not a righteous condemnation of "the average american," because I too have developed this ability over the years and it disturbs me deeply.

For more information about Darfur we must turn to the internet or the increasingly ignored serious newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post.
If you would like to learn more, here is what appears to be a relatively good site with a decent overview of the history of the conflict and some suggestions for what can be done. www.savedarfur.org

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