The times, they are a’changin

Ah yes, changes are a-foot for Megalomedia. As I mentioned briefly last week, this site is now 100% ad-free, thanks to an inadvertent violation of Google’s ad policy. Also, after becoming mildly obsessed with the Al Franken Show podcast, I’ve started planning for Megalomedia: On The Go.

The project is in its infacy, but I’ve figured out the technical aspects of it (I think) and will be posting a test run in the next few days/weeks. As for the actual show, I’m not entirely sure what it will contain, but I’m thinking of a weekly show of about 10-15 minutes going over the major issues of the week.

If you have any ideas or suggestions, lemme know at Woot.

Most of the papers are still talking about the bombings that killed as many as 50 people who were on their way to work.

Oh wait, did you think I was talking about London? No no, over the weekend as many as 50 people were killed by suicide bombers in Iraq.

This started to bug me pretty quickly after the bombings in London. Don’t get me wrong, the bombings in London were appaling, tragic and terrifying, frankly. That a country so dedicated to national security could be bombed so sensationally is horrifying. But why is it worth so much more coverage than the almost-daily bombings in Iraq?

I know the answers, of course. Iraq is old news. Iraq is populated with brown people. Iraq isn’t expected to be secure. But it’s really hard to believe that we in the western world value every human life equally when the bombings in Iraq are relegated to briefs in the world section while London is still making A1 today.

Is it the media’s responsibility to make people care? Or are they justified in playing to what people want? Really, I’m not sure. But it would be an interesting experiment: Place stories in the paper by body count, regardless of colour, gender or celebrity status. I wonder what people would say?

More on the terror
I’m also really sick of world leaders telling us that the London bombings are proof that we must remain vigilant and increase security. Why isn’t anyone asking questions like: “How have our foreign policies contributed to this tragedy?” or “Is there a lesson to be learned?” or “Could it be that we are not infallible?”

Yes, the people who carried out this attack are sick, sick bastards. But hearing George W. Bush talk about the evilness of those who are willing to kill innocent people to further their cause so soon after U.S. planes killed 17 Afghan civilians kinda makes my stomach turn. As does watching a pack of reporters frantically reproducing his quotes without thinking to point out the hypocrisy.

The argument could be made that it’s not the right time to ask these questions. The victims are still being identified, let’s just let people mourn. But the problem is that was the attitude in the U.S. after September 11, 2001. And as we approach the four-year anniversary of those attacks, we’re still not asking the right questions.

The Globe and Mail, brought to you by Esso
This is just a little thing, but it really caught my eye and stuck with me. The Globe’s A1 teaser above the headline today is for a story about Imperial Oil’s headquarter’s move to Alberta. They typically put the tease over a coloured background and run a photo at one end. This time the “photo” is an Esso logo on a white background, and there’s no real connection to the teaser. I dunno, maybe a frame around the whole thing would’ve helped, but it really looks to me like the Globe is sponsored by Esso today. Am I the only one who sees that? Check out the page here.

and finally. . .
I haven’t really talked much about the U.S. reporter getting jailed for the CIA leak story, mostly because I don’t know all the details and it seems pretty complex. However, I see some parallels with the whole Homlka press freedom affair, and the knee-jerk opposition to any perceived infringement on freedom of the press, no matter what the case.
I want to make clear that I don’t know enough about the U.S. case to formulate an opinion, but a David Ignatius column that was picked up in the Citizen caught my eye. It’s an interesting read and you can find a copy of it here.


  1. But it would be an interesting experiment: Place stories in the paper by body count, regardless of colour, gender or celebrity status. I wonder what people would say?

    If we did that, Joe, the African AIDS epidemic would make cover every day. Canadian newspapers wouldn’t have any more local coverage, for the simple reason that we die less often than people in other countries. Readers would grow tired of reading gruesome statistics every day, and they would tune the newspapers out.

    I reject the idea that newspapers should just be ledgers for the innumerable sufferings and failures of the world. In principle, it is true that we are all equally human; we are equally deserving of life and happiness; but that does not make our deaths equally newsworthy. There are billions of people on earth. Only God can love them all equally and simultaneously.

    Even you cannot decry every world crisis that goes ignored in the media – you despair at poor coverage of Africa and Haiti, others have picked Nepal, others have picked Bolivia. . . what makes your set of gruesome statistics any more worthy than the other guy’s?

    I once wrote an opinion piece for the Charlatan about how universal compassion is impossible to teach through the media. I’ve revisited that belief over the years. Universal compassion is impossible to teach, period. We belong in cultures, nations, communities, and we care about people who are close to those things.

    That is why we care about London more than Iraq. London is important to us. It used to rule us. As recently as a century ago, Britain had a worldwide empire and was considered the pinnacle of Western civilization, and now it is under siege. If it can happen to them, it can happen to us.

  2. Though I disagree with Joe in a certain sense, I disagree with Prophetic Man as well.

    I don’t think stories (and I take it Joe meant simply stories relating to death, not news stories in general) regarding death should be placed by body count. Prophetic’s reasoning is sound. The African AIDS crisis would lead every day and people would just tune it out.

    Context is everything. We do not, as Prophetic seems to think, empathize with the British more than we do with the Iraqis because they once ruled us. Most Canadians were never subjected to British rule. It is probably just as likely that a new Canadian has fond memories of Mother Britain, as he has reservations about her colonialism.

    We empathize because we’re like them. They look like us, talk like us, govern themselves like us, etc. Iraqis don’t. Africans don’t. This, of course, is natural. Human beings, as Prophetic rightly pointed out, align themselves with communities. The simplest community, of course, is one based on language. If you all understand one another, you all get along.

    But the point Prophetic is missing is that with proper context, the media can educate their readers, rather than play to their immediate reactions. When we hear about the bombings in London, we become scared, because we are like them. But there wasn’t/isn’t a danger to Canada (despite the many headlines to the contrary, the stories below them are pretty wishy-washy). Only 50 people died (not to say that this isn’t a tragedy, but 50 people really isn’t much compared to AIDS in Africa, or how many Iraqis the United States has killed).

    If the media provides context to their stories and makes an honest attempt at making their readers compassionate global citizens (Eg. the mission of the NY Times), they have done their job.

  3. We do not, as Prophetic seems to think, empathize with the British more than we do with the Iraqis because they once ruled us.

    I think I could have better explained that argument. What I was thinking, but perhaps said badly, was that Britain’s accomplishments as a nation are more recent, and more closely connected to Canada’s own accomplishments, than Iraq’s. As Westerners, we are more likely to care about one of the exemplary achievers of Western civilization than about Iraq. It was not always this way. Once upon a time, the civilized world held Baghdad as its example, because the centre of a Muslim empire whose sciences and literature far outstripped ours.

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