An article that was never worth dying for

Quote of the Day for Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011:

From a New York Times article, published on Boston.com, from four Times’ reporters who had just been released from several days of captivity in the loony bin of wartime Libya, relaying some of the details of their ordeal, including this moment of realization that their Libyan driver had likely been killed by the soldiers who’d captured them:

From the pickup, Lynsey saw a body lying next to our car, one arm outstretched. We still don’t know whether that was Mohammed. We fear it was, though his body has yet to be found. If he died, we will have to bear the burden for the rest of our lives that an innocent man died because of us, because of wrong choices that we made, for an article that was never worth dying for.

No article is, but we were too blind to admit that.

Ummm, do you think? And if that poor man had a family, what exactly should be said to his wife now? That he died so that Americans back home could be thrilled by up-to-the-minute eye-witness war reporting?

I often feel queasy when I pass by TVs playing war front footage, thinking about the irresponsibility and just plain inanity of it all. And it’s not just the media outlets that are to blame; those who sit down with their popcorn and crackerjacks to take it in are equally responsible.

War zone reporting is a kind of pornography; a tacit agreement between a salacious public eager to indulge its lust for the thrill of purely objectified knowledge, and a pimping media equally eager to grow wealthy and powerful providing the entertainment “content” of a stranger’s debasement, especially given the ease with which such emotionally charged messaging can be used to manipulate public opinion for political ends.

The “news” is just about the worst of what the mass entertainment industry has to offer society, and this article is, I hope, a pretty clear example of why that is.

  • The opinions you express in this post are ones I have a great deal of sympathy for—indeed, over the last several years I’ve scaled down the amount of news I consume for exactly this reason.

    But at the same time, I can’t help but feel that the Libyan driver had a choice too; he didn’t have to submit himself to (extra) danger just for the sake of these journalists.