Media Follies

By Michael I. Niman
Blue Dog Press, 3/15/01

 Dick Cheney’s Heart

             As Dick Cheney recovered from his recent angioplasty, the news media rushed to assure the American public that W’s left hand man “was not suffering from a repeat [italics mine] of his November heart attack.”   Whoaa.  Wait a minute.  This is getting a bit Orwellian.  The story back in November was that Cheney did not have a heart attack.  It was the same scene we saw this week.  Two tired doctors garbed in appropriate white attire standing in from of a large bank of microphones, serenaded by a chorus of camera shutters, unequivocally stating that Cheney did not suffer a heart attack.  I’m told the reason I can’t teach tricks to my goldfish is because they cannot remember more than five minutes into the past.  And we have always been at war with Eurasia.

Watson, Warner, “Race” and Cheektowaga

             Kudos to the The Buffalo News’ Rod Watson for an excellent column last Thursday about the myriad faces of racism plaguing Cheektowaga.  The News needs to hire more editors and reporters like Watson, and rely less on cheap wire service stories. 

 Gene Warner’s story, however, on the same day needed work.  Put simply, reporters should not play with quantitative sociology unless they plan on crunching all the numbers and doing a thorough job.  In his piece on “Black on Black” crime, Warner fails to crunch numbers on social class and geography.  What is the proximity of the domiciles of the attackers to those of victims?  Buffalo is one of the top five most segregated urban areas in America.  If these numbers show criminals prey on those living in close proximity to them then the results take on a different meaning.  Likewise, crunch the numbers by social class instead of race and the racial dispositions alluded to in Warmers article regarding violence and victimization may disappear.  Half a story is both sloppy social science and sloppy journalism.

 Fast Times at Santana High

             While dabbling in social science in a quest for the meaning of inner-city crime, local media outlets are glossing over the fact that the worse horror stories of the past few years come not from the inner-cities, but from the affluent suburbs.  One TV pundit commenting on the recent Santana melee droned, “If it could happen here it could happen anywhere.”  Well, that might be the case, but so far, when it comes to mass shootings in high schools, it doesn’t happen “anywhere.”  It happens in affluent suburban school districts. 

     As a tipsy Dan Rather so succinctly put it on election night, “Sip it, savor it, cup it, Photostat it, underline it in red, press it in a book, put it in an album, hang it on the wall…” Basically, Deal with it.  Inner city violence is a reaction to the violence of poverty.  It is not a racially based phenomenon.  The causes and the solutions should not be baffling.  What happened at Santana, on the other hand is violence rooted in the alienation of affluence.  Put together, we have a smoking gun aimed right at the heart of American culture – just in time for “tax cut” season.  The news media is racist when it depicts violence in Black communities as “Black violence, ” yet the horrors of suburban high school massacres “could happen anywhere.”