I was reading a report in the British medical journal The Lancet about human rights abuses in Haiti. It stated, among other things, that 8,000 people were murdered and 35,000 girls and women raped or sexually assaulted in the Port-au-Prince area during the period immediately following President Aristide's removal from power in February 2004. The crimes were committed mostly by the police, UN peacekeepers, anti-Lavalas (Aristede's political party) groups, and other associates of the U.S.-backed interim government. Assassination and rape were basically being used as instruments of social control and punishment for political affiliation, and all of this has been going on for the past couple of years right off the coast of Florida. The report was published in the journal's September 2, 2006 issue, so it's been in circulation for several days now. I've been watching the front pages of lots of major U.S. newspapers and news websites and so far I haven't seen any references to it appear anywhere.
An obvious question: Why not? It can't be that the numbers aren't shocking enough, or the crimes not heinous enough (i.e., death squads gang raping children - isn't this generally considered news?). And it can't be that Haiti's too far away for us to care - I'm looking at my globe right now and I can cover Florida, Haiti and Cuba with my paw all at the same time (and I have really small paws). I can only assume that its absence must be for 'other reasons' - I shudder to imagine.
So what is in the news at the moment?
• the recent quadruple-murder/dismemberment in Maine;
• The Crocodile Hunter guy's death-by-stringray;
• Andre Agassi's retirement from "tennis" (a.k.a. giant ping-pong);
• Pluto's demotion from planetary status to glorified asteroid;
• etc., etc., etc.
It's not that I don't think any of the above stories are worthy of inclusion in a newspaper, because, yeah, I actually did read all of those stories too. *cough* [Bunny's note: Pinky reads People magazine.] But I’ll bet you $20 [Bunny: she doesn't have $20.] that if you did a poll of a million newspaper readers, most of them would (maybe reluctantly) agree that these stories really don't have the same degree of social relevance as the Haiti story. Which kind of raises a potentially interesting question: Why do we gravitate towards reading stories that we know aren't, in the greater scheme of things, important? (here I'm only referring to those instances in which newspaper editors don't deliberately exclude important stories from appearing in their papers in the first place…)
Hmm. I'm kind of wondering why we read the news. I mean, some of us are almost addicted to it, like it's an absolutely essential ritual we have to do every day, right? But do we read the news as a 'first step' towards actually going out there and changing the world? Or do we read the news as a more passive form of entertainment and self-gratification? (I'm guessing more often the latter) And if it's more of the latter, I wonder if these kinds of choices imply something's gone wrong with our sense of values. It's hard not to wonder how and why we became the way we are. Sorry, no real answers yet, just questions. As always, for those of you out there who have all the answers, please feel free to e-mail them to me here.
Oh, by the way, we're making some pretty good progress on our next episode. Hopefully it'll be done sometime next week (it's fairly short, we're calling it a 'donut & coffee' episode). On a side note, this one will be the first in which Bunny and I actually have music in the background. So far the 'music' (gotta put that in quotes) we made is very, very bad - tortuous really - but we just want to try out not having just empty space behind the narration.