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.