More thoughts on yesterday’s terror panic: A few stories I saw this morning regarding yesterday’s terrorism scare stirred some more thoughts about terrorism plots, air travel, politics and the role of “social media” in all of this:
Cable news TV coverage no longer works for me: After ten minutes of watching cable news coverage of events of yesterday, I decided it was a total waste of time. Why? While cable TV news used to fascinate me as each factoid dribbled in on a breaking-story, I have lost my tolerance for the medium. Such things as a DVR and an RSS newsreader have given me power over the timing and flow of news into my consciousness. I’ve discovered I have less tolerance for someone else — especially a producer at a cable news channel — determining the priorities and sources of my information on such a story. Besides, through citizen media tools, I can often get source-level coverage that beats CNN.
Somewhere, editors and producers must have been taught not to think: The “professional” coverage immediately fell into a standard cookie-cutter formula that must be taught in journalism school during a “disaster coverage” course: A. Camp out at press conferences; B. Get lots of video of people standing in lines; C. Interview people who lived next door to anyone arrested; D. Find a local angle — send a crew to the airport and get some “toothpaste shots.” E. Find some experts to describe worst case scenarios that will scare the beejeezies out of people. F. Make it sound like today is the “worst ever,” “category 10,” “Code red,” most incomprehensible thing that ever happened, ever.
Any tragedy will be politicized within moments: I am frustrated (that’s a throttled-back word to describe how I really feel) with individuals of any political ilk who immediately see any news through the lens of politics. And I’ll be bipartisan in this rant: A pox on partisans of all strips who try to interpret an act of terrorism as something that will be good for one candidate over another…or to those who immediately describe an official they don’t like as being the equivalent to a terrorist.
We’re all going to die, but it’s still a great time to be alive: We live in scary times — but amazing times as well. I still think it’s a miracle we can get in a little spherically shaped piece of metal and be transported anywhere in the world in a matter of hours. That thousands of planes carry hundreds of thousands of passengers 35,000 feet in the air all over the world every day still amazes me. Here’s how I see it: I love where I live but I’ve accepted the fact that tornados rip through the area each spring. I drive my car even though I know that 43,200 died on American highways in 2004 (I could go on with fatality statistics related to a wide range of causes of death, but I’ll skip that). I’ve accepted that I am surrounded by situations of threat; situations and conditions that could, if I allowed them to, cause me great anxiety. However, I have decided to accept the inevitability of all those threats — including terrorism — as a fact of life. Americans will die again and it will be dramatic and horrendous. I will be outraged and saddened. But we will survive.
The stock market is a better gauge of ‘panic’ than TV news anchors and the “experts” they interview: While cable TV was trying to make us panic yesterday, a much better barometer of sentiment revealed we weren’t lapping up what they were dishing out. The stock market stood rock solid and even airline stocks were up. “Terrorism is now probably part of the general backdrop of doing business and living in the world,” Patrick Dorsey, head of stock analysis at Chicago researcher Morningstar Inc. told the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) “In some ways these threats are like natural disasters now. People don’t know when they’re coming, but they understand that they’ll come at some point.”