Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Monday, April 16, 2007

Watching the media ghouls strut their stuff

The horror that unfolded on the Virginia Tech Campus today is hard to grasp, and of course, we all want to know what happened and why. Unfortunately - for me at least - the horror of the event was compounded by my own horror at the coverage.

I was forced to turn on CNN. The day anchors were very excitedly reporting any and every possible clue or tip - replaying a video that had been taken by a student with a cell phone, replaying an interview with said student, replaying any interview with any student... replaying any photos they could find, and speculating wildly about what might have happened and why.

As a former journalism student, I felt sick.

It went on. I finally couldn't watch any more of the sensationalism, but when I turned on CNN tonight (hoping for more level heads prevailing,) it was even worse. A press conference is in progress, and a bunch of... frankly moronic reporters are badgering the Virginia Tech president and Police Chief Wendell Flinchum, who was a lot more patient than I could have been. They asked the same questions over... and over... and over... apparently not listening to each other (or perhaps they never do.) Sometimes they were accusing: "Why didn't you stop the gunman at the dorm, before he had a chance to kill more people?" Ironically, there is still an investigation underway and the police are not yet sure the same gunman DID kill the people in the Engineering building. Maybe yes - probably yes - but that is why there are investigations and not simply guesses. The media loves to guess. Remember how they 'guessed' the outcome of election 2000? They are guessing today, all day long. Its appalling.

Has the media always been this atrocious? I am not sure. It was pretty horrible in the 80s when I made my choice not to go into the profession. I could easily see that it wasn't a profession for someone with a strong ethical center... because the 'if it bleeds, it leads' rule is law. Respect for truth, respect for people, respect for justice... these are all secondary.

One of the most horrifying moments (other than the general happenings at the campus) was when one of these giddy, CNN day anchors actually asked the SWAT team leader how he would set up security on college campuses across the nation, so this could never happen again. Yes, she asked him this. A SWAT team leader.

Of course on this day, in this circumstance, the chaos and general freedom of a college campus was making it hard for him to do his job, so of course he spoke of having backpack searches (although he didn't specify if this would be before EVERY class, or just once a day,) and well trained security personnel posted all around campus, monitoring the comings and goings of the general populace. He spoke of keeping non-campus people off campus. Etc.

I live in a college town. I can tell you that the college and the town are intermixed. We all go to events at the college, and the students (many of them) live in the community. I can't even imagine some knee jerk reaction where suddenly the town people can no longer go on campus... because they don't have some required student or faculty pass, and the students are forced to go through metal detectors every time they go back on campus. This is... mind boggling in its antithesis to what college campuses are all about.

The fact is... we are not safe. Ever.

We can never be completely safe. Bad things are going to happen in life, here and there, sometimes at malls, sometimes in schools, sometimes on campuses and sometimes even in airplanes and giant skyscrapers. It is what we do in the wake of these tragedies... how we react, that defines us. It defined us after 9/11. We gave away our freedom with the Patriot Act. I pray that this kind of cowardice doesn't define us once again after the Virginia Tech shootings. Decisions made in a time of fear have a way of leading to a lifetime of regret.

What I have seen today makes me fear for my country, my city and its campus.... much more than I will ever fear the random gunman.

And the media shall lead the maniacal charge... straight over the cliff.

An FBI agent interviewed by Wolf Blitzer, just prior to Lou Dobbs: Wolf was taking the apparently official CNN line, that something MUST BE DONE to make our campuses safer (under control, even from isolated cases of random violence.) The FBI agent reminded Wolf - thank God - that we live in a free society, and that in a free society, things like this can happen anywhere. Finally, some words of wisdom. And thank you to Jack Cafferty for his comment that 'Psychos can turn up anywhere.'

Ah, thank heavens... Lou Dobbs at last. Finally someone with a brain, to present the actually known news, in a dignified fashion. I was finally able to take in the horror and process it - without being distracted by my feelings of disgust at the ghoulish behavior of the media messengers.

Those poor people in Virginia. The campus looked... familiar. Could have been here. The trees, the limestone buildings. The town sounded wonderful. Just like here. Could have happened anywhere.

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