Prison Op/Ed Project: Time to change what we consider ‘newsworthy’

The ACIJust about every broadcast television station has a reporter speak during a commercial break about a highlighted event to be featured on the scheduled news time slot “coming up.” By vast majority, it will contain something that involves a natural disaster, a fire, a car accident, terrorism, a murder, or a weather event.

Why is it that we are so interested and captivated with these types of stories? Why do peoples’ social interactions change while experiencing a tragedy?

In 1978 I was 10 and living in Woonsocket during the great blizzard. The February storm dumped 58 inches of snow at my house, crippling the area. Days later, stories evolved, including my own positive experiences.

Neighbors came out of their homes. People spoke, some for the first time, while living next to each other for years. Everybody was helping each other to dig out of the snow. The world had almost stopped revolving for a short time. People were almost taking on an altered personality.

But the media coverage was more interested in how many people died resulting from it, how much businesses lost, and the damages caused by the storm.

Many things get completely discarded as not “newsworthy.” What about all of the many friendships that were formed? What about the people who saved others by rescuing them, or taking food or water to people who were unable to get it?

Worldwide disasters mirror this story. In Hurricane Katrina, there were endless images of the major flooding in the New Orleans area. All about the levees that failed, the looting, and the fires set by rioting thugs in the area. But, alas, after the storm event was over, the many news crews moved on to the next “newsworthy” story that they could report on to keep their ratings up, and to keep talking head reporters speaking.

It really isn’t surprising to believe that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Modern society is completely fascinated by death, disasters, and violence, and is becoming very desensitized to the way these things become part of daily life. Is there any correlation of anxiety and exponential use of pharmaceutical drugs for depression and anxiety? I believe this relationship is worth examining.

Not surprisingly, it took weeks for the press and news crews to return to New Orleans to cover the slow arrival of US FEMA there. This a primarily black, lower income population area. However, if the population were more of a white middle class, would the response have been much faster? I believe it would have.

In any type of natural or man-made disaster, there are many unsung, unidentified Clark Kents, Mother Teresas or Bruce Waynes that are never seen nor acknowledged (other than by God, who sees and knows our hearts and actions).

Among all the negativity and outward appearance of the world, there are still many good people left out there. It’s time for a change. Instead of giving people who do such heinous acts such as killing over 30 children in a CT school, or setting off bombs at the Boston Marathon for their 15 seconds of fame, let’s end it. The people should not be named, nor shown in pictures. Maybe there would be fewer incidents or this type of attack on innocent people. Modern society is to blame for this. Enough is enough—it’s time to stop the exposure, end the madness, and change the direction and process of reporting the news in all its forms.

Maybe, just maybe, people would be more helpful, more friendly, and more optimistic about people and our society as a whole. It is time to focus more on the victims than the perpetrators.

This post is published as part of the Prison Op/Ed Project, an occasional series authored by CCRI sociology students who are incarcerated at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute. Read more here:

Weekend at Bernie’s Kibbutz

2016-01-02 Bernie Sanders 246One of the resounding criticisms of Bernie Sanders this election year has been his youthful moment on a kibbutz, which he says convinced him of socialism. I and many others, including the late Edward Said in his classic The Question of Palestine, have emphasized that the kibbutz movement has for decades functioned as an instrument of state violence and therefore we should hold Sanders to this.

Yet the right wing, in their ever-vigilant effort to label Sanders as Stalin’s reincarnation, helped clarify this recently. Sanders in fact was at Kibbutz Sha’ar Ha’amakim as part of Hashomer Hatzair. This is something that I find tremendously relieving.

Just to clarify, Hashomer Hatzair was a binationalist Zionist movement that wanted to establish a social order based on proletarian ethos as opposed to ethnocracy. Dr. Norman Finkelstein’s father was a member at one point. Dr. Noam Chomsky had this to say of it:

As I mentioned, I never joined any organized group because of sharp disagreement and skepticism about them, though emotionally I was drawn to such youth groups as Hashomer Hatzair, which in those days professed a commitment to socialist binationalism in Palestine and kibbutz values, as well as the Hebraic culture that I was very much a part of… [T]he position that I held, while I wouldn’t say I was the only person in the world to hold it, nevertheless it was very far from the mainstream. It was a position that did have some standing and some support in the Zionist movement. But it was also one that was distinct from those of any of the existing movements, except for ones that were Stalinist or Trotskyite, therefore out for me, so I couldn’t join in.

I find this revelation about Sanders a breath of fresh air after being under water for too long. To be clear, I am not a morally repugnant person. Dr. Chomsky, who is one of my own personal heroes, once called himself probably one of the most conservative people in America because he hold people to the same standard. I agree with this, I insist on people being decent to each other regardless of whatever excuses they make. In the case of the Israel-Palestine issue, I find it morally repugnant that a state with a confirmed arsenal of nuclear weaponry at Dimona utilizes the persecution of their forefathers in Europe, back when anti-Semitism was an existential threat to Jews, so to carry on like raving maniacs. Dr. Finkelstein, whose parents were both in the concentration camps, once said Benjamin Netanyahu should be brought to the International Criminal Tribunal at the Hague for obnoxiousness.

Does this mean the super-delegates issue is solved? Does this absolve him of the votes for sanctions against Cuba and bombing Yugoslavia? Does this mean his positions on any number of things have been perfect? Absolutely not. His statements in Vermont during Operation Protective Edge were awful.

But this makes my respect for his campaign position on Israel-Palestine go through the roof. Now we know from the outset he was serious about this.

EDITORIAL NOTE: It is worth mentioning that not everyone ever affiliated with Hashomer Hatzair engaged in great behavior, some members did end up in the Palmach and Haganah. However, it was not until the 1980’s and the rise of the so-called New Historians in Israel that the true nature of Israel’s founding and the nakba became well-known. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Western media and intellectuals like the late Irving Howe tried to create a false idea about the kibbutz movement as emblematic of Israel as a socialist wonderland. It is perhaps the case that Sanders went to Israel under these pretenses. With some irony, I am including a link to the Right wing article on this topic by David Horowitz’s Front Page Magazine. If one overlooks the negativity, it gives a fairly precise explanation of how far to the Left Hashomer Hatzair was and how critical its founders were of Knesset policy.