Weirdness on the edge of media – Kidnappings down; Kidnapping stories up

{I got a weird email today from a guy named Shaun. The subject line was “nice book” and the body of the message was “I HATE YOU.” It kind of bummed me out – not so much because I don’t like being hated. I know it has nothing to do with me, even if the guy doesn’t like something I wrote. It’s really just the hate, itself. The thought of some guy going through the trouble to send an email, and the thought of someone just hating for the heck of it. Or pretending to. The emails from KKK people that I used to get (I said something on TV against their messaging tactics a while back) – those felt more like directed hate. Hate with a purpose. This one was, well, just so random. Pure negativity. I guess I’ll use it as a lesson – to make sure I don’t go random with my own anger.}

Meanwhile, the thing I’ve been thinking about lately is the preponderance of news stories about kidnapping. Although the FBI tells us that kidnapping is actually down this year, and down each of the last few years, we’re seeing much more coverage of kidnappings and abuctions over the last few months. Why?

The positive way of interpreting this is that we’ve dealt with many of the nation’s other domestic problems, and now it’s time to look at this one in a genuine way. We’re focusing on something that needs to be looked at. Just as, back when we were seeing stories about school shooting even though the actual number of school shootings was down, now we’re going to see stories about kidnapping, even though kidnapping is down. All to eliminate the scourge, for good.

But that’s not the message being transmitted.

In a number of interviews, and after a number of talks, I’ve been asked quite directly “why is there suddenly so much kidnapping and child abduction happening in our country?” I was asked this twice last week, and once this week. The perception is that there’s more of this going on, rather than less. If you watch the TV news, you, too, probably think there’s an epidemic, when there’s not.

So, one has to wonder, why? It’s easy to say “they want to distract us from the real problems: a failing economy, the failure to capture Bin Laden, the foolish march towards war, the failures of the administration to protect us from death…so they’re putting up a fake story.” But who is “they?”

I’d love to be able to find a real link between, say, the Bush administration’s propagandists and the editors of CNN. I know there are many systemic ties – as described by Noam Chomsky – but I’m interested in the real moment of transfer, if any. How would it happen?

At a cocktail party? Does some person working for Cheney lean over to the news director at Fox and say, “look – we all know that Dick’s dealings at Halliburton were pretty much on a par with what happened at Enron. And some pretty damaging stufff is going to be coming out over the next couple of days. But it’s just too much for the country to take. So, how about we give you an exclusive on, say, the information that led to the arrests of a few Worldcom execs, and a promise to leak a few Iraq scenarios to you, and you throw up a lead story about some little girl getting kidnapped to distract people from this little fiasco. You can still cover Cheney, just do it on one of those little-watched Sunday morning shows. Waddya say?”

And then when one network carries all those kidnapping stories, other ones follow suit?

Or is it more diabolical? Are kidnapping stories actually meant to make us focus on the threats to our kids? They’re regularly followed by detailed information about new computer chips you can inject into your kid to make sure he’s trackable (I wrote about this, fictionally and satirically, in Ecstasy Club). Are we being prepared, baited, for fascism? If so, how do such decisions get made, by whom, and how do they happen without people in the newsmedia knowing about them? I know too many good people fairly high up at real news media outlets who deny that such things take place for me to believe they really do.

So I can’t bring myself to accept the ‘conspiracy theorist’ view of a media actually run by Bush. There are too many places for a genuine conspiracy on this order to be exposed and leaked.

But I’m uncomfortable now, as never before, about the way our television news media is telling a story very different from – even diametrically opposed to – the truth. And the particular quality of these stories seems very capable of convincing people to be more paranoid, and more welcoming of intrusion. This is, at best, misinformation to get better ratings – and the best ratings will be had by tapping the target market’s rising unconscious fears. At worst, however, it is disinformation for purpose of engaging the public in a manufactured nightmare – and I wonder how easily our belief in something untrue can bring it into being.

Stay tuned.

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