Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hello, I’m an asshole lacking in sympathy

Updated Monday 6.30 p.m.:
Comments were not enabled earlier due to an error. It has now been restored.
Thanks to LCF for pointing it out.

An accident along Jalan Matang-Batu Kawa in Kuching on Thursday (17th May) claimed the lives of one of the drivers, her mother and her 2 daughters while seriously injuring the driver’s niece. (source) (source) (source)
A local correspondent reported that newspaper coverage of the incident spanned five full pages.

Ordinarily, people would have been saddened or distraught at such an incident, but I think I’ve not much sympathy left for the universe or motor accident casualties.

It (my loss of emotions) probably started when I realised that the world is much, much larger than what the news media can possibly cover. For every donation request for a premature baby who requires corrective surgery, there are countless other broken families, unfairly dismissed employees and individuals corrupted by gambling. A news report on the marriage/ divorce of a celebrity couple is accompanied by thousands of unreported unions and partings of couples who are as important as the celebrities.

The point is that consumers of news have only a finite attention span, and it is the business (without funding the media cannot exist) of those in the media to fill and extend the consumers’ attention. Ultimately, this is not about the media not fairly reporting events (it can never do this), but the limited information that anybody/ anything can process.

Coming back to the main topic for today, it is not the fault of the media.

Basically I realised that the unfortunate incidents I hear of are definitely not the only ones occuring. On the basis of equity and/or apathy, I do not give these reported events much thought because:
Schapelle Corby / Paris Hilton going to jail is not an earth shattering event- many individuals go to jail without us ever knowing;
the recent Jalan Matang-Batu Kawa accident is not an entirely new class occurrence.

Interestingly, I have been over stimulated and desensitization. Not over stimulated from continuous coverage, but from my perception that these events are occurring everyday (with or without news coverage to explicitly highlight them).

Of course, it would be nice if I had been wrong all this while. It would be nice if people gasp in horror when a man dies from gunshots because violent deaths are actually rare. Sadly, violent deaths are common. Iraq alone would suggest that it is the case. (civilian death toll)

Ok, so violent deaths are not rare. But what if Iraq is an uncommon occurrence? Maybe failed/famine/conflict-infested/fucked-by-US states are aberrations. Turns out that it is not the case either. While North Korea, Iraq and the Gaza Strip are the current basket-cases in the news, but there is still a handful of depression in post-colonial Africa not in the lime-light.

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