Friday, April 5, 2013

Anatomy of an Incident


An act in several parts... (with occasional changes in the sequencing of the parts):

I. The Horror
II. The Coverage
III.  The Political Parade
IV. The Prohibition
V. The Search for a Hero
VI. The Search for a Reason
VII.  The Outpouring
VIII.  The Lionization
IX. The Debunking
X. Never Again!
XI. The Calls for Legislation
XII. Descent into Farce
XIII. The Fade-Out
XIV. The Next Horror

I. Example: a mass shooting...
II. Wall-to-wall media coverage, talking heads appear to worry that thirty seconds of quiet, any reflection, or attempts to verify details before rushing them out on air might lose them ratings...
III. The local sheriff, chief of police, mayor, governor, senators, the President, and many others all rush to express shock, horror to the media... They appear to feel the need to be seen publicly to be grieving... perhaps to inoculate themselves against any possible future criticism...
IV. Immediate calls not to "politicize' the incident...
V. Someone (e.g. a teacher, aide, police officer, etc.) gets 'chosen' and anointed as a "hero" e.g. "... she ran selflessly towards the firing, saved others' lives, etc."
VI. Mega soul-searching and attempts to understand and explain "why this happened."
VII. An impromptu shrine gets started - flowers, teddy bears, cards, candles de rigueur... Being seen on television adding to the pile, the 'nec plus ultra'.
VIII. One or two victims (cute, and usually white) 'chosen' for extra coverage... They turn out to have been: "...  universally loved... to have 'touched' every member of the community and town...", in short a budding Mandela, Martin Luther King, or Gandhi...
IX. Slowly it trickles out that a significant portion of the "facts:" revealed in Act II turn out to be completely incorrect...
X.Cries of "never again" from all parties...
XI. Politicians of all stripes know how to cure the problem... legislation! 
XII. The media talking heads having run out of things to talk about, are reduced to talking to the perpetrator's hairdresser, elementary school teacher, "friend" of the family, etc. Amazingly enough the majority of these folks turn out to apparently have "known" all along that "something was off" with the perpetrator...
XIII. The incident begins to fade from coverage, usually replaced by other juicy stories...
XIV. Rinse and repeat...

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