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Forging the Image Templates for Oklahoma

the Media flunks big time

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, April 26, 1995.

It is good to know that whatever else the far right in the United States has, stupidity hovers yet near the top. Their difficulty in patting the Oklahoma bombing into shape for public consumption has been matched only by the media’s. Within hours of last week’s explosion, television and print media had agreed on Terror in the Heartland as the applicable cliché, although many of us never thought of Oklahoma as heartland. It should have been true, so we made it so.

People lose all sense at the mass death of children, and this is hard wired into us, so we cannot escape it while we’re in a reactive state, but now it’s a week later and some common sense ought to be edging back into the media. As people are now being vectored into the disgrace that is our criminal court system by the Simpson trial, perhaps we ought to use Oklahoma City to view the state of our media.

First, the media now is applauding how restrained government officials were in not jumping to conclusions about who was to blame. Clinton and the Feds deserve high marks for this, but the media flunked. I recall clearly being told two or three men of Middle Eastern appearance, with beards, were seen near the crime scene and the subject of police probes. All false. But I recall it clearly, unauthorized mob incitation and no apologies from the media. How come nobody gets fired for this?

Second, I’d like television news producers to answer one question: Under what circumstances do you consider it inappropriate to stick a microphone into the face of a hysterical woman? Why do you consider the thoughts of a person in emotional shock news and necessary to broadcast and append to that person’s history forever? Explain.

Third, how many weeks need go by before it is pointed out that such incidents are foreign only to the United States, that we are not just spoiled but - as a nation - we live in a dream world. Even England is used to bombs in subways thanks to Libya and its own terrorists, the IRA and selected soccer clans. Even Canada has its problems in Quebec. Only the U. S has avoided these chronic outbreaks.

And fourth, will the US have the fortitude to do to these hypocritical gun-lovers what it did to those ridiculous left wing groups in recent years? Will it come down on the right wing as hard as it did the left? CISPES, after all, was always a joke. The American Communist Party was a joke to everyone but Gus Hall and J. Edgar Hoover and was seemingly composed entirely of FBI agent provocateurs and gay alcoholics. Will a single percent of the budget accorded such phantom threats to the Republic be spent against the militias? Will the media hold the FBI’s feet to the fire till they do?

Well, to coin a phrase, only time will tell. This is Dark Cloud, holding up a valued tenet of American Broadcasting by closing with a furrowed brow cliché and intoning my name with dramatic pauses as if I were played Charlton Heston. Back to you...

And see you next week.