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Fear... Generated by the
24-hour News Stations

evidence from both the liberal media
and more right-wing news stations

Part One: An Asteroid is going to strike the earth!

Heard of a news story released 02/18/06... I know that was a while ago, but I thought I had a few years to tell you about it before there’s any cause for mass hysteria. A story was reported on the news today that scientists have discovered an asteroid that is bound to hit the planer Earth April 13th, 2036.
Wow.
(And I’ve been fearing the end of the world 12/21 in 2012, because of the Mayan calendars, but if we survive that we’ll have more things to fear...)
Actually, I didn’t see the news story, but someone called me today and told me they saw this on a news channel today. They said the news show said the asteroid was 2.37 miles wide (that’s actually huge to collide with the earth), and an asteroid that size would decimate a good region. A region? How big is that? Well, they said they equated it with larger than the size of a large city in America, so the damage could be as big as an entire state. A collision like that could easily alter the climate of the entire planet, too — the damage from that asteroid strike could throw dust and debris into the air to block the sky for the entire planet. It might not decimate the entire planet, but it could come close to wiping out some species.
Wow.
I’ve seen science show reports on things like this; what would we do if an asteroid was going to hit the Earth? They talked about having a satellite hit it in space to mash it to bits, but the potential fear in that is that those little pieces could hit the Earth, causing many smaller collisions instead (if you saw how comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter, the gravity of the planet actually tore the comet into smaller pieces, which all hit the planet and spread the damage out to several areas). Geez, one news show even mentioned (jokingly) that Bruce Willis could do something to save us from the asteroid (because he was in a movie doing the same thing). Although I think in the movie they planned to drill a hole (Bruce Willis’ specialty as a miner in the movie) into the Asteroid and set off a nuclear explosion inside the asteroid, to vaporize the asteroid.
Granted, when I heard that theory, I said, “Oh, so they’d only destroy it into many smaller pieces to collide with Earth...” and my news friend said, “hundreds of radioactive pieces of asteroid, since a nuclear blast broke it apart...” So maybe it’s not a good idea to use a nuclear blast...
But scientists have come up with a way we could make sure an asteroid doesn’t hit Earth — by shooting a satellite into space to be near the asteroid, and the gravitational pull of the satellite could actually nudge the asteroid off it’s current orbit, so it wouldn’t hit Earth.
Not a bad plan. But how far in advance do we have to send this satellite into space to save our planet?
Well, that’s when my news connection said he went to look on the Internet for other news about this asteroid. He checked out NASA, and there was nothing on the front page about it; NASA didn’t have any immediate reports on it. But he did find a story that explained that this asteroid actually had a one in ten-thousand chance of hitting Earth.
What? So it’s not guaranteed?
Now, it’s just something scientists should watch. Scientists say that the asteroid, which is actually 1,000 feet wide (a quarter-mile wide, even though the news report said over 2 miles wide) would have to go through any one of three 2,000 mile wide “holes” in space before we’d know that it was on a course that would hit Earth. The last “hole” in space would only be passed in 2029 (which means we might not know until 2029 if it’s going to actually hit Earth or not). So I asked: “Could we send a satellite into space in 2029 if we needed to move the asteroid?” And I found out that we don’t currently have the technology to move an asteroid that quickly — if we know well in advance we can deflect it slightly, and the more time that passes in the asteroid’s orbit means it will be pushed farther and father away. With only 6 years for deflection, we probably wouldn’t be able to stop it.
Well, poo. I don’t know what to do then. Could we send a satellite way early to nudge it to be on the safe side?
Well, it would be a $300 million mission to stop this, and we’re not even sure yet if it needs to be done. And that’s when my friend told me the channel where he heard the story. He told me it was FOX News... and I said, oh, guessing that they were hyping a story that really isn’t really completely true and can’t be verified (not like the Republican-screaming, “fair and balanced” Fox News to do that, is it?). My friend then looked to CNN, then MSNBC to see if there were any stories on this asteroid.
There was nothing.
But that doesn’t mean this asteroid (named Apophis, which is named after the Egyptian god of destruction) isn’t a worthwhile story to investigate. So I searched online for information (like at places like bitsofnews.com) — like the asteroids chance of hitting the earth is something more like one in 45,000 roughly (got that from Reuters and also got information from Raymond Hainey’s article It may hit Earth ... but don’t worry, we’ve got a plan, from the Science and Technology section of http://news.scotsman.com/scitech.cfm?id=264972007). And yes, the Association of Space Explorers, a group of former astronauts and cosmonauts with close links to US space agency NASA, is setting up meetings to consider options for this. The UN has been nudged to seriously consider working out a plan, since if something like this happens, (you know, to be prepared for that one in 45,000 chance), the entire earth could be effected.
But this isn’t a story that deserves every individual’s strict attention, because (A) it’s something we can’t personally do anything about, (B) it’s something that won’t seriously become an issue to physically deal with for years, and (C) well, the chances really aren’t that high. I suppose it’s just good to know that scientists are watching this, so that we have the time to do something about this well in advance. So is it something we really have to worry about? Possibly not, at least not right now. But my friend told me this news like it was something we have to urgently worry about.
But that might have been the tone FOX news took on when it relayed this story, I don’t know.
And I’m sure my friend told me this story this way to hit the point home about how slanted the “fair and balanced” Fox news network can be. (Seriously, any news network with Republican-esque political pundits like Sean Hannity, or conservative John Gibson, or Bill O’Reilly slant the news?) In fact, I’ve heard Republicans say they appreciate the fact that there is a “fair and balanced” news network out there, because all of the other news networks are just havens for the liberal media.
Well, it might not be “fair and balanced” when you look closely, but are they only counteracting the liberal media which we’re normally fed?

Part Two: which fears will the news stations play on?

My same friend who told me about the potential asteroid fiasco made the leap about what FOX news covers when he said that they play on the fear for safety (because we’re in danger, whether it be from an asteroid or from terrorists). And that one struck home with me, because all of these years we’ve dealt with President G. W. Bush, he has pushed the idea of attacking a country and taking our rights away via the Patriot Act under a veil of “terrorism,” and these actions are something we have to do (and these are rights we have to lose) in order to feel safe. I mentioned it before, that what frightened me the most was when I heard a President Bush’s advertisement that ended saying the country relies on freedom, faith, families and sacrifice...What do we have to give up for President Bush — and what have we given up for President Bush?
Bush has been playing on this fear of danger from an unseen force to make people feel like they need him. And the thing is, it was insane when I had lunch with a coworker of my husband’s (sorry, I can’t remember her name), and she was explaining to me that while living and working in a town near the Wisconsin border (not even in Chicago) she still felt unsafe because of terrorists. I mean, she literally felt that we physically were not safe. And I’m sorry, but terrorists are probably not going to pick the small town she happens to be in for an attack. So although it’s hard to believe, apparently playing on a fear for safety work withs some of the American people.
And knowing that this has been Bush’s plan all these years, it hammered home my theory on what separates Republicans from Democrats — Republicans are interested in taking away your personal liberties, and Democrats are more interested in taking away your financial liberties (as the generality goes, Democrats want to increase taxes to help pay for the poor, right?). This difference becomes clearer when I see different types of news channels: if Fox News is a more conservative news network, it makes sense that their stories get hyped for forcing people to fear for their own safely. Channels like CNN (on the flip-side) broadcast news about business (more on stock market reports, more business-related stories during trading hours), and on networks like that you more often see people fearing the higher cost of gas prices and energy costs, and talk about the fear of financial problems (relating to how poor people can afford to heat their homes with prices skyrocketing). This financial fear is one grounded in a more liberal viewpoint.
But the funny thing is that all of these news networks do their best to make their viewers afraid of something, instead of just relaying the news objectively. When you think of it that way, it’s frightening that news networks (you know, to get more people to watch, to help their ratings, to keep them in business and make a profit) have to put scare-tactic slants on relaying the news, because news broadcasters have come to believe that instilling fear in people will get them to watch their station just a little while longer, so they can hear some better news to make them feel more at ease again.

Part Three: doing more than telling you the news

On CNN recently, people were on television asking a reporter on their “take” on the drop in the stock market. Not “Do you think this drop will last with the market?”, but they asked the reporter to give insight on the emotional meanings of the stock market drop.
That’s not the reporter’s job. They’re supposed to just tell you the news.
Because people buy and sell stocks and because fluctuations in the stock market will affect the economy, people do want stock market analysts to give insight to where the stock market might go (to help give them insight into what they should do with their portfolio, or even if they should worry about their 401k investments at their job). But a good way for the 24-hour news stations to fill time is to ask reporters to give insight into their opinions of the market (and become analysts, when they’re not). Often reporters will even say they’ve heard things from certain people (not giving their names, of course) that this or that might happen with the stock market, and suddenly their reporting is no longer reporting, but speculation. At that point in the news game this more “in-depth” reporting becomes kind of like a game of telephone, where ‘I heard someone say X, so I’ll relay it (as closely as I can remember) and pass on the “someone told me this” information to you, the viewer, and put it under the guise of news.’

•••

Someone emailed me, saying they assumed I’d write a huge editorial about the Virginia Tech shooting (the deadliest mass shooting in America’s history), and I thought, what could I say? For example, I didn’t feel a need to write about Columbine right after it happened. Something terrible happened and there’s no point in my hashing the details out again, we don’t need that — and the 24-hour drive by media has all of that covered already. There’s not much of a point in me postulating about the horrendous details, and what possessed Cho Seung-Hui to kill people on two separate occasions at this school. The only thing I could think to talk about after the Virginia Tech shootings is the fact that the news networks jumped into this media circus, bringing up details about the legality of purchasing guns (because if Cho Seung-Hui couldn’t get a gun this would never have happened). I even heard rebuttals to restricting gun sales from one news commentator, who said that maybe if another student had a gun, they could have killed Cho Seung-Hui before he killed many more people. And although Cho Seung-Hui was able to legally get guns, I believe the Columbine shooters used their parent’s guns for their attacks. From a CNN article (http://archives.cnn.com/1999/US/12/12/columbine.tapes/index.html), “An employee of Green Mountain Guns called Harris’ house and told his father, “Hey, your clips are in.” Harris’ father said he had not ordered any clips.” And if they investigated further this discrepancy, they may have found out their plan and stopped the Columbine killers from their attack.
Granted, people can say that the parent who owns guns should probably keep their guns under closer lock and key (but why would they when they trust their kids?), but I don’t think anyone in this country is saying that guns should be completely illegal (I mean, who needs to consider the Constitution anymore anyway?). It seems that for those who want to kill, there will always be a way for them to achieve their final goal.
But this is what 24-hour news stations were contemplating immediately after the Virginia Tech shootings. News agencies also then hypothesized about what Cho Seung-Hui’s background was that could have led him to act out with guns, and anything from video games to television (and he didn’t play video games or watch much TV at all), to YouTube, to the decadent lifestyle we’re afforded in America. Suddenly the news stations are making political stands, and right here it’s more obvious than analyzing what fear the news stations are trying to invoke in their viewers.
Though then again, these news stations could be instilling a new kind of fear into America’s hearts, because when any mass-killing hits the news stands like this, it doesn’t matter if you’re a conservative pundit on television or a part of the liberal media, everyone is going to have to get their hands on this story, and like wrapping up a Christmas present, everyone in the media wants to present it to you in just the right way. They’ll use all their bells and whistles to make you see the story just how they want you to see the news.




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Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
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