The pornography of tragedy…

Here he was on the front page of every newspaper, looking like a crazed Yosemite Sam, waving the pistols he would use to kill 32 innocent people at Virginia Tech.

In this age of instant celebrity and media madness, he had camera-checked, locked and loaded and delivered his raving manifesto in his innocuous Napoleon Dynamite voice.  Like a dutiful press agent he had paused between killing sprees on Monday to thoughtfully mail his “package” to NBC.

I can imagine his package moving its way through the postal system and then into the NBC mailroom where I’m sure it was sorted into the pile of other unsolicited materials along with the amateur audition tapes for The Apprentice, bad ideas for new series and other items destined for form letter response.

The first thought that entered the head of the clerk who opened this package was probably, “WOW!  This stuff is ratings gold.” 

Any sensitivity toward the students of Virginia Tech and the family and friends of the victims obviously took a backseat to getting this stuff on the air as quickly as possible.  Oh sure, they maintained they debated the ethics of airing it, all day long right up to the prime time news.

In the cycle of tragedy porn, killer’s manifestos are manna from heaven for news organizations.

The killer got exactly what he wanted – instant celebrity – branded with the NBC peacock logo.  He didn’t have to suffer through the anxiety and humiliation of auditioning for Survivor or American Idol or Dancing with the Stars.  He now commanded the attention of a slavering press corps who seem to wring every last ounce of grief and suffering out of tragedies like this.

Turn to Faux News or CNN or MSNBC on Monday and you could watch hour after hour of the same shaky camera phone footage while the pundits and reporters tried to help us “make sense of the senseless – by filling dead air with speculation and pointless observation.  And we lapped it up with a spoon.

By the end of the week there was actually some push back.  The people at Virginia Tech were reduced to begging the press to leave them alone and let them come to terms with this enormous tragedy.

Once upon a time, news gatherers actually looked for facts and details to inform us.  If they couldn’t find them or didn’t have them they shut up until they did.

Now, it seems, that any good looking meat puppet with an opinion can have all the air time they need to speculate and pontificate.  Some, like out of control, CNN vigilante Nancy Grace, take it even further.

And it’s no wonder that any pathetic loser with enough ammunition and a handycam can have their fifteen minutes of fame.

Think of all the other poor sick losers out there watching NBC News and starting to inventory their weapons cache as they prepare to compete in a new reality show -The Ultimate Body Count.

2 Responses to “The pornography of tragedy…”

  1. Ann Lenk says:

    How long do you think it will be before a made for TV movie will be in the works to go behind the scenes & show you the days leading up to this tragedy?
    I did not see CNN’s Nancy Grace’s coverage. Was it particularily grotesque?

    As always, well written Peter.


  2. Peter McGarvey says:

    Ann, I do see a made for TV mini series coming. This tragedy is too juicy for the networks not to milk.

    As for Nancy Grace, I didn’t watch her coverage though I can imagine, as you said, it was grotesque. Perhaps it’s time for Nancy to return to her perch on Notre Dame Cathedral.


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