Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nation on Fire

Yes, it's very easy to bash the American news media, and yes, I'm about to do it.

Anyone paying close attention to the major news outlets this week would have come away with a good understanding of the Rod Blagoyevich scandal, the Big Three bailout plans, and the tragic story about the little girl in Florida.

So what else happened?

While we squealed with schadenfraude at Mr. Blago's downfall and speculated about the potential effect on the new President-elect and his Chief of Staff (though in fact, Mr. Obama and his camp were verbally lambasted on the tapes for not being willing to participate in Blago's antics), a country burned.

Almost literally.

Greece, an ostensible NATO ally and sort-of liberal democracy, was effectively shut down by widespread looting and rioting. Although the trigger was the shooting death of a 15 year-old anarchist (hey, beware those teenage anarchists in the Balkans, they've started at least one World War!), it seems hard to justify the tipping over and burning of cars as some kind of profound political statement.

Hospitals, schools, airports, and many other government and private offices were closed this week amidst fear that the current government might collapse. Pockets of disturbance were noted in other Mediterranean and Western cities with Greek citizenry/influence.

A lot of people cared. Some feared for their lives. In Europe, this was blaring across the front pages with banner headlines.

But even to a conscientious American following the daily news cycle, it might've completely stayed under the proverbial radar.

Rather than just complain about the steady diet of bread, circus, and OJ Simpson we receive, however, we can use the Internet to vote with our keyboards and mice.

Not so many years ago, we were very limited in terms of what news we could access; thankfully, the Internet really is a game-changer in that sense. So don't fall into the trap of just checking for your headlines. If you do, you're missing out on real news and getting way too mired in The War on Cholesterol and How Much Ritalin For Your Child is Too Much?

Read the BBC. Venture out to the (many) other English-speaking countries and stuff out there. For Pete's sake, even The Drudge Report will expose you to a lot of international news that you might not see otherwise.

After all, how many news stories about finding homes for the dogs and cats who are orphaned by Gulf Coast hurricanes can you stand?


Nick said...

Hey New Englander,

Well said. I live on the outskirts of Astoria (the Greekest place in the USofA), so I run into tons of Greeks. My pharmacist, also named Nick, listens to Greek radio on the short-wave. I asked him if his teenage kids listen to the Greek news, and he said something like, "On the computer...with the modem. They got a lotta family over there."

So it's really cool that the internet exists, especially as the quality of conventional press hits the skids.

I watched some cable news over Thanksgiving weekend, during the terrorist attack in India. Nothing was happening, and yet for hours on end, they played the same footage over and over, as talking head after talking head pontificated.

All of the major networks also fixated on the three known American victims. I understand that American journalists will focus on American victims, but it was a little provincial given all else that the attack entailed.

I didn't know it at the time, but my aunt, a British national, was in that particular hotel at the time the bombs went off and things got ugly. She escaped unharmed, and I look forward to hearing her first hand account when I see her.

Clearly there are major problems in our cities, no doubt, but one very cool aspect of urban America is the relative harmony between religious, ethnic, and national groups. You see it in Lowell. I see it around here, where behind the Greeks, the next largest populations are Pakistanis and Indians, whose nations are also "on fire".

As for surveying many different news sources, I couldn't agree more, and have a suggestion for the blog. It might not be a bad idea to aggregate a range of sources from different amass a growing source of sources.


The New Englander said...


Whoa -- that's crazy that your aunt was that close to what happeneed. Can't wait to hear her account from you after you get it from her..definitely nerve-wracking stuff.

Great points about the way American ethnic communities can stay connected to "old world" events via the Internet but can still be free from a lot of the strife that goes on there -- what you say about Indians and Pakistanis in New York could be said for Eritreans and Ethiopians in Boston, and so on..

Definitely interested in your idea about the source thing -- let's throw it on the burner...