The war was interrupted again on our national news media elite's menu again yesterday by the violent and tragic events in Blacksburg. The death-count crawls, the local officers in full SWAT turnout gear arriving post-mortem to stand behind skinny trees, the updates on the blustery weather ("it's very windy here, Wolf"), the video of stunned young Americans standing around in college sweatshirts.
One big story at a time - that's what we can handle, according to the suits. Flood the zone with sadness and remorse and plenty of idiocy: Dr. Phil ranting cluelessly against video games (there was no difference, by the way, between the "Dr. Phil" of Imus and the real thing); right-wingers talking about more guns in schools for defensive purposes. Everybody blaming the West Virginia cops.
The whole scene seemed unreal, clean, almost pristine. Virginia Tech, one of the first campuses in the country to launch wireless access (I wrote about it for the Times more than a decade ago), seemed surreally well-kept on the tube, outside of the line of ambulances and the heavily-armed late-to-arrive law enforcement. Hundreds of kids standing around. Very little blood, except for a few still images of victims being raced to medical facilities. A sea of calm surrounding a slow-motion bloodbath.
And what's to be learned from live, wall-to-wall coverage and alerts? Nothing. One madman, one evil diseased mind can do an awful lot of harm to precious human flesh; but we already knew that. Of all the posts I've read, I think Brendan Tween best captures the inherent media failure on days like yesterday; the media, he wrote:
...will be carrying news I don't want to hear about anymore. I know everything I need to know right now, thanks.
Once I heard "man shoots 50, killing 31, self; constable blunders", anyway.
We all need a moment to pause and absorb the magnitude of what has happened, to create our own inner space for something as large as the knowledge that 62 parents will go to bed tonight having defied nature by living longer than their children. With no good reason in the world.
No news show will give taxonomy to the madness of this kind of killer. No news-reader will give insight worth seeing.
UPDATE: Jason Chervokas has an interesting take on the failure of amateur and semi-pro journalists to really advance the story yesterday.