Saturday, March 12, 2011

NEWS MOSTLY SUCKS


Here are the facts. There was a massive earthquake centered just off the coast of Japan just north of the city of Sendai. My ex-wife Yuka's family lives in Osaki-shi Kashimadai 大崎市鹿島台 (formerly just plain Kashimadai) which is just north of Sendai. The only report of any kind I have been able to find on the Internet regarding the town contains just three words, "very much destroyed." I have to assume this is a translation from Japanese, which leads me to believe that the intended message is that very many (much) of the things in the city have been destroyed and not that the city itself is very much destroyed. This is just my sense after working for a decade and a half figuring out what Japanese people actually mean when they speak English.

At the same time, I was struck with one of the worst colds I've ever had at almost the very moment the earthquake hit Japan. So I missed the initial news reports, being in no condition to even look at the computer. Today I feel a lot better and have been scouring the news for any information about Kashimadai beyond those three words. I have turned up nothing so far even when searching in Japanese. I hope this is good news. I figure that if anything really dramatic occurred in Kashimadai they'd be reporting it. (As I was writing this someone on Facebook sent me a report in Japanese that lists 4 dead, 1 missing, 6 injured and 363 people in shelters in the city, which would make it one of the least affected places in the area)

But it's a given that Yuka's family have been affected by the earthquake. Her parents live in a 2-story house in a rural area, not directly connected to any other structure. Her brother and his family live across the street in a third story apartment in a gigantic apartment complex. They're not very near any major bodies of water. They're far enough inland I'm not much worried that they got hit directly by a tsunami.

There is very little I can do. I've asked Yuka to let me know when she hears anything and I trust that she will. She's in Los Angeles and I'm in Akron and we don't speak that frequently these days. I don't want to pester her about this. She has enough to deal with. Beyond that I'm pretty much helpless to help much. So all I have left to do is worry. And worry doesn't help anyone at all.

Of course I am worried nonetheless. What can I do about that?

I've seen what the news is doing about that. They're flooding us with photos and videos of the destruction. I spent some time this morning on BBC's website. And it was there that it struck me what's really going on with the news. I clicked on a report about the Number 2 (Daini) nuclear power plant in Fukushima. But before the report played I had to sit through an advertisement.

So there I was trying to get some shred of info about what might be happening to people I care about and I had to watch someone try to sell me something. I don't even remember what it was.

It reminded me of September 11, 2001. I was living in Tokyo then and I recall trying to get information from the Internet. After about an hour of searching it hit me. "These people don't know anything." Those exact words popped into my head. Although the Internet was filled with reports and pictures, nobody really knew anything useful.

Same with the earthquake. There are just a few actual facts. Beyond that what you're reading and listening to is opinions, speculations and advertising. Most of which is worthless. You can sit there listening to the same three facts get repeated over and over and over, hoping that something new might be added. But you'd be better off cleaning your room instead and switching the news on again when you're done.

All this stuff makes me think about the whole phenomenon called "being concerned." Society places a great deal of importance upon "being concerned" about this, that or the other terrible thing going on somewhere in the world. I agree that a bit of this concern is useful in helping alleviate suffering in those places. But it strikes me that the vast majority of what we call "being concerned" involves getting into our own heads, turning over the information, imagining whatever we want to imagine, working up our emotions, wallowing in our feelings like a pig in mud. For some reason I've never been able to comprehend very clearly this makes us look good socially, like we're doing the right thing.

But I'm unable to see how watching endless reports, loaded with advertising, about a disaster really helps anything. Just my two cents for today. I'm going to go back to bed and drink orange juice.

(An explanation for the image above can be found here. Apparently being gay causes earthquakes.)

31 comments:

KatyDid said...

Makes sense. The "being concerned" industry...

Yesterday, I went to work basically in the middle of the night and my friends knew it. So I had TWO friends call me excitedly to ask whether I'd seen what had happened in Japan.

I think they REALLY wanted to be the first one to tell me about it.

Someone ought to take a look at the psychology of distant disasters - esepcially since it looks as though we're in a heavy earthquake period worldwide right now...

john e mumbles said...

Number on....er....2...

Swami Osama Satchidananda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mumon said...

Brad,
I appreciate where you are here. The other thing I hate to mention - but must, anyway, is that being that this is Japan, don't be surprised if they're not letting out information because it's worse than they want to let you know.

That seems to be the case w/ the Fukushima plant.

morganparker2 said...

My wife is from Japan, they are in Kawaguchiko so not near the water and not north either. They lost power for a little while, thats all. It is hard to know what is really bad and what is the stupid media sensationalizing things. The nuclear plant explosions was reported as "Nuclear Explosion!!!!" but they say it was steam build up that blew the roof off and the kind of plant it is cannot explode, its a light water facility. Brad I suggest reading Reuters, they tend to keep to the facts. So my family is ok, my thoughts are with everyone over there who need help...

Coco said...

The BBC does not carry advertising of any kind

ator said...

I was watching a YouTube video showing a bunch of cars getting washed out by the tsunami, when all of a sudden an embedded Google ad popped onto the screen advertising a contest to "win a free car from Toyota!"

i guess b/c the video was entitled "cars get caught in tsunami", google use that context to choose a targeted ad to display

Anonymous said...

So true. The reports become something almost voyeuristic in the end. I wonder what can and should be done in these cases. Then there are twits and other network stuff adding more noise. I guess the truth lays with the body counts and that's that. A terrible tragedy and I hope Japan and its people will be able to put this behind them.

Anonymous said...

The images help a lot to understand the scale of the problem. They touch people and they bring people to action in many different ways: donating, engaging in relief activities or joining the anti-nuclear groups.

Over here in Germany people already start to organise huge stop-nuklear-power campaigns.

english.aljazeera.net has excellent reports without any advertisements at all.

Lucius

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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Keith Suranna said...

Brad, your post reminds me of a great book I read a few years ago called "How to Watch TV News" by Neil Postman and Steve Powers. I recommend it.

http://www.amazon.com/How-Watch-TV-News-Revised/dp/0143113771/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1299984269&sr=1-1

merciless said...

"So there I was trying to get some shred of info about what might be happening to people I care about and I had to watch someone try to sell me something. I don't even remember what it was.

It was a Toyota.

Bizarro Seagal said...

Death himself,
(Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor)
stands grinning, beckoning.
Plutonium tooth-glow.
Eyebrows buzzing.
Strip-mining scythe.

Kali dances on the dead stiff cock.

Aluminum beer cans, plastic spoons,
plywood veneer, PVC pipe, vinyl seat covers.
don't exactly burn, don't quite rot,
flood over us.
robes and garbs
of the Kali-yuga

end of days.

Anonymous said...

The super-infotainment show. Great for giving people with nothing todo something to worry about.

How do we sleep while our beds are burning?

Typical Japanese under embellishment and underreporting lead me to think this disaster is probably way worse than it appears.

Brad Warner said...

Coco said: "The BBC does not carry advertising of any kind."

That's what I thought too until today.

Anonymous said...

The USA is operated by Corporatists (or Fascists) who give nothing away. They sell YOU as a viewer of content for which they have extracted payment (e.g. commercials).

NHK shows no commercials - except the Corporatists that import NHK insert commercials. It is apparently the same for BBC where Brad is located.

TRUE BELIEVERS® have sold democracy up the river. They are pimps - selling filthy gutterslut whores (or TV viewers) to the corporate Johns. And I am insulting prostitutes by grouping the poor working girls with the tv watchers and couch potatoes.

Got Chips?

anon #108 said...

From HERE (October 2007):

Adverts currently appear on the BBC World television channel, which cannot be seen in the UK, and were recently introduced on the international website's video content.


And from HERE (also October 2007):

Advertising around BBC News is nothing new for international audiences. BBC World TV news has been a commercial channel since its launch 16 years ago. Some World Service programmes are re-broadcast on commercial FM radio stations. As with both those examples, BBC.com will carry the same public service journalism as it currently offers, but distributed on a commercial platform.


That's news to me, too. It is still the case that there's no commercial advertising on the licence-fee-funded BBC in the UK.

anon #108 said...

"Adverts currently appear on the BBC World television channel, which cannot be seen in the UK, and were recently introduced on the international website's video content."

From - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7050625.stm (October 2007)


"Advertising around BBC News is nothing new for international audiences. BBC World TV news has been a commercial channel since its launch 16 years ago. Some World Service programmes are re-broadcast on commercial FM radio stations. As with both those examples, BBC.com will carry the same public service journalism as it currently offers, but distributed on a commercial platform."

From - http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2007/10/adverts_on_bbccom_1.html (also October 2007)


That's news to me, too. It is still the case that there's no commercial advertising on the licence-fee-funded BBC in the UK.

Swami Osama Satchidananda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

Brad wrote:

"I agree that a bit of this concern is useful in helping alleviate suffering in those places. But it strikes me that the vast majority of what we call "being concerned" involves getting into our own heads, turning over the information, imagining whatever we want to imagine, working up our emotions, wallowing in our feelings like a pig in mud."


That's how I feel about it, too. I've some further observations and queries...

As far as I'm aware, nobody close to me has been affected by this major tragedy. So my response to this and other such media reports is pretty much the same as if I were watching a film, or any drama; I'm entertained. It's exciting. My reaction is one of frisson and excitement. My reaction to news of high casualties is "Wow!" and to news of low casualties (or no major disasters at all) is "meh...". At least, that's a significant part of my reaction, and a part that needs to be acknowledged.

If I stop to consider what's actually happened and happening to the victims of this tragedy then sure, I understand that it's an awful thing. I might even be able to induce a few brief moments of true empathy ("compassion"?) by imagining myself drowning in a tsunami or buried alive under tons of concrete. It's not happening to me, and only by imagining it happening to me can I feel anything for the poor bastards it is happening to. I don't believe posting metta prayers on the internet will do a blind bit of good, and I'm not about to leap on a plane to Japan, so I do the next thing to be done in my life. That's how it works…isn't it?

Am I a heartless beast? Am I crazy? Should I be removed to a place of safety before I do someone some real damage?

We feel we should care, and very many people do appear to be truly upset and distressed on hearing of far away tragedies. But when watching pictures of strangers dying sudden and horrible deaths thousands of miles away, who and what are those of us who are crying crying for, I wonder?

Anonymous said...

For any who have loved ones abroad, Google could help. Along with a tsunami alert posted on its front page, Google has launched the Person Finder: 2011 Japan Earthquake to help connect people that may have been displaced due to the disaster. Google has also launched a crisis response page filled with local resources and emergency information.

john e mumbles said...

Twenty one years ago I left city life and moved to the country where there was no TV reception at all except the three channels you could get then for free (including PBS thank jah).

My wife was addicted to the newspaper, so we go one for a while, but it was a small local paper devoted to bridge clubs and football game results.

I had amassed a large library of books, and films on vhs, so if we wanted to have a glass of wine in the evening and read or catch a movie it was possible. But we would more often walk out into the woods, or at night look at the stars: away from city lights, the Milky Way is spectacular. As were the natural sounds around us later lulling us to sleep.

We read more, and took our time with everything that we used to rush through. I even wrote a book, and many many songs. I discovered
plein iar painting. We went bike riding and swimming and hiking and on long leisurely walks with the dog.

And I noticed something: even if you don't watch the news on tv, or read the newspaper, if something of major importance happens, someone will eventually tell you all about it. And if that piques your interest enough, -or you suspect they may be full of shit- you may seek to look into it further. The same thing happened with other entertainment, and after awhile, I realized that if everyone was talking about a new book, or movie, for ex., I could wait, or not see it at all (never got to Harry Potter, again, thank bob)

I guess I got out of the habit of entertaining myself with the latest news or media. Not that I don't care about people, I do. But when it comes to sensational
reportage, As my good friend Vernon says: "I ain't got a dog in that fight."

However, I sincerely hope that those of you directly affected here by this tragic series of events in Japan find accurate information about friends and loved ones.

Now I'm going to go sit and stare at a wall.

proulx michel said...

john e mumbles said:

(never got to Harry Potter, again, thank bob)

Well, the books are VERY interesting. The films suck.

It's just like the LotR

Anonymous said...

Mumbles: Well let me be the first to tell you.. Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel Broke Up.

Bill Hicks said...

"By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising...kill yourself. Thank you. Just planting seeds, planting seeds is all I'm doing. No joke here, really. Seriously, kill yourself, you have no rationalisation for what you do, you are Satan's little helpers. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now. Now, back to the show. Seriously, I know the marketing people: 'There's gonna be a joke comin' up.' There's no fuckin' joke. Suck a tail pipe, hang yourself...borrow a pistol from an NRA buddy, do something...rid the world of your evil fuckin' presence."

- Bill Hicks

Anonymous said...

This is certainly the BIGGEST DISASTER since the republicans first gained control of the congress.

Mad man said...

Bill, I was in the advertising biz for many years. Despite the 'evils', there are also some good points to advertising. Most of us would not know about the latest items that are available. Often, these new items are improved or cost less or save you money. While much advertising is exageration and outright lies, there's also very useful info...unless you are a luddite.

Seagal Rinpoche said...

Our tendency is to be interested in something that is growing in the garden, not in the bare soil itself. But if you want to have a good harvest, the most important thing is to make the soil rich and cultivate it well.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

Yes mysterion.. So regardless of what Brad thinks, a little thought and a little donation to the right organization will not hurt and might help some. People are hurting in Japan.