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Media/Public Schadenfreude Collateral Damage-Nurse Suicide

It seems most of American TV anchors and commentators, local or national, are enthralled by the “Jon Stewart complex.” They and/or their writers and/or their producers can’t resist smirkily delivering puerile and sensationalized disclosures aimed at, or more likely cultivating in their viewers, an insatiable lust for gotcha-schadenfreude.

Such a style of delivery and the choice of sensational “news” material is fine for the Jon Stewarts and their audiences on self-identified comedy shows. Also, I do remember forgiving gossipy and engaging “tidbits” used sparingly to flavor responsible news hours or half-hours in years past. But now such pop-gossip on news programs provides a junk-food -- and even pure garbage -- main course to a very, very, very successfully “dumbed down” (with low or non-existent expectations) amoral public.

“Info-tainment” is the pathetic standard for programs misidentifying themselves as news shows.

Most corporate-controlled, ratings-hungry media no longer educate or inform their viewers on matters of serious and vital substance. We are more “marks” for manipulation. For distraction, omission and propaganda in the faux-news game. A case of us “captured frogs” American citizens having morality and a capacity for critical thinking successfully boiled out of us.

I keep speaking of America, but clearly this “news story gotcha-schadenfreude” is a worldwide phenomenon. Look at the international scope of this week’s ambush on the British royal couple’s medical privacy. Even before the alleged suicide of the hospital’s nurse the story had gone “viral”.

When there are tragic consequences to a celebrity principal or to an innocent bystander to said celebrity by merciless publicity seekers can there be an opportunity for moral reckoning? Or does the tragedy become additional fodder for the sensationalism?

Would the impact on that nurse have been so profound, notwithstanding her own personal issues, had this story not been so INAPPROPRIATELY AND DISGUSTINGLY HAILED AND TREATED AS INCREDIBLY SIGNIFICANT NEWS???


For two days there was CONSTANT messaging of the prank. Over and over and over. Another “gotcha” moment of successful privacy invasion of celebrities in a media universe that has such little honor, standards, or sense of responsibility

I don’t pretend to know the reality (or profound “surreality” is a better way to put it) of this hospital employee’s life after two days of the feeding frenzy. To become an international and local laughingstock must have been harsh to say the very least. I was pained to hear of her suicide.

I couldn’t help paralleling her tragedy to the car accident of Princess Diana from the vulture paparrazi in crazed pursuit of her so long ago. A stunning example of when agents of media run amok to entertain an insatiable, schadenfreude-hungry public.

These tragedies are both tips of the morally sick national and international cultural iceberg I’m thinking.

As the tasteless and puerile prank-triggered circus continues with the blowback on those Australian radio pranksters themselves, can and will a real moral reckoning be managed by the media as well as us, as secondary accessories to the tragedy? Can and will we seriously connect the moral dots?

Where are we to find the real heart of the tragic development of the story? In the same tabloids and shallow chattering news and commentary programs that primed the pump to insane levels originally? This, an inconveniently ugly denouement of one more profoundly shallow yet celebrated “gotcha” invasion of privacy repeated ad nauseam.


Some consider all celebrities proverbial “fair game” for media. I disagree.

Regarding those innocent “civilians” against whom the famous brush up, like this poor nurse, who become collateral damage in a monstrously viral media ambush, not only the media deserve calling out but their shallow, Roman-coliseum, blood-lusting audience as well.

Some attribute the tipping point collapse of the media (to full out amoral bottom-feeding) to the original OJ Simpson trial. Right and wrong -- ethics -- were regarded as boring and irrelevant. Legal gamesmanship was treated as a sports event. Schadenfreude and titillation had the juice. That media feeding frenzy was exhausting and seemed never-ending. It was as if nothing else on the planet should or could pull what seemed every major or junior media spotlight off that circus trial. Winning not justice was celebrated. "Ends justifies the means" behavior was endorsed.

Thereafter sensation-driven stories -- BIG ones (and seemingly lazy ones for the herds of reporters, et al.) -- became the rule catering to the basest level of public engagement -- schadenfreude. The media more and more morphed into a hollow echo chamber for what was most titillating rather than what was truly important.

Rampant war criminality? Corporate fascism? Ultimate climate planetary disaster? Too bad the fourth estate -- or maybe we should call it the quarter estate -- can’t find anything else to focus on except that which is not any of its and our damn business.

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