I tend to avoid the news for a large part of my time. Mostly because its not really news – its just Entertainment sprinkled with bits of Information. All the major news players are guilty of it – Fox, MSNBC, CNN…and the sad part, is that once you leave the tv behind – its not much better on the internet. In fact, you have to be thousands of times more careful about what you read – since there is so much overly-slanted, and outright lies that are set out as “real” news. That’s one of the reasons I am glad there are sites like “The Wild Hunt” out there – which bring some (not all) of the news in a factual manner.
It was through TWH that I found out about the issues surrounding Kenny Klein. It was also through TWH that I found out about the reported ties between the recent Kansas City shooter and aspects of neo-Paganism. Unlike CNN, which seems to have originally reported the ties, TWH presented the story without a major slanted bias. And this is a sad thing. A major news outlet essentially could not see a way to report information as just that: information.
I teach a class on Business Information Systems at my local college. I spend a lot of class time trying to show students that information presented on its own is just information. However, when a human being gets a hold of it – a bias automatically creeps into the reporting. In essence, when human beings get involved, information takes on the biased slant of the individual compiling the information into an analyzed report. That analysis is a report of the patterns that the data represented to the Analyst looking over the data. Reporting the news is no different. Information is presented to a reporter, that individual then takes the information and presents it in a way that he/she thinks the news outlet’s readers/viewers will understand the reported information. In a manner of speaking, the reporter spins the news report in a way that becomes palatable to the audience. An example would be to look at the different ways that Fox and MSNBC attempt to report any news related to President Obama. Fox spins the story to represent the President in a very unfavorable light. MSNBC will represent the same story in a way that sets the President in a positive light. The reality of the story is somewhere in between the two.
Earlier, I had set aside a point of caution towards trying to identify predators within our Pagan community. When we point fingers based on rumors or hearsay, we run the chance of accusing someone of something that they had no part in whatsoever. The accusation can be withdrawn, but the individual reputation that has been sullied cannot be repaired to its former status. Now, I am not saying that this is the case with the KC shooter. Its fairly obvious that the individual is the one that committed these acts of murder – and further, its obvious that he has a very sick, perverted, and twisted idea of what truth and justice are. An individual consumed by hatred and rage over an individual’s skin color, nationality, religion, creed, eye color, hair color, or what have you – is not dealing with the rational side of the world. It may be that he has some cursory tie to the Heathen community. But there has also been a lot of perversion of Heathen principles and ideals by individuals seeking something to substantiate their twisted hate. By grabbing a few strands of what the Heathen community uses in its principles and concepts, and combining that with perspectives of racial purity from the Nazi principle of Aryan dominance over the world – and braiding in some aspects of radical Christianity…folks like this have created their own sick and twisted idea of how the world should be.
Let’s be realistic here. There will always be radicals within any system of community or belief. There will always be individuals that take the ideals and twist to further or substantiate a socially unacceptable concept or perspective that they hold. History is replete with such examples. Instead of immediately jumping up and painting an entire community or belief system based on the actions of a few individuals – we should be careful not to twist the two together. I remember that many people here in America equated the actions of nineteen cowards with an entire belief system – and then stretched it further by visiting their naked anger and aggression on people who lived in the same town as they did – and sometimes just down the street. Jumping to conclusions based on a few cursory facts does nothing to further the concept of justice…nor does it bring about any sense of equality.
Our media does not help in this matter either. Sensationalized headlines may sell papers, and drive hits to the news outlet’s website – but it also helps feed the fires of irrational fears and actions as well. It also does a disservice to the entire concept of reporting the news. In this world of “Gotcha!” politics – and the desire to be the first to report the “story” – along with the increased readership and reputation that goes with that…we (the general “we” here) have become a society that is fascinated with the every move of certain individuals. How did they cut their hair, what cuss word did they utter to the reporter on the street, did they run over the reporter’s foot when trying to drive away (let’s not mention the fact that the reporter is right up against the vehicle – standing IN THE STREET). There’s no news in that. But it certainly is entertaining to many – otherwise the news outlets would not report such stuff.
Is the shooter in Kansas City news? Yes. Is the shooter’s beliefs news? Yes. Therefore, since both items are news, we can assume that everyone else that follows that same belief is a psychotic killer in trainer like this shooter? And this is what I mean folks, this is how the news is given its bias. The reporter writes the story, presents some of the facts, and then draws a hard-line correlation between those facts and another point of view.
Can we recover our news outlets? Can we get back to reporting the facts and letting the reader/viewer make up their own mind? I don’t know. I would certainly try to be optimistic and say its possible. But our consumer driven society places a high premium on “Gotcha!” politics and Infotainment stories. I am at a completely loss to figure out how to change that…