In a column headlined, “TV News Vultures Circling JonBenet’s Corpse-Again,” left-wing media critic Jeff Cohen acted disgusted by the media’s preoccupation with the case. I share his concern. But he then suggested this was deliberate on the media’s part because they don’t want us to focus on real and substantial issues. That’s a stretch.
Cohen commented, “In a media system dominated by entertainment conglomerates, it’s no accident that we’re served up a steady stream of ‘top’ stories saturated by sex, violence and celebrity: OJ, Princess Di, JonBenet, JFK Jr., Condit/Levy, child abductions (especially upper-middle class blonde girls), Laci Peterson, the runaway bride, the missing teen in Aruba, etc.”
The “it’s no accident” line implies that a decision is being made somewhere to concentrate on these kinds of stories in order to keep our attention away from issues that really matter. Cohen didn’t name the names of those making the decisions, except to imply they work in some of the Big Media companies and are doing all of this for a purpose.
Cohen charged, “Let’s face it: The Murdochs and Disneys and Time Warners and GEs that own our media system much prefer a nation of mindless consumers and spectators over a nation of informed, active citizens. They like the fact that avid TV viewers know all the intimate details about the JonBenet or OJ murder cases-and almost nothing about how big corporations lobby against middle-class interests in Washington.”
There we have it. It’s being done in order to keep us in the dark about how “big corporations” are lobbying against our interests. This is all part of a diabolical plot. With that remark, he betrayed his socialist mind-set. It’s unfortunate he takes this far-left perspective because Cohen has a legitimate gripe about the media. And despite his bias, I look forward to reading his book, Cable News Confidential. Cohen, the founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), used to produce Phil Donahue’s show for MSNBC and was a panelist on the Fox News media watchdog show News Watch.
We don’t take a back seat to anyone in criticizing the media’s obsession with Hollywood trivia, missing person cases and other such matters. But one fallacy in Cohen’s thinking is the belief that the public has no legitimate interest in the Ramsey case. Another fallacy is that coverage of the case precludes attention being given to other matters. If he had merely stated that the case was getting too much coverage, I would agree with him. But he went beyond that.
I see no evidence that the media are covering the Ramsey case because those who run the media have a secret plan to get our minds off political and social problems. Can Cohen seriously think that someone in the upper echelons of the media is dictating coverage of the Ramsey case on the grounds that it will keep people from thinking about, say, a national health care plan?
Crime news is legitimate news. One problem with the coverage of the Ramsey case is that crime news from other areas of the country has gotten short shrift, such as the crime emergency in Washington, D.C. and the specter of black gangs roving through the city assaulting and raping tourists.