From imitation to indifference: Where are we going with our firehose approach to media?
Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax, a homeless man, died doing a good deed. And he re-introduced ourselves to ourselves — whether we will admit it or not. As I jumped on the treadmill yesterday for my once-yearly workout at the health club with my husband (who works out every day ... it's cheaper than therapy, he says, and I agree) I was hoping to numb myself with a little ridiculous rambling from the ladies of The View. Instead, while fumbling with the tangled cords of my headset, my TV monitor landed on CNN, and a story that I found devastating, even before hearing a single word by the commentator.
In short, a man, who had just rescued a woman from being mugged on New York City street about 5:30 a.m., lay dying on the pavement for over an hour, after the attacker had turned on him, and stabbed him several times in the chest. Even so, the would-be rescuer turned and ran after the attacker, stumbled and fell...right in view of a security camera aimed at that area of the sidewalk. Even for me — a former night desk editor for several major metropolitan newspapers who used to have to listen to the police scanner and copy edit the crime logs for cities like Miami and Boston -- what happens next is so disturbing that I cannot get it out of my daily thoughts.
As the video shows, more than 20 people walk by, some barely noticing, others stopping to stare, one man inexplicably stopping to take his cell phone out presumably to dial 911, but taking a picture instead and moving on. A hero dies in a puddle of blood alone in the midst of a steady stream of passersby. And I hear from the skeptics: Only in New York! Well, I don't believe this is an "only in New York" scenario.
We were told when teens took their misguided rage out at Columbine high school students a decade ago that the influence of the "media" - the games, television shows, movies, news and pseudo-news we read and practically absorb through our skin — played a role. Influence that lead to imitation. Now a child psychologist, commenting on the case of Mr. Tale-Yax's heroic efforts and unbelievably sad death, says the bystanders' and observers' brains have been "desensitized to violence." They are not really able to process what they are observing because we as a society have been exposed to so much violence in the media Hence the lack of panic, concern and human decency at the very moment when you expect it to kick in. Eleven years after Columbine you can add texting, blogging, Twittering, Facebook and YouTube to the list of media firehoses from which most of us drink daily. The influence of the media with all its access points that permit our overexposure to it is not just leading to imitation - it is culminating in something even more disturbing to me - indifference.Continued on the next page