Tuesday, April 04, 2006

AP, CNN.com: Fuck the Facts, Fuck the Future, Fuck America

CNN.com is headlining an Associated Press story this way:

Officer: 'Miracle' that everyone survived.

Plane size, position of fuel may have helped


Here are the top two grafs:

DOVER, Delaware (AP) -- A huge military cargo plane faltered after takeoff and belly-landed short of the Dover Air Force Base runway Monday, breaking apart and drenching some of the 17 people aboard with fuel but causing no fire or life-threatening injuries.

"It is a miracle. Absolutely a miracle," said Lt. Col. Mark Ruse, commander of the base's 436th Air Wing Civil Engineering squadron.
Not until the ninth paragraph is there a suggestion that forces other than magic were at work:
Pilots familiar with the plane say its sheer size -- roughly that of a football field -- likely contributed to the fact that there were no deaths.
"Contributed," meaning, I suppose, made it easier for The Lord?

Only by the 11th and 12th paragraphs do we find out that actual people -- employing actual knowledge and actual skills acquired during lifetimes of actual education and training -- played some role:

The fact that the fuel is stored in the wings, which unlike many other planes are mounted atop the fuselage, may explain the absence of fire, said Larsen [no relation], director of the Institute for Homeland Security, a think tank in Arlington, Virginia.

Larsen also said that if the crew was able maintain some control of the aircraft, it was not surprising that they survived.

The headline and article itself represent an obvious violation of the Ten Commandments of Covering Religion, of course. In this case, it results from a few unfortunate tendencies in journalism (opposition to which is usually pooh-poohed as fuddy-duddyism): Lack of training and familiarity with matters of math, engineering and science;Easy sensationalism; the mindless feel-good-ism wrongly associated with supernatural intervention.

Ironically, in the American past so longed-for by the Christian right, journalists would have played this story very differently. Back in the Eisenhower era, especially after Sputnick, some smart journalist -- hell, some smart agency flack -- would have tracked down the engineer responsible for the fuel-tank placement and made a hero out of them. We would hear all about the exacting training and top-notch skills of the pilot, co-pilot and their team.

And some kid seeing that story -- and, yes, covetous of the glory -- would aspire to design planes, or build them. In short, once upon a time we recognized rational, adult modes of causality (investment in and prioritization of design, training and education yields superior planes and superior crews and American technical and military superiority) and that led us to make investments wisely and to vote for politicians who valued those causes and to raise children who idolized the people and systems devoted to those causes.

We no longer have that. Now we have a brain drain. CNN and the Associated Press are contributing to this culture that denigrates hard work, intelligence, skill and rationality, and exalts juvenile, simple-minded superstitions. I wish I could say the consequences are so far off that our kids will pay the price. They will, but we already are.

5 comments:

ceej said...

I kind of like the excessive use of religious terms and symbols, in the hope that they become devalued.

As an example of my dream for the future, here's an exchange from the tv show "arrested development":

girl: "Where can I get one of those necklaces with a 't'?"

man: "A cross!"

girl: "Across from what?"

Candide's Notebooks said...

Jonathan... This unsubtle invocation of divinities is turning into a subtle Pentagon policy, it seems to me. Today at my site I write about a Stars & Stripes article that refers to the Air Force's IED reconaissance missions as "God's eye-view." In a headline. Check it out. See a pattern forming--and the media biting? Jesus Christ. Makes you want to... anyway, you get the idea.pt

Donovan Yaciuk said...

The link no longer works..

What exactly did the headline say...?

Petty Larseny said...

I hunted up google's cached page of the CNN story and swapped out the link, so it should work now. Sorry about that!

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