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More Cant And Cowardice From NBC

Thursday, April 19, 2007  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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NBC (“Not Bothered by Conscience” one e-mailer opines) released this statement:

NBC News issued the following statement Thursday in regard to the materials it received from the gunman in the Virginia Tech shootings:

The pain suffered by the Virginia Tech community and indeed the entire country is immeasurable.

Upon receiving the materials from Cho Seung-Hui, NBC News took careful consideration in determining how the information should be distributed. We did not rush the material onto air, but instead consulted with local authorities, who have since publicly acknowledged our appropriate handling of the matter. Beginning this morning, we have limited our usage of the video across NBC News, including MSNBC, to no more than 10 percent of our airtime.

Our Standards and Policies chief reviewed all material before it was released. One of our most experienced correspondents, Pete Williams, handled the reporting. We believe it provides some answers to the critical question, “why did this man carry out these awful murders?” The decision to run this video was reached by virtually every news organization in the world, as evidenced by coverage on television, on Web sites and in newspapers. We have covered this story – and our unique role in it – with extreme sensitivity, underscored by our devoted efforts to remember and honor the victims and heroes of this tragic incident. We are committed to nothing less.

First, the falsehood in the attempt to suggest that the authorities have rendered an opinion on NBC’s decision to repeatedly air the videos is appalling and tells you everything you need to know about NBC’s ethics.  The authorties thanked NBC for turning over the material promptly.  They have made no statement approving of the decision to air the pictures and video.  This is at best simply an attempt to confuse the issue, at worst an attempt to deceive.

It is also simply not true to state that the network did not rush when it acted within hours to lead its main newscast with it.  It built the ratings and then it ran the material.  It had not yet released the name of anyone outside the network it consulted.  If that isn’t a rush, then we need a new definition of rush.  Again, you get a glimpse into the self-deceit at work in the network.

Third, in repeating Matt Lauer’s lame excuse of this morning, the network signals its story line.  So, what answers did it provide?  The statement specifies none because none were produced by the airing.  Further, had the video been made available to the puiblic over the web after a few days and upon receipt of a specific request for the url for a specific hosting site, the accidental and unintentional viewing of the video by the aleady traumatized would not have occured before even the first burial had occured.

Finally, the idea that all the other networks running with video that NBC itself released into the MSM bloodstream blurs the identity betyween the pusher and the addict.  NBC caused it to happen.  I’m appalled by the other networks running the footage as well, but the chain of causation began with NBC –its act was the most outrageous of them all.  Wrapping itself in the industry stampede that it started does not move the responsibility from their backs for any subsequent event triggered by any future killer who cites this video.

Finally, to claim “extreme sensitivity” is even laughable, but the final proof that these are not decent people.  The fact that no name appears and that no NBCer will venture forth to take extended questions from a critic proves they are cowards as well.

That which gets rewarded gets repeated.  NBC has provided a blueprint for crazy killers on how to get their immortality-bestowing video on the world’s screens: Send it to NBC –it will air within a matter of hours.

UPDATE:

A Reuters report contradicts NBC’s statement:

Steve Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police, said at a news conference on Thursday investigators appreciated NBC’s cooperation.

However, he added, “We’re rather disappointed in the editorial decision to broadcast these disturbing images.”

Flaherty said the package had turned out to yield little that investigators did not already know.

UPDATE:

An interview on NBC’s outrageous conduct with Los Angeles Times media critic Tim Rutten is here; another one with Mark Steyn is here; another with James Lileks is here.

Rutten excerpt:

HH: Yeah. Now they go on to say that the video that they aired, we believe it provides some answers to the critical question why did this man carry out these awful murders. It didn’t…

TR: Well, the only thing that it provides, that’s bull…that’s complete baloney, I’m sorry, I almost did something.

HH: And so, good, you almost got me FCC fined, yeah.

TR: I almost got you in trouble. Yeah, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

HH: It is complete bull.

TR: That statement is, yeah, that statement is bovine excrement. Look, the only thing this does is to demonstrate that he was insane. Well, none of us had any doubt about that.

HH: Exactly. Now lastly, lastly…

TR: None of us had any doubt.

HH: Lastly, they say they handled it with extreme sensitivity. Do you agree with that?

TR: No, I don’t. I don’t at all.

Steyn excerpt:

MS: Yes, and I think we have to understand the one reason why mass murder, random mass murder by crazy guys is a phenomenon of our time, is because mass media gives you the opportunity to enlarge the act. You know, there will always be people who go crazy and kill a couple of people around them. But one reason why a guy like this decides he’s going to go somewhere and kill dozens of people is because he knows that he can then access a national stage, and an international stage. He’s on the front page of newspapers all over the world. And I think in a sense, to make a crazy guy, to upgrade him from kind of small town burlesque to planetary wide superstar, which is what NBC is colluding in here, I think is terrible. I mean, in a sense, they’ve upgraded the show business aspect of the crime, and that is disgraceful.

HH: Now at this very hour, California police are on the lookout for a Yuba City man who called his pastor and said he was going to make this week really memorable and referred to the Virginia shooting. There’s lots of copycats out there, Virginia Tech shooting, and I think that the media’s playing right into this, Mark.

MS: Yes, I think that’s true, and you know, I think the media coverage is actually disgraceful, because it does seem designed to in effect provide a conduit for these crazy guys. You know, the media are the first to say guns are to blame. They’re less quick to actually look at their own role in providing the oxygen of publicity to these fellows, because if you are just a nobody, and you kill somebody, and nobody but your local paper gets to hear about it, that’s a very different thing from staging an act of mass slaughter, and then getting a major network, in effect, to cooperate in the network premiere of your deathbed video. I mean, I think that is a totally different scale of things.

Lileks excerpt:

HH: James, we haven’t talked, I don’t know what you think, should NBC have shown the video?

JL: No. What they did was guarantee that the next one will film himself as he’s doing it. And then he’ll upload the video to NBC or some other news organization, and then they’re going to have to explain to themselves why they won’t show that. And maybe if they do, they’ll edit out the faces of the screaming victims for the sake of being kind to the viewers, but they’ll find themselves in the same dilemma. Gosh, it’s news, isn’t it? And can’t we learn from this? What they did granted this miscreant the power he lacked in life, and validated his reasons for doing it, and it is stunning. Our paper this morning, and I love my paper, but when I picked it up off the stoop today, above the fold, banner, was a picture of this idiot with his guns outstretched and a fearsome look on his face, the exact same thing that about 30 people saw before they died, which meant that everybody sort of had to put themselves into that horrible moment. And for a half a second there, I felt a small portion of what they must have felt, and it was, it felt like a violation, and there was no reason to put it there, except, of course, it’s news. And everyone’s talking about it, and well others are, and all the other usual litany of excuses. The man was mad. The man was a sociopath, narcissistic personality disorder, whatever sort of therapeutic term you want to put on it, he was daft, and there’s really very little we can learn from his rationale. You can talk about this and move forward, and figure out ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but of course, the pragmatic and practical ways of it we’ll never talk about. We’ll go back and sift through his words, sift through his oration, and try to figure out which particular trigger we can craft a careful policy to stop the next time. But the next time will be worse, because somebody has realized that they’re going to be validated if they do this, and they’re going to have to figure out a better multimedia way to do it. A simple DVD isn’t going to be enough. If you can instantly post to Youtube nowadays, and given the ratings of NBC, which are pretty much in the toilet, I’m not surprised that the next guy won’t just cut directly, eliminate the middleman, and start broadcasting himself as it happens.

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