Shark sense

Tragically, a shark killed a person off the coast of Western Australia today. I saw a newsreader report the “horrific” statistic that 15 people have been killed by sharks in the last 16 years. Yes, this is a tragedy. It is even true, according to sharkattackfile.net. But this is not what I would call a “horrific” statistic.

Want to hear a horrific statistic? For the same time period in Western Australia, there were 3179 road fatalities. And, whilst it is purely optional to go swimming in a shark-infested ocean, it’s pretty damn hard to get by without driving a car or crossing a street; especially in a place as freaking huge as Western Australia.

So before people start over-reacting like they did in like they did in 2013, can we please cut the hyperbole and keep a sense of perspective?

 

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Body Image

It is well documented the body image issues that people, particularly young women, are having due to the unrealistic portrayals of “beauty” in the media. I am not typically exposed to these facets of the media, so whilst I was aware of the issue on an intellectual level, I’d never really been exposed to it.

Until the other day that is. I was in a waiting room and I picked up a Vogue magazine. Good grief! The women were all sticks! Where in hell did anyone get the idea that people find stick figures attractive? When in the history of our species has sexual attraction been linked to malnourishment? Here is a hint, magazine editors: anaemia and vitamin B12 deficiency are NOT sexy.

So we have a generation of women with body image issues because they cannot overcome the basic human desire to not starve one’s self almost to death in the hope that they will look like something that nobody actually wants to look at anyway. Is it just me, or is that really messed up?

It’s like the media has become caught in some sort of death spiral, where one magazine has a slightly thinner girl, so then the other magazines have to show even thinner girls to compete. Eventually they will reach the limits of what is possible with digital photo editing, and who knows what will happen next. I suppose it’s too much to hope they will come to their senses and show healthy people.

How to steal from hotels – A comprehensive guide from a leading newspaper

The Sydney Morning Herald is the oldest continuously published newspaper in the southern hemisphere. It is the Sydney equivalent of The Age, which I have already written about.

So what sort of cutting edge journalism are they dishing out? How about this article, published online in May, detailing all kinds of useful tricks to steal from or defraud hotels. After all, hotels are made of money. They can afford to have people steal from them.

A man’s life, in 10 judgemental words

I was looking for videos of deaths on escalators (don’t ask, I’m a very strange person!) and I came across this news report by Heather Graf of King 5 news of Seattle. Note: the video does show a man dying, but it is blurry and not graphic.

The thing that struck me about the reporting was the final words of the narration in which Ms Graf said that the victim died “with a half empty bottle of brandy in his pocket”. Why did she feel the need to mention that specific piece of information? It implies that the victim was an alcoholic.

Does this information help the viewer in any way? If the influence of alcohol is what caused him to fall, then that would be useful information as it would remind people of the dangers of using an escalator while drunk. She doesn’t say that though. From her report, we don’t know if his implied  alcoholism is a factor. I can only jump to the wild conclusion that Ms Graf trying to make viewers feel better about the tragedy by saying that even though there was a horrible accident, it happened to a drunk bum so there is no need to get too upset.

If you really must summarise a person’s whole life in one sentence, try not to make it a value judgement.

Terrorism, Muslims, and the Media

Dear Media,

I understand that the world is changing, we are in a 24 hour news cycle, and everything is 2.0 now. But during the period between when there is a tragic event, and when some information about it is known….you actually are allowed to shut your metaphorical mouth and say nothing.

Here, using the awesome power of Microsoft Word, I have put together a rough flowchart demonstrating what the sequence of events should be:

Image

(Of course, if it were an ideal world, step 1 wouldn’t occur in the first place!)

The key point I am trying to make is that between steps 2 and 3, you are under no obligation to report anything. If you absolutely must, you can repeat the most recent bit of news for people who have just tuned in or turned on or tapped in whatever kids do these days.

But please, I implore you, don’t fill the gap with empty, baseless speculation! Yes, a bomb is a terrible tragedy. And yes, a lot of scared people are looking for answers… but if you don’t know who set it off, or why, then don’t start trotting out tired old anti-Muslim sentiments. Why even mention Muslims? The vast majority are harmless, law-abiding individuals. Why not mention Jews? From 1980-2005 More terrorist acts in USA were committed in the name of Judaism than Islam.

The fact is that even mentioning Muslims in this context helps reinforce the confirmation bias that is already simmering in some people’s minds. I noted that the 7:30 Report, a show on ABC (an Australian public tv station, not the US one) had a segment reviewing the history of US terrorist attacks done in the name of Islam…they devoted much more than 6% of their time to that line of enquiry. I dread to think what the commercial networks are saying…

I am not a Muslim (in my mind every religion is as silly as the next…well, maybe some are a little sillier!). But I do hate the idea that any particular group of people is being tarred with a brush because of something that a small number of brainwashed people who claim to be in that group (but really aren’t) may or may not have done, especially when it is 15 times more likely that the act was committed by some other group, and especially when the insinuations being made are based on no absolutely no evidence but cultural/racial bias and stereotypes, and especially especially when the insinuations are being perpetuated by a publicly funded broadcaster in one of the most multicultural countries in the world!

To summarise, if you don’t have anything to say then just don’t say it.

Yours Sincerely,

An angry voice
Shouting at the clouds