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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Man, Are People Ever Stupid

Every day something dumb is going on. We’ve all gotten used to having to deal with idiocy in whatever form it may take, public or private, legislative or commercial. I’ve accustomed myself to this behavior, and am usually able to laugh it off. After all, it doesn’t usually make a terrible amount of difference.

But then something incredibly stupid happens, and I’m taken aback. Specifically, a bunch of panicky people panicked when they noticed a bunch of advertisements around the city and thought they were bombs. Bombs with light-up, blinking images of a cartoon character giving the finger. After all, everybody knows that bombs are supposed to attract your attention in some mean, low-key offensive way right before they blow you up. Or maybe several weeks beforehand.

So, they shut down huge sections of the city and called in the bomb squad. The bomb squad then grabbed these things, attached their own bombs to them and detonated them in the streets. Truly, this was the dumbest move of the day: if the boxes had been dirty bombs (and I’m sure there was plenty of speculation as to that), blowing them up with controlled detonations would have spread radiation just as well as if the bomb squad had never been involved.

By the afternoon, Turner Broadcasting had explained what this all was about and the city officials’ anxiety quieted. The two guys who were hired to put these things up were arrested and charged. After they were bailed out they treated the entire situation as funny, as it clearly was.

Immediately, the misrepresentation started. Every newspaper led off their articles by saying that the “chaos” was caused by these two, instead of by the overreactions of the authorities. I heard a 60-odd-year-old Irish woman on the bus calling this a “serious crime” because the official response had been to shut down the city. Someone wrote in to the Herald calling this an act of terrorism, as if being terrified means you’ve been terrorized. Howie Carr, professional windbag and hate-monger, wrote a condescending piece ridiculing the two as stoners, based on their hair-style, naturally, and unemployed, continuously referring to the dred-sporting guy as Borat. He even self-righteously demanded that “Borat” be deported.

All of this was a reflexive face-saving gesture by the 40- and 50-somethings who think they have some stake in the system. It could never be admitted that they were wrong, that this was all just ignoramuses approaching an unknown situation.

Whatever happened to reason?, I asked myself. Whatever happened to the idea that police investigate before jumping to rash conclusions? And, perhaps the most important question nobody asked, why is it standard bomb squad practice to blow things up without study? Really, what would they have said if those HAD been dirty bombs?

The twentieth century saw the turning back of the tide of reason. More than anything else, it showed that huge numbers of people can be duped by rather obvious lies emanating from an established authority. And now, a mere seven years into the next century, established authority, being the state, the media and leaders of all stripes, has learned its lesson well and is applying it. The thing is, they’re still rather ham-handed about it.

To those of us who don’t believe a damn thing coming out of these people, it all sounds too absurdly like a lie to take seriously. But the evidence that people DO take it seriously is overwhelming. Which leaves me frightened, resentful and pessimistic. Please, people, fellow students, prove yourselves not to be the unreasoning dolts the rest of Boston apparently are and approach situations with a cool head and, most importantly, a spirit of reason. It’s the only way out of the messes these morons keep getting us into.