How the carpet bombing of news can produce unsavory results.
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We recently witnessed an incident at the Cincinnati Zoo whereby a four year old boy fell into a gorilla habitat and was discovered by a rather large lowland silver-back gorilla named “Harambe.” I think just about everyone has now seen the footage.
Fearing for the child’s safety, zookeepers had to act fast. A tranquilizer shot may have produced unpredictable and disastrous results. Therefore, a life or death decision had to be made to shoot the gorilla and save the child. What ensued was an inordinate amount of press coverage resulting in a flurry of condemnation from people around the world complaining the zoo had mishandled the affair.
Could the mother have taken better precaution to watch her child? Undoubtedly. Nevertheless, the boy fell into the moat with Harambe and a quick decision had to be made. Frankly, I think zoo officials made the right decision. Although it was unfortunate to destroy the gorilla, human life should take precedence. Would the zookeepers have acted differently if it was the lion or tiger habitat? Unlikely.
What is perhaps more frightening is how the press was able to stir up outrage over the incident. All of the news networks showed the video of the gorilla and child, and interviewed people, both professional and John Q. Public, about their opinion. In the end, it was the zoo’s responsibility and they handled it professionally. If anything, I am sure they will be reviewing safety precautions around the exhibits.
The press simply beat this story to death, resulting in negative publicity for both the zoo and the child’s family. On-line petitions have also been introduced with thousands of signatures and comments, many of which sounded like a lynch mob. Frankly, the people should stand down and let public officials perform their investigations. Regardless of the outcome, the people will not be satisfied.
The public outrage generated by the press was essentially no different than what followed the deaths of Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Missouri, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and we are all familiar with the repercussions from these stories. In all three instances, the public cried out for retribution before authorities finished their investigation.
A lot of this can be attributed to what I call the “carpet bombing” of news by the media. Instead of allowing officials to do their job, the press beats a story to death and whips the public into a frenzy. Whether it is Florida, Ferguson, Baltimore, and now Cincinnati, the press should bear a share of the responsibility for provoking public uproar. For example, the family of the four year old boy went into seclusion in fear of being attacked by the public.
Regrettably, the press has the uncanny ability to jump to conclusions and judge people in the court of public opinion. Instead of being considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, it is now just the opposite. Frankly, the actions of the press are reprehensible.
Having spent many years in Cincinnati, I have known the zoo to be a world class facility and took my children there many times when they were young. I hope the citizens of Cincinnati will rally to support it. As for the press, until such time as the investigation is completed, the press should cover another story. Please don’t tell me there’s nothing going on in the Middle East, or with Russia’s Putin, the economy, or the presidential campaign trail.
Keep the Faith!