The nature of humanity, the curse of the branded building, the 60 Minutes stem cell fraud story, falling through thin ice, and when the bungee cord breaks.
The Monday Morning Rouser:
1) THE NATURE OF HUMANITY
In the middle of last week, a follower of mine on Twitter asked, what I thought of the “absurd” (her word) coverage of the case of Jack Jablonski, the high school hockey player paralyzed when checked from behind. She compared it to the coverage of a three-year-old boy in north Minneapolis, killed by an errant bullet, which she said had been “swept under the rug.”
First, I responded, Terrell Mayes’ killing wasn’t swept under the rug, though the killing hasn’t gotten anywhere near the attention of Tyesha Edwards, the unintended 11-year-old victim of a drive-by shooting in 2002.
The Jablonski story is a little bit different, partly because he’s alive and paralyzed, suddenly facing an entirely different future, partly because the story is about how young people are processing their first encounter with fragile nature of life, and partly because of the focus on a sport in which a kid can end up paralyzed.
That’s a lot of angles to squeeze into one week of coverage. But soon enough, the media will move on. It’s only been a week.
Nonetheless, a letter writer to the Star Tribune echoes a similar complaint: What makes Jack Jablonski any more newsworthy than anyone else’s tragedy?
Audry Hanson writes:
However, the response also amazes me in that there are many people suffering down the street and across the world who go unacknowledged every day.
Why isn’t there the same response for people without food, for people without any form of shelter in downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul, or for the thousands of citizens of African countries dying of AIDS every day?
I am not trying to belittle Jablonski’s untimely injury, but rather to bring attention to a different perspective. He may very well take his new circumstance and do something constructive to better his situation and those around him.
All I’m asking is for society not to choose which tragedies are worthy of such a response and support, but rather to give equal attention to the misfortunes occurring throughout our lives, so that we can look for solutions to all of them.
I’ll take that one. How do people know about people without food, the scourge of AIDS, or the homeless? The coverage has been extensive over the years and it’s illogical to suggest we shouldn’t tell the story of Jack Jablonski as long as there are homeless people or AIDS in Africa (mentioned in this piece I wrote last week, by the way).
There also is a similar outpouring for many “bigger” issues, as the reaction to the earthquake in Haiti, the Christmas-time charities, and even this story about a memorial service for people who died homeless in Minnesota attests.
A year ago yesterday, there was a shooting in Tucson, which got more attention than any shooting in Minneapolis. And when a victim last night led observers in the Pledge of Allegiance, that was news, too.
Why? Because we identify with individuals more than the overarching issues. It’s the nature of humanity. But at least it is humanity. It’s also the gateway to the larger issues any individual story represents.
2) LOST IN TRANSLATION
There is a special place … somewhere… for the likes of the con artist whom 60 Minutes exposed last night, a doctor who claimed his stem cells could heal a severely disabled young man. The stems cells were mostly dead.
It was like the old days of 60 Minutes…
The reaction to the story, judged by the comments on the show’s website, have been surprising: People believe it was a piece about stem cells, not about crooks preying on the hopes of the most desperate individuals:
This is pretty irresponsible journalism, making all stem cell work seem fraudulent. I went with my brother (in his early 30s and legally blind since birth) to China so that he could undergo an experimental stem cell treatment and his vision went from 20/400 to 20/100 in about six weeks. While there my brother, his wife and I saw and talked to other people with different various problems that were helped by the same procedure.
I think it is good to expose the frauds in the system, but by your very title alone you paint too broad of a brush and scare people away from something that could actually help a lot of people. Going after some low life conman and making it look like they are the same despite the fact that there are legitimate hospitals out there doing good work is cheap and easy journalism.
3) STOP US IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS BEFORE
Another man on thin ice fell through. The Brainerd Dispatch reports the man fell through on Platte Lake while pulling a fish house with his ATV.
“Those choosing to venture onto area lakes are urged to use extreme caution, expecially during non-daylight hours,” the sheriff’s office reported in a news release. “Let someone know where you will be and when you will be returning. Periodically check ice quality and thickness as you go farther out onto area lakes.
“Finally, make sure you have adequate cold weather gear and celluar telephone readily available in case of emergency.”
But some good is coming from the warm weather and thin ice — old-timers’ fish stories about the last time conditions were this bad. There’s an entire thread of tales at LakeStateFishing.com. Like this one:
Back in the ’60’s, one January thaw we had fish tied to the door knob of the fish house on a stringer. There was quite a bit of water on top of the ice then. Flick a cigarette butt out the fish house door up wind and it blew back through one of the holes. Lose a fish in the hole and it could swim away on top of the ice as far as the eye could see. Walking to the fish house one of those days, as maybe an 8-9 year old, I fell down and got soaked. The old man had me sitting on his coal burning fish house stove drying out–madder than hell at me!
Eventually, however, the thread turns to one of the most emotional conversations among fishing people on Mille Lacs: gill netting by Native Americans under the Mille Lacs Treaty.
Anyway, if you’re going to ignore the ice warnings, you probably should watch this:
4) THE CURSE OF THE BRANDED BUILDING
Drive along the highway for any length of time, and you’re bound to find a building where a business once stood, that now has had its signs removed. Still, you can tell what chain once was housed there because the buildings were constructed with the chain’s theme. The old Best Buy store in Maplewood is once such example. Ed Kohler at The Deets says the closed Taco Bell on East Lake Street in Minneapolis is another.
He considers whether city planners should think about these sorts of things when they approve building designs.
Kohler refers us to Cyurbia, which considers this question of reuse of branded buildings, and where we learn that there’s actually a website — Used to be Taco Bell — devoted to creative (and not. Check out the old Taco Bell that’s now a Japanese restaurant!) reuse of Taco Bell buildings. God bless you, Internet!
5) WHEN THE BUNGEE CORD BREAKS
This will probably make you cross “make a bungee jump over Victoria Falls” off your bucket list.
Late last year, President Obama signed a defense spending bill that provides for indefinite military detention of anyone suspected of terrorism, including American citizens. The law has sparked widespread criticism from civil-liberties groups and others. Today’s Question: Was President Obama right to allow indefinite detention of citizens without due process?
WHAT WE’RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: President Obama’s new consumer protection agency.
Second hour: Books, film, and music for the new year.
Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Dr. Jon Hallberg discusses medical issues in the news.
Second hour: From the Aspen Ideas Festival: Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer and former justice Sandra Day O’Connor discuss the role of the Supreme Court in our democracy.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: How big a military do we need?
Second hour: The role of independent voters in the presidential election.