Monday, 16 February 2009

Am I hallucinating, or is life just really strange right now?

Between plane crashes and near misses, nuclear submarine collisions, octobabies, and politicians lying about severe corruption, this past week has been fairly strange in the news. I thought that my week was fairly eventful, talking to former President Jimmy Carter and hanging with Mayor Slay at the Arch River Roller Girls season kickoff event, but obviously it wasn't eventful enough to keep up with the times. Sometimes I have to take a wobbly step backward from my job in astonishment. I don't know what's getting weirder: our reportage of incidents or people in general.

Last week, I web browsed upon the naive face of little Alfie Patten, the underdeveloped 13-year-old teen father of a newborn. Now, a person would think that the shock of such a tragedy would end there, but as the story unraveled, we discovered that Alfie wasn't the only one experimenting with the baby's 15-year-old mother. A 16-year-old came forth to claim that he could have fathered the child. Now we have a real life Maury Pauvich DNA "Who's the babydaddy?" show. The public crunch on this stuff by the handful and the media keep popping it fresh.

I tend to wonder, however, what sort of impact a story such as Alfie Patten's has on a young teeneager. It could very well scare him or her from the prospect of experimenting with sex. However, seeing that another teen tried it, had a baby and was supported and not killed by parents, might have a different impact entirely on a developing young mind.

If there were only one media source in all the world, ethical decisions about what to print would be simple. Unfortunately, we live in a world of competition, the idea that, if we don't print something, someone else will. There is always someone out there with fewer scruples than you have. But, by letting go of most ethics, we add to the snowball effect, inciting emotions, inducing copycats and adding to the crime and corruption of others all over the world.

Words can be worse than biological warfare in ways. A word can infect a community and grow and spread into mass corruption. People like Isioma Daniel know this fact all too well. But we don't even have to start riots or mass killings to sicken the flock. A slightly sicker society is something that Nadya Suleman and little Alfie's expose writers might soon discover. But by then they'll be onto the next more sensational story.

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