Gongol.com Archives: December 2021

Brian Gongol

December 21, 2021

News It's wrong to compound victims' suffering for clicks

In a creepy and irresponsible attempt to get clicks on its website, Fox News posted an article link on social media with the headline "Missing Utah college student [name redacted], 19, found naked and alive in man's basement, reports say". Except, they didn't redact the victim's name. ■ Times are notoriously tough in the news business right now. Giants like Gannett use words like "transformation" to address the situation as they fight multi-million-dollar losses. The desire to "pivot to digital" is all around. ■ Digital advertising depends upon clickthrough. And salacious headlines have virtually always played a part in drumming up attention -- the "yellow journalism" of the 1800s wasn't even the first era of sensationalism. For-profit enterprises in the business of selling news (and adjacent things that look like news) have never been universally high-minded. Even the Founders weren't above hot-button debates. ■ But that doesn't mean decency and civic responsibility should go out the window. It is precisely because of digital media that even greater care should be taken to attend to the full consequences of coverage: Anything published today goes farther, faster, than just about any news in history. ■ Putting a victim's name, the age "19", and the word "naked" all in the headline guarantees that the victim's name will be tied to unflattering search results, probably forever. And all over something she didn't do: She was the victim, after all. ■ It's not only shameful but also reckless to compound a victim's suffering like that merely to get clicks. It is wrong to celebrate and celebritize perpetrators -- and it's also wrong to make a victim's worst experience the one that defines them digitally.

News Nothing beats capacity

Debates in American public life often center on the delivery of things -- $1.2 trillion in "infrastructure" or $2 billion in student-loan relief. We often seem to neglect discussions about capacity -- things that can be done to enable people to take care of matters for themselves. For some reason, we seem hamstrung by discussions of capacity -- and that does things like tying up review processes that could have made cheap, at-home testing for Covid-19 widely available.

Threats and Hazards We must hang together

...or surely we will hang separately, in the words of Benjamin Franklin. China's escalation of diplomatic and economic hostilities with Lithuania (over the offense of Lithuania's choice to engage with Taiwan) is the kind of matter on which the world's authentically democratic states need to stand strong, argues Hal Brands: "China's strategy for dividing its rivals involves singling out the more vulnerable states and using its vast market power -- or simply its diplomatic ruthlessness -- to coerce them." And that self-defense needs to include an economic component, too.

News "The enemy also gets a vote"

Sage advice

Humor and Good News These little piggies didn't get to market

Truck overturns while carrying hogs. Police on the scene capture a great photo.

Humor and Good News "That EAS alert wasn't us"

The Omaha office of the National Weather Service is quick to let everyone know they weren't the ones who tripped an emergency alert on every phone in the area at 11 o'clock at night

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