culture, education, media

A Problem of Definition

First, a little experiment: do a Google search for “plane crash irony”. I’ll wait.

All done? Good.

This little experiment was motivated by a report on our local CTV station that stated the death of Beverly Eckert, a 9/11 widow, in the New York State plane crash was a tragic irony.

Uh, no, not so much. It is a tragedy, absolutely. No question.

It is not, however, ironic in the least – you could perhaps stretch the concept of coincidence to encompass both individuals dying as a result of involvement with an airplane, but even then, the definition would be somewhat stretched. If she had been killed in a hijacked airplane as it crashed into whatever building replaces the Trade Centre towers, that would be ironic. Would it ever.

I only make an issue of this because I deplore the depths to which mass media have brought our language and our attention spans, not to mention the insults to our intelligence. Let’s also acknowledge the other passengers, the crew, and the poor resident into whose home the plane crashed – fortunately, his wife and daughter were able to escape.At least the New York Times recognizes that someone else was involved.

Sorry to intrude. Please enjoy your Valentine’s Day.


10 thoughts on “A Problem of Definition

  1. Given that she died in an avoidable accident that was none of her doing, I’d certainly argue for her death, as well as the others of course, being a tragedy, however, I am willing to hear arguments as to why it should be so considered.

    As for ‘irony’, I don’t know, Flash – as tenous as the connection between her death and that of her husband’s, it is there. Using the label of irony, however weak, falls under the category of a hook – having it on the cover sells newspapers. I do think, however, that blaming the mass media for the ‘dumbing down’ of society might be short-sighted. I’m a bit too busy with work, and midterms to do a more indepth study, but it seems to me that attempts to market a more high-minded news products generally fail to match the sales made by pandering to the lowest common denominator. So the question becomes – do we blame the media for pandering to the crowd, or should we blame the crowd itself?


  2. I’m in favor of being as inclusive as possible, Dan.:)

    I don’t think ‘irony’ applies, Dan; for one thing, her husband died as a result of an intentional act, this was an accident. She was on a plane, he was not. Both deaths did involve airplanes, but the causes of the airplane-related deaths were entirely different. If I were shot in a car, would it be ironic if my wife was run over by one? The simple establishment of the car as a common element is insufficient, in my opinion, to effectively establish an ironic connection. If it were the same car, and my wife actually shot me, maybe – it would depend on the sequence of events.


  3. And that’s a bit of a cop-out, Dan – the media’s insistence that they’re giving the public what they want doesn’t excuse them from attempting to at least increase the level of discourse in network ‘news’ – if better programming were available, people would watch better programming by default, it’s not like the couch potatoes will suddenly discover the outside world again anytime soon.
    I consider myself about average in reasoning power, and I was disappointed last night to discover after 10 minutes of the beginning of ‘The Mentalist’, I was able to predict the identity of the killer and the motive, as well as being in the ballpark on predicting another murder. Maybe it’s my exposure to bad movies and the clichés within that made it possible, or maybe TV has finally fallen below my own average level of intelligence.


  4. I don’t think it’s a cop-out, Flash, I merely made the point that they’re responding to market demands – there are programs out there that try and increase the level of discourse – if you want to help, why don’t you try promoting them instead of demanding that private companies do the job of educationg the public – shouldn’t that be something the Department of Education should be doing?


  5. As for the Mentalist – I’ll agree with you that the majority of network programming plays to the common denominator – which is why I don’t watch it. But, unless society has been replaced by the Dictatorship of Flash – guess what? People are allowed to watch whatever programming they choose to watch, and read whatever news media they feel speaks to them, without the necessity that it has to be ‘Flash-approved’. And people are allowed to disagree without the accusation of ‘copping out’


  6. Saying that ‘if better programming was available, people would watch it’ reminds me of earlier years when I was involved in the radio station at Memorial University. As many student societies do, we would hold fundraisers in the form of parties, and since we saw our mandate as supporting local musicians, we would have local bands providing entertainment. As well, the Student Union would also sponsor concerts, by both local bands and bands from away. In all these cases, because beer and alcohol were served, there was a legal requirement that you had to be 19 years of age to attend. Inevitably, there would be complaints from those students who hadn’t reached that age that this was unfair, and that we in specific, and the University in general, should provide all-ages shows. Well, we did – and the result? No-one showed up, and we lost money. Every Single Fucking Time, we lost money, so eventually we gave up. So, I ask you, were we at fault for no longer offering the product of all-age shows, or were the general public, for showing they had no real desire for the product? Similarly, who’s at fault for the general low standards in media, the ones showing the product or the people who don’t and won’t demand any better?

    Another anecdote happened this afternoon – as a side effect to my girlfriend being a University Chaplain, I get invited to tag along to some events. One being run by MUN Chaplaincy, is something called ‘Theology on Tap’, which is a discussion group that takes place every second Monday at the Graduate Students’ Lounge (BTW, I don’t know if it’ll cause you and Kevvyd any psychic distress, but the fundamentalist Pentecostal Minister who started this loves ‘Mr Deity’ and uses the episodes to spark discussion – but I digress) Anywho, one of the students there was telling us about a friend of his, who, after 4 years at Memorial University, still uses Google to find Memorial’s website – apparently is too difficult for him to remember. I submit to you that this guy, who after all is the product of at least 16 years of education, is probably closer to the target mainstream audience for the networks, than you are – your claims of average intelligence notwithstanding…


  7. It’s a cop-out on the part of the networks. Not you. If that wasn’t clear before you launched into your usual unnecessary tirade, I apologize.


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