Monday, April 14, 2008

Teen cheerleader video fight


That was the logo at the bottom of the screen just now on Fox News while Greta Van Susteren was interviewing Gloria Allred. I searched Google News, but didn't see any "new developments," stunning or otherwise. The most recent news is this:
The last of the eight teenagers arrested and jailed in the videotape beating case has been bailed out of the Polk County Jail.
According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office, 18-year-old Stephen Thomas Schumaker posted bail and was released overnight.
Schumaker has been accused of being one of two lookouts that were outside of a Lakeland home March 30 as six girls beat up another teen girl and videotaped it.
The other teens arrested were Brittany Mayes, April Cooper, Cara Murphy, Kayla Hassell, Brittni Hardcastle, Zachary Ashley and Mercades Nichols. They range in age from 14 to 18 years of age.
Not exactly "stunning," huh? The whole point is that Greta needs ratings, and is in competition with Nancy Grace, who is an expert at lurid sensationalism:

The questions: Is there any real news value to this story? Is this incident the tip of an iceberg, symptomatic of a widespread problem? Are hordes of vengeful cheerleaders roaming the nation, seeking innocent victims for their sadistic violence?

The answers: No, no, and no.

Sleep safe, America, knowing that it is highly unlikely that you or your loved ones will be beaten unconscious by a vicious gang of high-school cheerleaders.

This story is about an isolated incident, an unusual and atypical sort of crime. The reason the cable news networks are beating this story to a bloody pulp (so to speak) is:
  • TV is about pictures. The perpetrators made a video recording of the crime, which can be looped over and over -- like the Rodney King beating video -- to provide a continuous visual element to the story.
  • Sex sells. If it was a bunch of football players beating up a band geek, Nancy Grace and Greta Van Susteren wouldn't still be talking about it nearly two weeks after the arrests. Instead, it involved high-school cheerleaders -- "Ooh, those sexy, nubile, teenage temptresses!" -- and so the story offered a lurid angle that allows Greta and Nancy to appeal to prurient interests at a subliminal level while overtly discussing "issues" and "developments" in the case.
Cable TV news does this stuff all the time. It's like "The Case of The Missing Young Blonde," a recurring theme in the Grace & Greta Zone. Missing-person cases are a dime a dozen in a nation of 300 million people, but if the missing person is an attractive young woman -- especially if she's a blonde -- cable-news producers can't seem to resist.

For all we know, middle-aged brunettes are being kidnapped and tortured in America on a routine basis -- without a peep from Greta or Nancy or Geraldo -- but every time a young, pretty blonde is late for a lunch appointment, her photo is plastered on the CNN screen with an URGENT UPDATE every 20 minutes until she is found.

Understand that I'm not really condemning the TV news people who do this crap, I'm just pointing out what it is they do, and why they do it. If people didn't want to watch stories about kidnapped blondes and cheerleader catfights -- or polygamist teen sex cults -- then the cable networks wouldn't be doing endless hours of coverage of such cases.

So if you're one of those brain-dead morons glued to the tube watching sensationalist crap, don't worry -- the very fact that you're watching it means that they'll keep providing a steady supply of crap.


  1. Aahh come on....don't be so hard on her! All it means is that there really isn't anything newsworthy happening, and she has to do with whatever's out there. Otherwise, they'd have to come on and say "the Greta show has been cancelled today because of lack of anything interesting happening today. We'll be playing music for the next hour. Or maybe replay a special. Or just go blank screen"
    Have a heart!!
    (and yes, we _do_ turn the channel to something else, or find a book or do some of those chores that usually might not get done because we watch too much tv...!)

  2. I must confess that this is the first time I've ever bothered to pay any attention to Nancy Grace, and I absolutely agree with any who dismiss her as a serious journalist. But even a blind dog will find an occasional bone and I have to admit that this story has somehow managed to horrify me in all of my world-weariness. Why do stories of contemporary female teenage monstrosities all seem to include at least one moron by the name of "Brittany" (or should I say Brittni?!??)? Maybe that name should be banned in all of it's... spellings.