The Anchoress wants to talk about the supposed failings of the media in the case of the West Virginia miners, who in all likelihood died from carbon monoxide and methane gas poisoning, and so she sets the stage with a delightful story from her girlhood:
I remember when I first learned to drive I, being a dutiful girl, wished to return my parents car to them with a full gas tank. Being on a tight budget I went to the â€œcheapcheapcheapâ€ gas guy and filled â€˜er up. And by the time I got home the car was hiccupping and behaving strangely. Seems Iâ€™d tried to run an 8 cylinder Rambler wagon on â€œbad gas.â€
The problem was not earth shattering; things were easily remedied, but I learned a lesson. You want your car to run smoothly, you donâ€™t buy the â€œbad gas,â€ even if it means you drive farther or spend more to get the good stuff.
For the last few days the families and friends of the tragic miners of West Virginia have had to endure an agony that no right-thinking person would ever wish on another – and last nightâ€™s â€œmiscommunicationsâ€ within the press, first announcing that 12 of the 13 miners were alive, only to correct themselves later and declare 12 of 13 dead – well, the face of the anguished young woman heading the Drudge Report, about says it all.
One could almost excuse the press for making this awful mistake, for emotionally going on the air with a weepy Geraldo and an exalted Rita Crosby, to announce the miracle: 12 men alive under dubious circumstances! After all, we ALL wanted the men to be alive, we all WISHED it to be so. Journalists, we are often told, are as â€œhuman as anyone else,â€ and they want to report such an uplifting and even triumphant story. I linked to what we all wanted to believe was â€œgood newsâ€ last night, and said prayers of thanksgiving as I went to bed.
Journalism used to run on facts. It wasnâ€™t enough to have a rumor, you had to nail it down; it wasnâ€™t enough to suspect something – if you suspected it, you expended the shoe leather to prove it. Now, unfortunately, beginning at least with Mary Mapesâ€™ odd idea that the the standard of journalism precludes proving oneâ€™s charge (it is now enough that the charge is made, and the accused must prove a negative), but particularly since Hurricane Katrina, mainstream journalism has decided it doesnâ€™t need to run on facts; emotionalism is the new fuel on which the press is running, and it is a bad, bad gas – it sputters and sprays and belches out errors all over the airways, all through the ink barrels, and once the errors are out there, they become either (in a best-case scenario) tough narratives to reclaim or (in the cruelest case) weapons of devastation and destruction.
What we have here is an analogy being tortured to such an extreme degree that even Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo would have to agree that “That’s fucked up.”