Very often the media will catch on to a story and through the act of hype transform the reality into a well-narrated fiction. Instead of being impartial observers who inform, the media will often engage in hyperbole distorting the image presented. This has happened several times before in the past.
There was the famous incident of an American trash-ship which could not find an American city to dump its load. The media spent months reporting about the wandering ship and how this was a new problem in America. That there was too much trash in the country and not enough places to dump. The media just reported what they saw prima facie. It was a nice story line, why bother with real information. This story was entirely bogus. America has more than ample room place trash, which is often condensed and burned. There are many other past examples, and now we can one more to that.
Recently, Oprah and subsequently NBC Evening News reported about a supposedly new shantytown in the Californian state capital of Sacramento. The story was presented as a modern day Hooverville – shantytowns during the Great Depression. It was a nice – in a positive use of the word – story for the evening news. The press had already been making comparisons between today’s economic crisis and the Great Depression, why not offer parallels like a shantytown? A sign of the times, NBC News stated. Viewers were made to believe that the entire site of homeless persons was a new enclave due to the foreclosures affecting the country. CNN also reported on the area conveying the same message.
It attracted national attention. The mayor of Sacramento and the governor of California both visited the site. Because of the national attention, the radius of homelessness was actually cleaned up with those needing a home were given shelter or a low-rent apartment. NBC News reported on the relocation, and in doing so once again made the area appear as if it were a modern day Hooverville that the government has attended to.
A tragedy such homelessness is, but this was just another case of media hype that distorted the reality. In actuality, this was no modern day shantytown. Nor was it new. Homeless people had been living in that area for years. Most of them were people mentally abused or drug users, or both. They lived in the area for a decade. The media and state politicians only noticed such dire poverty and homelessness when a person or two settled there due to a foreclosure. The media spoke to one or two people newly there due to a foreclosure and made it appear as if the entire area was populated with people like them, and as if they were coming in every day. That image was false.
It is such favoring of an emotional story line over factual evidence that undermines trust and confidence in the media, no wonder it is one of the least respected institutions in American life.
Besides media laziness and ineptitude, what is also striking about his is that as stated above the press and politicians seem to have selective concern for the homeless. As The Economist noted, “For some reason, America notices only when they’re on Oprah, or from the middle class.”
Source: The Hooverville that wasn’t.