Teen Suicide, Media Excess, Palin and Bullies, Again

A horrible story made even worse by our excesses of media. Try to fully engage and consider this awful story while attempting to ignore the unstoppable video-with-commercials that ABC News plops into almost all of its pages, and which cannot be stopped while in commercial mode.

The story is shattering — two young teenage girls committed suicide together, and yes, bullying once again seems to lie at the heart of their hopelessness:

The bodies of best friends Haylee Fentress and Paige Moravetz, both 14, were discovered Saturday by Fentress’ mother, Tracy Morrison.

Haylee’s aunt, Robin Settle, said the girl had recently moved to the rural town of Lynd, Minn., and had complained to her family that she felt ostracized and bullied. Settle also said there are indications that the girls had planned their deaths for a long time, even including funeral details in a good-bye note.

“I’m shocked and I’m mad and I’m sad…I don’t understand the mentality of kids torturing other kids, kids having to go through this. They don’t think they have anywhere to go to,” Settle told ABC News.com.

I am broken-hearted for these children, and for their families. It saddens me to think that these girls felt they were out of options particularly in this of all weeks — when we anticipate the singular event that so charged the world with hope, and wherein we hear the ancient prayer/chant:

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

But I am also disturbed, once again, by the shallow manner in which we are encouraged away from a story this ghastly and disturbing; before we even get a chance to process it, we’re hit with a sexed-up shopping commercial that is supposed to mesmerize us with images and “clever” (read increasingly adolescent) double entendres.

From a guest-post at CBS News, on the value of TV Journalism in an internet age:

[The news broadcast] is hobbled by the constraints of time – when you only have 22 minutes to skim the big stories every report is as penetrating as a prop-knife . . .

A news broadcast may be forced to break to their increasingly geriatric-focused commercials in order to meet their payrolls, but really, must we have to endure the same superficial news presentation and crass commercialism on the internet where, presumably, there are a multitude of opportunities to encourage a shopping click-through, and so a little discretion might be worthwhile? Did ABC News really need to throw a sexy-babe commercial right behind a story about a teenage girl who was bullied to her death in part because she wasn’t sexy enough?

Obviously, ABC News is not an innovator here, but they are extremely aggressive about plopping commercial/news/commerical videos into all of their stories — so much so that I will often bypass a story link if I see it involves ABC, because I resent not being able to read a story without their noisy video intrusions.

A simple start-stop button would be enormously appreciated, because as an adult I do like feeling as though I have choices in what I see and hear, and when.

But more importantly, in a society short on empathy, long on self-absorption and attention-span-challenged, shouldn’t we consider how incongruous and socially unhelpful it is to watch a tv reporter make a sad face while closing a grim story, to be followed in a mille-second (less time than it takes to heave a sigh) by cheesy encouragement to just go shopping?

Speaking of diminished empathy and bullying, I wonder if our socially mindless media excesses are partially to blame for this kind of really obnoxious and reprehensible garbage. You don’t have to be a Sarah Palin fan to find that creepy piece both infantile and (again) mind-numbingly adolescent.

I won’t link to it directly. But ultimately, I feel sorry for whoever wrote that. It says more about the writer than anyone else, and I am sure considers himself “tolerant” and “compassionate” and the farthest thing from a bully. If only that darn Sarah Palin didn’t force him to speak his truth! Ugh.

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About Elizabeth Scalia