Our Obsessions with Train Wrecks…Figurative as Much as Literal

It’s been a busy week for news, between the exposure of a leading Republican’s romantic escapades and the deaths of two pop icons.

It’s interesting how the public grabs onto these events with a voyeuristic fervor that is hard to contain. All of today’s technology is put to use to get to the bottom of these stories–whether it’s publishing the back-and-forth passionate emails of Mark Sanford and his Argentinian mistress or broadcasting photographs of a comatose Michael Jackson intubated on his final trip to the hospital.

[Poor Farrah Fawcett had the bad luck to die in between these two stories, limiting the amount of attention on her passing.This is unfortunate, because during her valiant struggle with cancer she worked hard to educate people about a type of the disease with very low awareness. Of all these stories, this is the one that had the potential to help save others’ lives.]

All of this far outpaced the REAL train wreck, which caused at least 9 deaths in a Maryland suburb when one commuter train plowed into another. And it’s bumped the Iranian election protests, the event likely to impact the most people worldwide in profound ways, way off the front page.

What is it about our society that we are so taken with others’ sexual acts and deviant behavior that we become obsessed with news like this, beyond any rational measure? We can blame the media, but in reality they are just delivering what they believe their audience wants to see and hear. The  audience of course validates this behavior by tuning in in droves. (Was the slowdown on the web yesterday afternoon right after Michael Jackson’s demise a mere coincidence? Hmm.)

The accidents have happened, the crisis has passed. It’s all up to the cleanup crews now. Let’s leave the carnage behind and go on.

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