Friday, November 23, 2007

There They Go Again. Risking A Life for a Great Story.

While listening to NPR two days ago, I heard the voices of two women, whose pronunciations announced their Canadian citizenship to me. It turns out I was listening to a Canadian Broadcast called "As it Happens," or something to that effect. Although I do not live far from Canada, as usual, it's worlds away from me, even though I've been there three times (Toronto).

Given the state of U.S. law enforcement, I'm not likely to leave the country again, honestly, so my citizenship isn't questioned as it was during my last trip. I work for myself, so come and go as I please, which made me suspect, I guess. Whatever. So, beware, you can carry a U.S. passport, but that doesn't mean you're welcome. That's another story, but there's a connection there somewhere about protecting human borders, and human lives. No, this is not a debate about immigration - as that debate has been won already, so why bother chatting about it?

No, today's diatribe is about how news people in the comfort of their protective zones, tell "as it happens" news stories that put the lives of their subjects in jeopardy.

Does anybody remember Geraldo Rivera playing platoon leader, drawing troop movements in the sand on live television? Well, here are some more less than worldly radio hosts seeking to interview a 20-year-old named Mustapha LNU (only they do mention his last name, but I refuse to mimic their shortsightedness). If you're not appalled at the paradoxical insensitivity of the radio host to the plight of her subject, explain to me how this interview is justified?

Is this a Saturday Night Live spoof or what? This woman asks matter of fact questions of a hunted down man, and has now identified him to the world. I hope they used a false name, but even if they did, we find that his mother is a member of Parliament. Given the status of women in that country, his mother is probably the equivalent of Nancy Pelosi (by comparison). The Canadian host gets all the gruesome details of the plight of the 20 year-old. They identify him by name, divulge that his mother is a member of Parliament. Apparently, he's been threatened to join the Taliban and was beaten for 18 days, watched his friend beheaded, etc. Apparently, he's also getting telephone threats. On his cell phone. Like the cell phone he was speaking to the Canadian interviewer.

So, here's the logic. Let's tell the story about a man who is in trouble, by getting him to say more about the people who are threatening him, and by so doing, he's created more of a reason for the malefactors to badger, harass, and beat him even more. Now, we're not talking about actors who admit that they smoke pot (and could get in trouble - but they don't seem to). In this case the Taliban has evidence of his collaboration with the occupiers of Afghanistan. I have no power of clairvoyance and I hope I'm wrong about this one, but I think this story is one that should not have been aired. He's in friggin' Afghanistan, trying to stay out of trouble. A 20-year old is too young to understand the implications of his actions when an English-speaking radio announcer is on the line - obviously it's important. In fact, he is even obsequious to the host, thanking her profusely for taking the time to tell his story.

"They're not going to leave you alone, are they?" Mustapha was asked. "No, especially now." And you've made a wonderful slam-dunk case for him to come to your country, to get asylum. If that was the goal, I hope Mustapha is there by now, Otherwise, you've possibly shortened the number of days he has to stay alive.

Hey dudettes - great as it happens story! But I sure don't want to hear the sequel.

As the name of my blog commands -- there are times when the media should just -- SHUTUP! This was one of them. The hosts were well-meaning, but they might have done more damage to the very story they sought to bring to light. Great scoop. Wish it hadn't aired. I hope his 15 minutes of fame are not his last.

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