Thursday, February 4, 2010

Who ARE Those People Anyhow???

What's going on with those suspected-of-child-trafficking Americans currently in detention in Haiti?
TBG had the NBC Nightly News on and we listened and we were confused.

The fact that we were no where near to being enlightened by the words they were saying was unsurprising. Anyone who's ever been interviewed and then confronted the results of that interview in the newspaper or as part of a larger television or radio broadcast understands this.

If you know nothing about the subject, the report alerts you to its existence and provides some details. Whether these are the most important or relevant or necessary or sensational details seems to matter less than whether the details fit the reporter's perspective. If you do, in fact, know something about the subject, the reportage will more often than not leave you feeling strangely isolated from what you'd previously known to be true while stifling the urge to scream.

For example, my happy, joy filled home for profoundly retarded children was portrayed as an alien faux-institution where silence was punctuated by the occasional grunt. I was sad and the residents' parents were upset and while there was really nothing un-true about what the reporter had reported, there was really nothing true about it either. The kids were quiet, but the music was playing and the staff were laughing and tickling and dancing and engaging and while there might not have been much verbalization, there was a lot of conversation. I knew she'd seen it because I'd been standing next to her.... but, what had she really seen?

Filtered through her own lens, she presented the truth. Her truth. There were facts and there was description and it was just right enough to be totally annoying to those of us who were living it.

In some ways, I think the transparency of the blogosphere obviates many of the issues I have with "reported" news. I don't have to hide my biases. You know what I like and what makes me nuts and have some inkling of my politics and my philosophical bent. When you read my posts you filter it through that lens. In a "news report" you are, ostensibly, receiving unbiased facts.(Mature Landscaping has an interesting solution... check it out.)

But back to those Americans. First of all, I don't know what to call them. Missionaries? Good Samaritans? Do-Gooders? Purveyors of young flesh to pederasts? Religious zealots? Adoption lawyers minions? It's all been alluded to and referenced and questioned and mentioned and slyly hinted at but who knows? And if we were all presented with the same set of data would we agree on its name?

NBC showed the brochure the Americans were leaving with the Haitian families. Swimming pools. Swing sets on long sloping lawns. Sunny classrooms with smiling students of all colors. The mother in the pink dress said she was happy to send her kids to such a place; all she asked was that she be able to speak to them. And really, what's so bad about sending your kid to boarding school? But would that be the reality for these kids? They weren't going to an orphanage; they were going to individual houses, weren't they? Or were they? At this point, my head began to ache.

Then there was the Haitian official who wondered if the kids were being sold. The reporter never followed up on that. Was it hyperbole? We'll never know. We saw an American behind bars, and a picture of a guy they met on a bus who was shepherding them around Haiti helping them collect children but there was no explication.

Where are Woodward and Bernstein when we need them? Because I wonder if this isn't just a tawdry little crime involving bribery gone amok.... where "the required papers" were really US dollars.... and where things quickly spiraled out of control? I can also make a convincing case for the "do gooders" seeing an opportunity and knowing that what they were offering was better than anything those kids could have at home and taking advantage of the chaos to "do good."

But I'll never know, will I?

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