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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Rob’s Rants on A Story You Should Have Heard; Journalism from John Oliver; Winning the Olympics; A Comedian You May Know

Did you hear about the mass murder in Japan? See all the Facebook profile pictures change colors? Endless media coverage? No? A former employee of a residential complex killed 19 people, stabbing a total of 45, according to an article I found about the July murders. I forgot to mention—not really—that the complex was for people with disabilities. Could that be why the story didn’t get much attention? I only found out about it because one Facebook friend mentioned it. At the time, I expected it to be breaking news on CNN. Instead, I couldn’t even find it on their website until I used google. Today, searching “Sagamihara Japan knife attack” brings up a number of stories. Yet, I still haven’t heard a word about it without specifically looking for it online.

I call these posts “Rob’s Rants” because I think it sounds good, but I really don’t want to rant and rave about everything. I’m not going to feign emotion about this story. I don’t know if the amount of violence we’ve all heard about this summer has caused me to flip a switch somehow. Of course, some people tossed around the term ableism, a word I’m beginning to despise. But there really are legitimate reasons to wonder why, in a time when we are inundated with stories of mass killings from anywhere in the world that we can’t avoid if we wanted, this story went relatively unnoticed. My guess is news outlets just didn’t think it would bring the ratings or clicks.

The murderer told police, “It’s better that disabled people disappear,” according to the story I mentioned earlier. He wrote a letter to the Japan House of Representatives with the same basic message, warning them of his plan in February. I don’t know anything about Japan. But if black people, Muslims, Jews, or pretty much any other group had been targeted this way, we damn well wouldn’t have missed the story.

I want to call the lack of attention to this story horrifying, but that describes what happened to these people and I don’t want to trivialize that. But I’ve been saying for years that the way the media covers people with disabilities is a real problem with real consequences. If the fact that people could be murdered en mass because they are disabled without anyone really noticing doesn’t drive that point home, nothing will.

If you need more than that, check out a good post on the subject by Denise DiNoto.

  • John Oliver did a great story on not only why newspapers are dying—and taking journalism with them—but why it’s helping make us all a bit dumber. At the risk of adding to the problem as he describes it, here’s the YouTube link. (Why the hell does he have a YouTube channel if he thinks getting content for free contributes to the problem? Yeah, I know, just had to mention the irony.) I don’t think it’s hopeless that journalism survives. As Oliver makes clear, the problem isn’t entirely the changing format. It’s what we’re doing with it. If we were reading more journalism and watching less cat videos, maybe Donald Trump wouldn’t be the Republican presidential nominee.

  • I haven’t engulfed myself in the Olympics, but I’ve watched my fair share. To keep the media theme going, I do get a little tired of the American-centered coverage. Don’t get me wrong, I want to follow our athletes and see them do well. But when I constantly see the medal count with the U.S. dominating seemingly everything, I get the feeling that we’re hoping to “win the Olympics.” (There’s a part of me that wouldn’t mind seeing the U.S. Men’s Basketball team not win gold. The creation of the “Dream Team” seems symbolic of the “win the Olympics” mentality. It came about precisely because we weren’t dominating the sport anymore. And I realize it was college kids versus the rest of the world’s professionals—but that was OK until we lost.) It’s all about us, when the Olympics could be a great opportunity for television to show other cultures and actually have people watch. I was almost relieved to learn from a Facebook friend watching the Games through various streaming services from other countries that Canada and presumably other outlets do the same thing—focus heavily on their athletes. I’m not saying NBC should become National Geographic, but a little effort in that area wouldn’t hurt. Instead, I heard one commentator say the Men’s Gymnastics team would get a chance to redeem itself in individual competition after not medaling as a team. Note to NBC—we’re not actually supposed to win every medal.

  • I thought I’d end on a positive note. I have previously pointed out good writing on disability, so I figured why not a good video. Based on his popularity on social media, Drew Lynch doesn’t exactly need a boost from me. I’ve seen Lynch’s videos before, and he’s consistently funny. He confronts his speech disability—in his case, stuttering—head on, using humor to talk about his experiences. In this video, released July 28, he talks about people who tell him his stutter is improving. I don’t know if that’s even possible, but he says his stutter hasn’t improved. He turns it into a great message about accepting people as they are, even going into the first time he met a gay person. It’s one of those subtle areas in disability that I think a lot of able-bodied people struggle to understand—and a message many people with disabilities struggle to send. The idea is that when others constantly want to offer encouragement that we’re improving, it promotes the idea that we are focused on ridding ourselves of our disabilities instead of living our life. As I’ve said before, the focus of our lives isn’t some fantasy that our disabilities will disappear. Lynch sends that message in a great way.

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