The Rush to Write

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser's editorial on the Tucson tragedy shows the danger of leaping in uninformed.

Sometimes I feel bad for the editors of a daily newspaper, who must face incredible pressure to say something grand about breaking events everyday. It leaves them in predicament of editorializing on the fly, when they might get better results from simply waiting for more information. Case in point: The Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s inevitable editorial about the Tucson, Ariz., shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing of six others by alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner. It has all the usual weaknesses of unsigned, obligatory newspaper editorials. It strives to be topical, forces a local angle on a national story, attempts profundity while really just saying something utterly safe and predictable: “Beware dangerous public rhetoric.”

Except for this, in the third paragraph: “It’s still unclear what the Tucson suspect’s political leanings are—if indeed he has any.”

Unclear. But that didn’t stop the Advertiser from hanging their entire editorial on exactly this hypothetical link between public rhetoric and Loughner’s obsessions.

Questions the Advertiser doesn’t address: Who is making the assertion that the Tucson shootings were politically motivated or even the result of “dangerous public rhetoric?” Why are they making it? What do they hope to gain? Why are we agreeing with those who assert “dangerous public rhetoric” as the cause? Why are we linking these concepts when even we don’t know if they’re linked?

Did the editors ask themselves these questions? Do they know the answers? Or did they simply hop on the train to Conclusionville and never look back?

Having said that, I wouldn’t mind if people would be more civil and curb their tendency to inject their politics into every single atom of life. Shortly after reading the Advertiser’s call for civility, I popped over to Scientific American for a break from the carnage stories. Found a interesting piece titled, “Musical Chills Related to Brain Dopamine Release.”

Pretty neat, huh? A totally non-political article about the physical mechanisms that drive our experience of art. It seems that dopamine peaks in response to emotional arousal when we hear music that moves us, just as it does when we enjoy food, or sex.

First two comments?

“So when are we making music illegal?” asked nycstan.

“Very clever – and if the right wing in this country becomes more powerful, they’ll ban sex as well. Let’s hope they start with themselves!” added dbtinc.

Oh, yes! That’s exactly what this article about music and brain chemistry was missing—dbtinc’s hate-filled assertion that conservatives should stop breeding!

Well, I should’ve been more careful in my Web browsing. After all, it’s not like my local paper didn’t warn me about dangerous public rhetoric. It’s everywhere.