Media drivel

Even before September 11, I didn’t hold the news media in very high esteem. But since then, my opinion of them has plummeted to an all-time low. Their hysterical, overhyped handling of the hijack attacks and the anthrax-by-mail story thoroughly disgusted me. Now, in the wake of Monday’s plane crash in New York, they’re busily squandering what little credibility they had left.
This CNNmoney article is a perfect example. There’s not a single fact in the entire piece; it’s nothing but guesses, conjecture, and idle speculation. The crash might affect consumer spending. The holiday season could be in trouble. People may stay at home instead of going to the mall. And so forth. The article is full of statements like “at this point in time it’s hard to predict what will happen” and “the impact of this latest crash has yet to be determined.” In other words, we don’t know anything. But we’re not going to let that stop us from blathering on for 19 paragraphs about how everything is going to get worse.
The low point of the article is this statement: “Americans, who have been shying away from malls and other large public places since Sept. 11 for fear of another attack, could hunker down at home even more now that another plane has crashed, experts said.” I have been reading claims like this for the last two months, and as far as I can tell, they are completely false. I’ve gone to malls, restaurants, and movie theaters numerous times since 9/11, and they have been as crowded as ever. I can only recall one exception: at lunchtime on September 12, the parking lot and food court at Prime Outlets near Research Triangle Park were semi-deserted. But that was no surprise, because most of the lunch business at Prime Outlets comes from the nearby airport, which was closed that day by federal order.
Other than that, I have seen zero evidence that people are avoiding public places. In fact, on November 11, I drove a friend to Crabtree Valley Mall, where she was meeting someone else. I tried to park in the lot at the Hudson Belk end of the mall, but that lot was completely full. So I tried parking in the lot in front of Toys ‘R’ Us nearby, something I normally only have to do during the holiday shopping period. There was no parking there either — not a single space. I ended up having to drop off my passenger and leave without parking at all. Does that sound like people are “shying away” from Crabtree? On the contrary, I took it as evidence that holiday shopping has started early this year.
The assertion that Monday’s plane crash will prompt people to “hunker down” at home is particularly stupid, since the plane crashed in a residential area. This means that people on the ground were killed because they were at home. If this disaster prompts people to change their behavior at all (which I doubt), it will make them avoid their homes and spend more time in public places, not less. But that’s a logical conclusion, and I don’t expect logic from journalists any more than I expect facts. They’re too absorbed in their mission of telling us we should panic and predicting economic disaster to waste time on such things.

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