Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Last night after House, I watched a little news on the local commercial station. The lead stories were all about violent attacks, disasters, murders and human interest subjects around the Bay Area. After a while I switched to the PBS News Hour, where Jim Lehrer was lobbing softball questions to a senator about energy policy.

We progressives get annoyed at the human fascination with the depraved. A jogger is attacked on a popular hiking trail. Violence hits a yuppie neighborhood in Oakland. What does it all mean? Only the top national stories--usually the ones that have to do with murder, mayhem and rape--get a cursory summary.

But this fascination is ancient. It's village gossip writ large. We find it contemptuous, but for the average joe--and dare I say it? We're all the average joe--it's the stuff of life. Probably it's hard-wired into us to repeat these little morality stories as a way of keeping things in the village from getting out of hand.


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