|Monday, April 5, 2004
11:26 - Does all news radio suck?
For some time now, the radio in my Jetta has remained silent, the volume knob turned down to MIN while I either listen to my iPod (traffic safety regulations be damned) or just the hum of the VR6. Why? Because not only have I been unable to force myself to listen to NPR for many weeks, I can't even bring myself to switch back to KCBS, my previous good old standby news-crawl station.
This morning I was driving Kris' truck to work (lots of garage-cleanout over the weekend, as well as unearthing my riding leathers so I can get back in the saddle, which for the time being will involve Lance's Buell), and it was tuned to KCBS. Twice, in the top-of-the-hour headline report, and later in the actual story, the station covered a story of state legislators attempting to ban the sale of violent video games to minors.
Here's the thing, though: every time they described these games, they referred to them as first shooter video games. And every time they used that phrase, they immediately followed it with a reference, by way of example, to the Grand Theft Auto series.
A quick Google search shows me that the direct phrase "first shooter" doesn't seem to occur on the Web, or else it's being totally obscured by "first-person shooter", which is what I'm almost positive KCBS is trying to say.
Now, it seems as though "first shooter" would be a fair way to categorize certain games-- i.e., games in which you "shoot first", where you're not being attacked by monsters or bad guys before you decide to shoot them-- or, in other words, games in which you're the bad guy. I can understand calling something like Grand Theft Auto 3 a "first shooter" game.
But if KCBS is just bumblingly trying to say "first-person shooter", e.g. the Quake/Unreal/etc series, which have a lot of buzz and are widely regarded as "violent" but generally only in a very sci-fi/fantasy sort of sense, their trying to use GTA3-- which is not a first-person shooter-- as an illustration of that term is boneheaded in the extreme.
We have two possibilities: Either 1) KCBS or the legislators in question have invented a new term for certain kinds of video games, one that's surprisingly apt; or 2) KCBS is badly misinterpreting the meaning, and misquoting the name, of a whole genre of games by way of attacking only one certain segment of the market with a buzzwordy title that keeps appearing in the headlines.
I so wish I could believe it's the first one.
It's widely acknowledged that whenever the news reports on some story of which you have first-hand knowledge or understanding, you always will notice some crucial piece of information that the news station gets wrong. Somebody's name. The number of kids in the family. How safe the street is acknowledged to be where the thing took place. The name of a video game genre, for crying out loud. But that's just for the stories you know about... so what does that tell you about all the stories you hear about that you don't know from first-hand experience?
Just last night, a friend told me a story of how a terror alert was raised at a Missouri military base; apparently there was word that hijackers would attempt to commandeer emergency vehicles and commit some sort of act of terror against the base. Well, a few days later, at a county fair in a nearby small town, a couple of big fire trucks were on display for the kids to play on. Sure enough, a couple of young Arab men came walking up, carrying duffel bags and making a beeline for the fire trucks. The men were apprehended and spirited away by the authorities, and thenceforward it was a "federal matter" and no further information was forthcoming.
Those friends of friends who witnessed this event now say they'll be taking terror alerts a bit more seriously from now on. But remember: thousands of people heard the alert before the event happened, and they didn't witness the details of what went down. What's their reaction?
"Shyeah, right-- like anything was really gonna happen. These terror alerts are just bogus; they're cynical attempts to keep people in a state of nervousness."
There's always a first-hand version of the story, but very few people get to see it. Everyone else has to make do with whatever sounds most plausible on the air, even if it's bloody well wrong.
Which is why I think my radio dial will stay on MIN for a while yet.