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The Crude Spreads

May 28, 2010

After going on a rant about how the mainstream media fails to report the lessons of history, Rachel Maddow just had to go and prove me wonderfully wrong.

I suppose it stands to reason that when the story is as massive as the oil spill that constitutes its subject matter, and as well-covered with crudeness as the marine life implicated, a news team can afford to do more than the cursory background research.

In terms of the more regrettable ways a media outlet can provide context for another one of America’s most dangerous addictions, check out this infographic on the relative (un-)healthfulness of various fast foods as compared to the KFC Double Down. Now, the content of the infographic on its own is fine and laudable as one of the increasingly rare infographics that actually organizes information more effectively through visual representation, rather than simply adding meaningless purposeless graphics to numbers, except for the fact that the inforgraphic was clearly “inspired by” (read: “stolen from”) Nate Silver’s post from a month ago to the exact same effect with no attribution. How rude.

It seems as though Internet-based media is fundamentally based on the concept of attribution (or linking, if you will) and quite often in smug or humorous ways that make the link worthy of sharing. In that sense, the more crude (and perhaps distorted), the better the chance it has of spreading. Like this little anecdote about American Indian philosophy. It’s yellow journalism 2.0. Of course, that might mean some people will be offended upon connecting dots that might have been better left unconnected. E.g., How to Name an Abortion Clinic:

That tendency to make any connection, no matter how (in-)appropriate is probably just going to have to be taken as a given by old and new media consumers and producers alike.

Then again, excessive contextualization through linking may not always be a good thing if the subject matter ought to be taken seriously. Like if it involves a sex offender who looks like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. Ruh roh.

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