Thursday, April 30, 2015

How do you spell over reaction?

I know I'm a tad out of the loop living where I do up on the tundra, but even I can't believe that professional baseball decided to bar the public from a game just because a CVS drug store got torched. WTF?

Over the weekend in Missouri we heard a little bit about unrest in Baltimore. At the time, it didn't sound like anything was happening there that was a whole lot different from the rioting that broke out in Ferguson last fall or any of the numerous other riots the country has experienced and survived without going into a total freakout in past years. You know, you've got a few city blocks where total chaos reigns while life in the surrounding area goes on pretty much as it always does. Unless the wind happens to blow the tear gas fumes farther than usual, you can be a block away from a riot and not even be aware it's happening.

In any case, back in the 1990s when south central L.A. was going up in flames following the Rodney King verdicts the Dodgers didn't decide to keep the public out of its home games. For that matter, invoking more recent history, the fact a suburb of St. Louis was a mess last summer didn't stop the Cardinals from filling the seats in their stadium. But people riot in a crappy neighborhood in Baltimore and suddenly Camden Yards is at risk? Unreal.

I know Baltimore is a rather wretched city under the best of circumstances. I've been there. You don't have to spend much time walking on Baltimore streets even in the "good" neighborhoods to recognize that the city has Major Issues. When stores located within spitting distance of the touristy stuff like the Inner Harbor feel the need to have security guards standing around in prominent positions or buzz potential customers in and out like you're entering Fort Knox instead of a run of the mill retail establishment, you know you're no longer in a typical American city.

Still, I don't get it. The news clips I've seen and the discussions I've read all keep going on and on about "the CVS store." Yep. The store, as in One Building. The crowd shots show a fair number of people in the streets during the riots, but unless the news media are doing an even lousier job of covering events than is typical for them, as far as I can tell, fans rioting after a college team wins (or loses) a championship can manage to do more damage than the "thugs" in Baltimore did. It's bizarre. One drugstore gets torched, and Wolf Blitzer starts going on and on about how he's never seen anything like it before in America. I guess the Quik Trip that burned in Ferguson a few months earlier didn't count.

Then again, who knows what the real story is? News media have devolved into a circle jerk of talking heads who have forgotten (if they ever knew) how to actually cover a story. The one source I semi-trust to do some on-the-ground fact checking, Mother Jones, is reporting that once again most of the media has managed to Get It Wrong.

I must say, though, that whatever is actually happening in Baltimore the city government and various other persons in charge seem to be doing a stellar job of handling it in exactly the wrong way. Which also is not a surprise. I could be mistaken, but when a city is having problems with unhappy young people rioting in the streets closing the schools so thousands of restless teenagers have no where to go and nothing to do is not exactly the world's smartest idea.

Update: I learned last night that the Dodgers did actually postpone several games because of the Rodney King riots. I don't recall hearing about it at the time, but that was back in the days before 24/7 cable news and nonstop social media.

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