Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The News in the News

From the inception of this project, my spins on these stories have always been linked to how the media treats them, and how those treatments get others to react. Here then is the story of Pamela Latrimore, as told by her on eBay, where she is in the process of selling this brain scan, where in the cerebral folds of her brain she has discovered the Virgin Mary.

Nothing shocking about that, right? Jesus and Mary have popped up in ultrasounds and MRIs plenty of times. It’s not even particularly surprising that it looks like this item will sell for more than $700. What’s interesting is how this event, for Latrimore, has spurred her campaign for awareness about Agent Orange dioxins that have long been polluting her hometown of Jacksonville, Arkansas. In her words from eBay: “Some do not see the image some do. I'm not here to dispute that. I see it and I think it is a blessing and a miracle. The miracle to me is people are now aware of this town.”

Yes, her explanation of all this is erratic in terms of spelling, grammar and capitalization, but this abstract from a November 4, 1991 issue of The Nation proves that Latrimore is not exaggerating the severity of illnesses and environmental issues that have plagued this town since the end of the Vietnam War. Apparently, the Vertac Chemical Corporation stored various toxins all over the town: “It is opined that no one knows for certain if a house or backyard isn't directly on top of a yet-to-be-identified toxic dump.” Yikes!

Latrimore says she is very ill and while she and others have long fought to save themselves, their town and other towns that suffer the same plight, dead ends are all they seem to hit. But now, this image of the Virgin Mary has garnered national media attention, including a potential appearance on CNN (according to Latrimore).

I’m just tuning in to this issue today. I can’t verify Latrimore’s claims, but searching around, they don’t strike me as outlandish. What does it say about the culture of media when real human suffering does not receive proper reporting until a purported image of the Virgin Mary in a brain scan becomes a part of the story? I’d say that the media, at least the mainstream media (CNN, I’m talking to you, too), has conditioned us to consider tabloid stories as hard news. That’s why banner headlines on AOL and Yahoo inform us about reality television dramas. If that’s your thing, fine, but that ain’t news.

More on this as it develops . . .

Update (12/18/08): The MRI sold for $730, going to an anonymous California bidder. With more than $100,000 in medical bills, this was clearly not about the money for Latrimore. According to this WFTS report, she is actually disappointed that the auction only received 21,977 views over the course of 10 days because she was hoping to raise even more awareness about the pollution that plagues her hometown of Jacksonville, Arkansas. It doesn’t seem like that CNN appearance ever happened – maybe it was too much news?

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