Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The *real* boogey men (and women)

Almost as if on cue, an Amber Alert was called this afternoon, five days after I wrote about KTRK's coverage of the "free range kids" parenting movement and two days after my corresponding spoof went very-mildly-viral, the spoof of over-hyped news coverage that sensationalizes the rare stranger abductions that do occur.
The scene on IH-610 NB just south of IH-10 about mid-afternoon today.
Well, yeah, "they" are everywhere, if it's crankheads we are referring to.  According to published reports (not spoofing now), allegations of methamphetamine use compelled child welfare workers to attempt to remove a child from her mother's custody.  The mother snatched her, the grandmother was implicated along the way, and the child was retrieved safely.  It wasn't the boogey man come to snatch an innocent baby off a quiet suburban street - it was just another in an endless series of domestic dramas. 

But along the way, those freeway bulletins reinforced unspecified boogey man terror in the hearts of perhaps one million Houstonians today.  Seriously.  I don't know how many motorists use the local freeways each day, but HCTRA alone reportedly handles a half-million.  And I think that the Amber Alert system is a good system except it has this unfortunate drawback:  these announcements don't provide any context as to what motorists are seeing.  Many people see "kidnapped child" and they assume that it must be a pedophile who intends to leave the child's lifeless body on the train tracks after he gets done violating it repeatedly. 

Sigh.  Ilona Carson presented the statistic the other day that there are only about 100 abductions of kids by strangers nation-wide each year.  Contrast that with this little gem:
Screengrabbed from this source
Two hundred and four thousand, give or take.  Versus one hundred.  Children are almost exclusively snatched by family members, but that type of thing doesn't usually make a compelling news story, so we rarely receive that vital piece of perspective through the "regular" channels (pun intended).  We mostly just get a distorted view and then we develop a distorted perspective to match it. 

Two hundred to one odds, give or take, given the vagaries of any particular year's statistics.  Remember that the next time a freeway marquee stops your beating heart. 
It was a family member.
It almost always is. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'm forced to moderate comments because the spammers have become too much for me to keep up with. If you have a legitimate comment, I will post it promptly. Sorry for the inconvenience.