The I-Dumbing of Journalism

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This may be the single stupidest thing I have ever seen on television. And I used to work in television news, so that’s saying something.

An Oklahoma City television station entertained a piece during the July ratings period about “I-Dosing.” Apparently, school officials are warning parents about a new danger, audio files that your children can download, and can make them high.

Watch the piece, then we’ll talk about how many flavors of dumb they’ve crammed into this Whitman’s Sampler of Stupidity:

Where to begin?

The Greater Danger

I’m not sure which is more dangerous: the idea that children are getting high on white noise, or that rational adults will buy just about any crazy idea.

Wait – actually, that a broadcast newsroom in a top-50 Nielsen market would slap together a piece with no real investigation is even more dangerous.

Who did Adrianna Iwasinski interview for this piece?

  • The guy from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, who said nothing about whether the audio makes people high, but that it might lead them to “drug paraphernalia sites”
  • A parent (and teacher!) who until being interviewed, had never heard of such a thing, yet is now listed as a “Concerned Parent and Teacher” based on what Adrianna told her in the parking lot
  • A student, reporting a rumor about a friend-of-a-friend in town who said “I heard it was like, a weird demon or something, through the iPod”
  • A former student, standing in front of the same brick wall at the school, who thinks “people should be concerned about it, it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked”
  • The system’s communication director, who admits knowing nothing about it, but expresses concern for anything that would cause the physiological effects described, and asks parents to be vigilant.

In other words, one person who warned about letting your kids loose on the internet, a parent who didn’t know about the problem, one student repeating a rumor, a graduate who thinks it’s serious (if it’s true,) and a communicator who delivers the CYA message without confirming any validity.

Enough people to fill 150 seconds in a Shakespearean manner: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Techno-Phobias

Modern journalism is in a death spiral of irrelevance, because it keeps chasing the audience with fear. This story plays off fear of technology that most people don’t understand.

“It uses Binaural or ‘two-tone’ technology to alter your mental state.”

You know what else uses Binaural or two-tone technology to alter your mental state? A telephone. Each key press releases a Binaural tone. If you punch seven of them, you can talk with a local person who might alter your mental state. Punch 11 buttons, and you can talk with anyone in the United States who can alter your mental state. Punch a few more, and you can talk with anyone in the world (who has a phone.)

PARENTAL WARNING: allowing your teenager to interact with the Binaural tone generators installed in your home could allow them to talk with child molesters, political push-polls, or order pizza.

And all those YouTube videos of kids wigging out over the sound files? You’d act agitated too if you listened to that for a while, but it doesn’t make you high. (If it did, kids would have been wearing out the buttons on their touch-tone phones instead of talking with their friends.) Read the comments from the YouTube thread from the alternate clip of this story. There’s not a shred of evidence here, not one bit, that these tones work as advertised.

So why are those kids freaking out in the clips shown? Teenagers freak out over all sorts of things. Sometimes justified, sometimes not, and sometimes it’s a self-perpetuating hoax. I mean, if you went to the trouble of setting up a camera, there’s going to be some type of reaction, or you don’t have anything to upload.

For others, the power of suggestion and mass hysteria explain quite a bit.

Actually, there was a little bit of suggestion going on within this piece. And it was placed there by a very creative and skilled photographer/editor with a very keen sense for detail.

In a story about the internet, and fear, and drugs, it’s only appropriate that the videos in question be rendered on an iPhone.

At 4:20.

PARENTAL WARNING: Allowing your children to watch Oklahoma City’s News9 may introduce them to subliminal messages condoning the use of marijuana.

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Comments

  1. Sounds like something you might find on The Onion.

  2. Sidebar:

    Back in 1992, during my first on-air job in Dothan, a rural Sheriff’s office was circulating a flier warning parents about “Blue Star Acid.” It had been faxed from another office, and was assumed to be true.

    Back in 1992, we had the good sense to not waste time chasing stupid Urban Legends, and the even better sense not to waste three minutes of a newscast airing them.

  3. The sad thing is that this is just a symptom of a much larger problem: ignorance. There has been a gradual deterioration in basic education, a proliferation of magical thinking and pseudoscience all at the expense of rational thinking.
    http://www.spike.com/video/first-10-minutes-of/2811209

  4. I,
    “Oklahoma” is really all the explanation you need for this idiocy.
    (Love the post – now I think I’ll go take a hit off my iPad.)
     

  5. I actually e-mailed the OK government about this story. I received a prompt and polite reply, which in part read:
    “we  believe “digital drugs” have the “placebo” effect (no real simulation to an actual drug “high”). We stated that testimonials from users warn people “not to waste their money, these tones don’t do anything”.   Our main concern is these web sites for “digital drugs” contain ads and links to other web sites for “legal cannabis”, K2, Salvia, prescription drugs, etc… that kids can easily access and order.   We agree, simply listening to certain tones on an i-pod won’t get these kids “high” (but might give them a nasty headache).”
    Next on FOX: Why won’t Obama declare war on placebos?!

    • That’s what’s sleazy about this whole thing.

      (Not that you would actually try to gather your own facts… something else.)

      The station knew the tones did nothing, yet chose the final part of that statement for air, to make it seem like there was a real danger here. When in fact, there is no more danger than allowing the child to use Google Image Search without the Safe Results turned on.

      Thanks for sticking around, Bob.

Trackbacks

  1. Ike Pigott says:

    The I-Dumbing of Journalism | http://ike4.me/o119

  2. What's next? RT @ikepigott The I-Dumbing of Journalism | http://ike4.me/o119

  3. Ike Pigott says:

    Just when you thought TV was as dumb as it could be… http://ike4.me/o119

  4. RT @ikepigott: The I-Dumbing of Journalism | http://ike4.me/o119 [when I was a teen in OK, it was listening to rock music they warned about]

  5. RT @ikepigott: Just when you thought TV was as dumb as it could be… http://ike4.me/o119

  6. oops! Here's the link to @ikepigott's post the quote I just tweeted came from: http://ike4.me/o119

  7. Ike Pigott says:

    Tonight on Action News 9! Something in your kid's iPod could make them teh stoopid! | http://ike4.me/o119

  8. Best Fresh Content Pick: The I-Dumbing of Journalism http://bit.ly/b1dT7E by @ikepigott

  9. Best Fresh Content Pick: The I-Dumbing of Journalism http://bit.ly/b1dT7E by @ikepigott

  10. Can't even qualify the level of ridiculous here. RT @RichBecker: The I-Dumbing of Journalism http://bit.ly/b1dT7E by @ikepigott

  11. Liz Scherer says:

    'The I-Dumbing of Journalism' – @ikepigott's brilliant take on white noise, bad reporting and getting high. http://bit.ly/9VUnOC

  12. Liz Scherer says:

    @garyschwitzer @ikepigott's piece on bad journalism, teens getting high on white noise. Not exact HC but worthy. http://bit.ly/9VUnOC

  13. Thanks. See my bogus trends post yesterday? http://bit.ly/cM4mhH @lizscherer: @ikepigott's piece on bad journalism http://bit.ly/9VUnOC

  14. RT @lizscherer: 'The I-Dumbing of Journalism' @ikepigott's brilliant take on white noise, bad reporting & getting high http://bit.ly/9VUnOC

  15. Ed Yong says:

    RT @lizscherer: 'The I-Dumbing of Journalism' @ikepigott's brilliant take on white noise, bad reporting & getting high http://bit.ly/9VUnOC

  16. lhrandall says:

    RT @edyong209 'The I-Dumbing of Journalism' @ikepigott's brilliant take on white noise, bad reporting & getting high http://bit.ly/9VUnOC

  17. The latest "latest Internet craze," where downloaded music serves as a dangerous "digital drug." http://bit.ly/9p48Jh (via @ikepigott )

  18. amy mengel says:

    You'd think this is from @theonion, but sadly, it's real. @ikepigott on the i-dumbing of journalism: http://is.gd/dCrNx

  19. RT @amymengel: You'd think this is from @theonion, but sadly, it's real. @ikepigott on the i-dumbing of journalism: http://is.gd/dCrNx

  20. RT @amymengel: You'd think this is from @theonion, but sadly, it's real. @ikepigott on the i-dumbing of journalism: http://is.gd/dCrNx

  21. Kevin Hunt says:

    The I-Dumbing of Journalism http://bit.ly/bAr7ps (from @ikepigott)

  22. Ike Pigott says:

    If kids are getting high from iPods, is Steve Jobs to blame? | http://ike4.me/o119

  23. Amanda Dykes says:

    LOL Those school officials are uneducated! RT @ikepigott: If kids are getting high from iPods, is Steve Jobs to blame? | http://ike4.me/o119