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Fear greases the wheels of government

Dec. 10, 2012 |

By G. Michael Dobbs news@thereminder.com Fear is a powerful motivator. It is perhaps the most powerful motivator. It's easy to see that fear is the grease lubricating the wheels of government more often than any other element. Just look at what happened last week. Former Senate Majority Leader, Presidential candidate and World War II veteran Robert Dole appeared on the floor of the Senate to support the ratification vote for the United States to be part of a United Nations treaty on rights for the disabled. The presence of the 89-year-old Dole, who was disabled while he served his nation, could not persuade enough members of his Republican Party to vote for the treaty – a treaty that doesn't cost the United States a dime and doesn't extend any United Nations control over this nation. It asserts the rights of disabled people and the treaty was negotiated during the Bush Administration. Apparently the threat of the disapproval of Tea Party supporters – who see the United Nations as the evil empire – was enough to keep too many Republican senators from voting for something that is essentially ceremonial. The treaty is based on the Americans with Disabilities Act and is designed to bring the rest of the world up to our standards. I am happy to report that Sen. Scott Brown voted in favor of the treaty. I was wondering how my conservative friends on Facebook would comment, but to this date, none have referred to the story. I posted a link to a story about it to test the waters. This is the kind of story that tests the depths of ideology and common sense. It also speaks to the nature of backlash. Obviously these senators are far more concerned about conservative activists than they are about legislation designed by the administration of a Republican president and supported by one of the giants of their party.
Last week the New York Post published a hideous photo of a man moments before a subway car crashed into him and killed him. Another man had shoved the victim onto the tracks and the photographer who took the picture said he did not have the time or the physical strength to help the man escape. A debate over the ethics of the photo quickly ensued. Should it have been published? Was it appropriate for the front page? Did the Post editors think about the impact on the man's family and friends? Did they care about anything other than selling 'papers? The photographer himself was greatly troubled about what he experienced. He wrote in a first-person piece on the Post, "The sad part is, there were people who were close to the victim, who watched and didn't do anything. You can see it in the pictures." As first responders were trying to revive the man, people came over with their camera phones to take photos and video. They were not motivated to help someone, but they sure as hell wanted to document what they saw. Was this incident newsworthy? Yes. Should the photo have been published? I don't think I would have approved that move. A media outlet should have some humanity about it and the fact is this man's family not only has to deal with his sudden death, but know that millions of people saw his last agonizing moment of life. Now I know there are some of my colleagues would say that I'm soft as a grape here. I think that going after elected officials or celebrities that court press attention is one matter. Reporting the story of a murder is certainly an obligation, but I believe one has to temper that story with the understanding of the people who were traumatized by an event. Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

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