Over the last few days there have been three news items dealing with unexpected deaths that seem to have been given quite different treatments by the news media in America. The first was the crash of a Russian airliner with ninety two people aboard including sixty four members of the official Red Army choir named Alexandrov Ensemble. The second was the unexpected death of British singer George Michael. The third was the sudden death of Carrie Fisher.
In the first case, we have been given facts about the case, the number of dead, the location of the tragedy and what is being done to recover the remains among the wreckage. In the second, we are given personal tweets about the charity work, the talent, the scope of Michael’s influence and even his run-ins with the law. In the third, we’ve seen a massive outpouring of love and grief for the woman who played Princess Leia in the Star Wars episodes. Weren’t the people who died in the plane crash also deserving of some background coverage?
Why, I wonder are the deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher presented as human interest stories and the crash of the military airliner as just another news story. All involve the sudden and unexpected deaths of individuals. All are generating great waves of grief for those who knew them. And yet, the airplane crash story may have generated no such wave of grief here.
Could it be due to the fact that relations between the US and Russia are quite chilly of late and so the American media are not sympathetic to a Russian tragedy or perceive that Americans just aren’t interested? Could it be due to the fact it was a large number of persons who died and it would be impossibly difficult to select one or two people to show the human interest aspect of the story? Could it be that this kind of tragedy is too grisly to describe in a newspaper story? We can only guess as to what the real reason(s) is (are).
I noticed The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) did report the reaction in Russia, for example:
Responding to news of the disaster in an interview, celebrated Russian actor Vasili Lanovoy could barely control his emotions as he explained the ensemble’s significance:
“When I was a kid, during the [Nazi] occupation in 1941, I heard their ‘Stand up, great country’ for the first time, on the third day of the war.
“And when I heard yesterday, I was stunned. I think it is a great ensemble and it needs to be revived. It should not disappear.”
Maybe it is wrong to look to the media for help in processing our grief. Maybe that is not their job.
I wrote this blog because it is my deep conviction that any and every loss of life is cause for expressions of grief. Regardless of international relations and politics, these Russians who lost their lives in a sudden and terrible manner were human beings just like George Michael and Carrie Fisher. This blog is not written to disrespect George Michael and Carrie Fisher in any way. I have always been very impressed with George Michael’s talents as a musician. As a senior citizen, I was delighted to see Carrie in the Star Wars movie last year and deeply touched by her last scene with Harrison Ford (Hans Solo)
However, even if we didn’t know anyone on that plane and never heard the music of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the family and friends of every person on that plane deserve at least our prayers and expressions of support on social media. Every person in the world is much more than a statistic. She or he was known by others, had relationships, loved and was loved, and shared our same physiology.