Thomas Sowell

Someone once asked why television was called a medium. The answer was that it was seldom well done. TV's wall-to-wall coverage of the September 11th anniversary -- on virtually all channels and around the clock -- was a painful example of the fact that nothing exceeds like excess.

Jennifer Harper of The Washington Times performed a real public service this September 11th by pointing out that there was nothing like today's mass emotional orgy on the first anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The extraordinary heroism of the policemen and firemen who went into the burning World Trade Center a year ago to save thousands of lives there, and the extraordinary heroism of those airline passengers who stopped the fourth hijacked plane from committing a similar outrage in Washington, are all things well deserving of commemoration. But what we saw on television -- all day and all night -- went far beyond those heroes and far beyond reason. Moreover, it was not just the amount of the response, but the very nature of the response.

Moreover, this was not the only recent event to evoke emotional orgies on TV. The untimely death of Princess Diana was another. So were the kidnappings and killings of little girls earlier this year.

All of these shocking events of course produced emotions, as did the shattering sneak attack on Pearl Harbor back in 1941. The difference is that an earlier generation -- "the greatest generation" that saved our country and our world -- did not succumb to simply wallowing in emotions. They had a job to do and they did it. That is why we are still a free nation and why some of us are still alive.

Today's generation seems far less focussed on the future and far more self-indulgent and, as Jennifer Harper put, "mawkish" about the past and present. Well before the September 11th attacks, the little girls who were murdered were celebrated in the media, whose focus seemed to be on the emotional expressions of their families, neighbors, classmates and others. That those who knew these children should feel their deaths deeply and painfully was of course understandable. But that the television tube should make their grief not only public but pervasive around the clock is something else.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate