Jack Tame: Flashy tales of death and terror


You know it's big when they get special graphics made, crashing and zipping across the TV with a flashy soundtrack to match.


Who's the hero? Who's the villain? It's all cable routine.

Who's the person who'll describe it as like something from a war zone?

Without wanting to downplay the terrifying experience of the survivors and victims of the San Francisco air crash, it was with no end of confusion this week I observed America's attention flick between competing sensations.

On the next channel over, the trial of the year: Zimmerman versus Trayvon, Guns versus Candy, White versus Black.

With live coverage from the Sanford courtroom beamed across the US, fake-tanned TV hosts cheerily debated whether a self-appointed community watchman is or isn't a murderer.

It was trial by daytime TV: a jury of millions. Oops, here come the graphics: "THE TRIAL OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN".

Awesome, we've just enough time to get popcorn.

But as TVs flicked between San Fran and Sanford, just a short distance north of the US-Canadian border an almighty disaster burned and unfolded without nearly the coverage or corresponding national interest.

That a freight train packed with crude oil should career down a hill and derail in the midst of a township, then explode into fire and burn for five days, killing about 50 people, is an appalling, tragic, and, one hopes, extraordinary event.

But that the crash passed with only a footnote's interest in the US is perhaps even more bizarre.

With Zimmerman and San Fran, Quebec was confined to world news in national newspapers. On TV, in many cases, the freight train disaster barely registered a mention.

It was only mere misfortune that caused the derailment in a French Canadian village and not in a northern US state. It was only mere chance that most of those killed were French speakers and not American.

But the scarring from Quebec should stretch further than just the town it totally destroyed. As the US considers whether to build the massive Keystone XL oil pipeline, it serves as a reminder too, of the risk that accompanies any large-scale oil transportation in North America.

Trains, planes or pipelines, who can say catastrophe won't strike again?

- Herald on Sunday

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