The function of the media is to sell their point of view on any number of topics. They do this largely through sensationalizing that point of view and then peddling it off to unsuspecting listeners, readers, and viewers. Snakes are just the latest victim of their drive not to protect people, but to get people to part with their time and money. By now most everyone know the tragic story of the 2 year old Florida girl who was killed by a pet Burmese python. Thanks to the media snakes have now become public enemy number one in many circles. With headlines such as
Burmese python panic (Examiner.com)
While this article is very well written and takes an intelligent approach to the issue people who commented on it weren’t always so… logical.
For example "Mike" had the following to say –
They are invasive, exotic killers and are spreading rapidly through the south half of Florida and the Keys, along with monitor lizards. Removal is necessary by whatever means.
"Blackbox" had the following to contribute in regards to what the article said –
You’re an idiot!!!
Senator warns of python danger – Says snakes are a threat to all Floridians(This link was removed by the website, keysnet.com)
Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida democrat had this to say –
"It’s just a matter of time before one of these snakes gets to a visitor in the Florida Everglades" Nelson told a Senate panel.
The article itself sensationalized the issue with statements such as –
The python clearly has become the poster monster of invasive species. and From Chinese mitten crabs in Chesapeake Bay to the Coqui tree frog in Hawaii, exotic animals have overrun America. But no state faces a bigger threat than Florida
Invasive Pythons Wreaking Havoc In Florida(All Headline News)
The first paragraph of this article starts out –
Pythons have become a major problem in Florida where one suffocated a sleeping baby to death in her crib and thousands others prowl the Everglades, and nearby towns, threatening endangered species and pets alike.
Anyone who reads that is seeing something along the lines of this:
Python on a murderous rampage ambushes and kills unsuspecting baby. More of these killers are believed to be stalking through the Everglades
That’s just a few of the thousands of headlines around the world regarding this one incident. But in order to get a clear picture of what is really happening we need to look beyond the headlines to the facts. We know the following:
- Snakes are NOT "exotic killers" as one commenter said. Instead they are driven largely by instinct and not malice of thought
- Snakes do NOT "prowl", hoping to slaughter the next hapless victim that comes anywhere near them
- Between 7,000 and 8,000 people are believed to be bitten every year by venomous snakes in the United States. Approximately 5 of those die (NIOSH Safety and Health Topic: Venomous Snakes). According to statistics accumulated by the folks over at Rexano constrictor snakes are responsible for an average of 0.44 deaths per year in the United States between 1990 – 2008.
Translation: Approximately 5.44 people die each year in the United States from Snakes. Of those 5 are killed by venomous bites while less than one half of one person dies from commonly kept constrictor species
- Polticians, such as Mr. Bill Nelson of Flordia (Contact Senator Nelson) need to educate themselves about issues, all issues not just pythons, before they march in front of TV cameras and the senate.
We can’t place blame solely on the media or the politicians. While it has a large amount of responsibility the real issue is how uneducated the public in general is about snakes. Plenty of people don’t like snakes and that’s fine. There are countless things I don’t like, but there’s a difference between not liking something and being ignorant about it. And that’s where the media needs to take the blame. Not for reporting these kind of things, but for passing along information in a sensationalized way that has no purpose aside from shock value.
The media certainly has every right to report on these kind of stories. A duty even, but in the interest of disclosure and fairness they should have to report the facts and avoid these headlines that are nothing more than thinly veiled ploys to get an audience. The public is not served by it by any stretch of the imagination.