Tornado Violence: Are Tornadic Images In The Media To Blame?

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Vol 35 Issue 18

Clinton Hurls Feces At Detractors

WASHINGTON, DC—Angered by criticism of his military strategy in Kosovo, President Clinton flung clods of his own excrement at White House reporters Monday. "I am the alpha male!" Clinton shouted to Sam Donaldson of ABC News. "None shall usurp my dominance of the social hierarchy!" The outburst was the first of its kind since Clinton's March 19 urination on Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji at a Beijing arms summit.

Roof Of Mouth In Serious Condition Following Cap'n Crunch Consumption

SPRINGFIELD, MA—The roof of area resident Meredith Kjell's mouth is in serious condition Tuesday following her consumption of three bowls of Cap'n Crunch cereal. "We believe most of the roof can be salvaged," Dr. David Kim told reporters. "But grafts may be necessary to replace many of the ribbons of flesh gouged from Miss Kjell's palate by this brutally crunchy pre-sweetened breakfast food."

Crazed Loiterer Strikes Again

DOVER, DE—Crazed fugitive loiterer Bob Puhl continued his six-month around-standing spree Tuesday, loitering in the Dover Public Library for more than three hours before escaping. "This is a man who is intent on loitering as much as possible, with no regard for society or the laws that govern it," Dover police chief James Fry said. "But mark my words, we will find him. And he will have plenty of time to stand around and do nothing where he's going." Delaware has already spent $600,000 on efforts to catch the immobile offender, as well as on counseling for victims of his unrepentant standing.

Hot Girl Mentions Boyfriend Three Hours Into Conversation

PORTLAND, OR—After a stimulating three-hour conversation about personal philosophies, career aspirations and their shared passion for Thai food, tennis and Billy Joel, Portland State junior Bryan Holtzman was caught off guard by sophomore Jenny Lowe's off-handed mention of her boyfriend of three years. "Well, that's just fuckin' great," Holtzman said after the conversation. "I dropped every hint in the book. You'd think she'd have picked up on it. I even asked her about her bracelet: Gift from her father, she says. Smooth sailing, I figure. Shit."

Area Man Can't Remember Whether He Rented Mimic Or The Relic

PETOSKEY, MI—Less than five hours after viewing one film or the other, area resident Chris Olle was unable to recall whether he rented Mimic or The Relic Monday night. "It's the one where they're underground, and everything's dripping, and the thing is trying to get them," Olle said of the unspecifically recalled film. "You know, the one with the tunnels. With the blonde? They're running with flashlights, trying to get away from the huge monster. They're either under this museum or under New York. I'm not sure."

Report: U.S. Children Lead World In Hand-Mouth Coordination

UNITED NATIONS—A U.N. study released Monday reported that U.S. children rank first in the world in hand-mouth coordination. "American children can move items from their hands into their mouths faster, better and more efficiently than anyone," the report read. "The children of no other nation can claim such hand-mouth prowess." The four-year study of the physical abilities of children in 157 countries also found that U.S. children finish an Oscar Mayer Lunchables Fun Pack in just under two minutes, nearly twice as fast as the world average.

Standish's Revelation

Back safe and secure in my estate, I was anxious to be reunited with my seven sons, U. Fairfax, V. Lucius, J. Phineas, R. Buckminster, G. Talmadge, M. Prescott and D. Manfred. As I wandered about the wild frontier with my man-servant Standish, I grew to miss them greatly, even D. Manfred, the bastard off-spring of the late Mrs. Zweibel and the coal-hauler. After all, they are my children and heirs, and must have suffered from the theft of my fortune as much as I.

Tha Autobiography Of Herbert K

What tha dilly yo, mah homies? Tha H-Dog be keepin' it real at Midstate Office Supply, still kickin' it hardcore as tha Mack Daddy Enforca of tha Accountz Reeceevable Department. Jus' got my annual evaluation, and shit if I ain't tha baddest stone-cold supastar in tha whole third-floor administrative office. Tha comptrolla, Gerald Luckenbill, not only be approvin' me for a raise, he gonna nominate my ass for Employee Of Tha Month for April, 'cause I not only balanced tha shit out of tha Midstate ledga this month; my department led tha whole goddamn company in tha numba of cans collected foe tha muthafuckin' 1999 Kiwanis Club Food Drive. Tha future be looking SUH-WEET for tha H-Dog, Gs.
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Tornado Violence: Are Tornadic Images In The Media To Blame?

DEL CITY, OK—It's been almost two weeks now, but life still hasn't returned to normal for the residents of this central Oklahoma town. It probably never will.

On May 3, Del City and its surrounding area was shattered by a shocking act of violence that took 41 lives—not to mention this peaceful farming community's collective innocence.

"This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen here," said Del City resident Bud Swearingen, gazing at the mound of rubble and debris that what was once his home. "Maybe in Bangladesh or some other far-off place, but not here in America's heartland."

Like so many of those caught in their path, the killer tornadoes have died, fading away on the Oklahoma plains. But the questions remain. How could this happen? Why didn't anyone see it coming? What would drive an air mass to commit such a horrible act of violence?

For many, the blame lies with the media.

"Every day in this country, we are bombarded with images of powerful, destructive wind vortices," said Roland Gilchrist, director of the Princeton University Center For Media Studies. "Movies like Twister, TV shows like Fox's World's Scariest Tornadoes, networks like The Weather Channel—all of these only serve to glorify tornado violence and send the message that such destructive behavior is acceptable and even rewarded. We shouldn't be surprised, then, when real-life weather fronts start imitating what they see on TV."

Gilchrist called the similarity between the Oklahoma attack and those depicted in Twister "chilling."

"There's a scene in Twister in which a pick-up truck flips over, and then a farmhouse explodes," he said. "The exact same thing happened in Del City. That can't be mere coincidence."

According to Gilchrist, TV news programs only exacerbate the problem, reinforcing tornado behavior by giving them the attention they crave.

"Whenever a tornado threatens to strike, it's the lead story on the news," Gilchrist said. "That only fosters that kind of violent behavior and increases the odds of it recurring. Meanwhile, you never see any positive, uplifting weather stories on television. When was the last time a show was interrupted to report a beautiful, sunny day? When was the last time a 'cool-breeze warning' icon was placed in the corner of the screen? Never."

A scene from the hit film <I>Twister</I>, which some are saying glamorizes tornado violence and is partially to blame for the recent massacre in Oklahoma.

"It's sad," Gilchrist continued. "There are so many decent, gentle air masses out there, but you'd never know that from watching the 6:00 news."

Dr. Todd Pollack, a psychologist with the National Weather Service, took issue with Gilchrist's condemnation of the media.

"It's a gross oversimplification to say that tornadic violence is the result of media images," Pollack said. "Environmental factors such as temperature, air moisture and barometric pressure have a major effect, along with everything else in the atmosphere in which a tornado develops. Yes, the media do play a role, but there are countless other factors that influence a young tornado's behavior, as well."

Nevertheless, federal legislators, outraged over the latest act of tornadic violence, are calling for a media crackdown. On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) proposed the Responsibility In Meteorological Programming Act, which would place warning labels on "movies, TV shows and albums that glorify violent weather patterns." The act would also ban networks from airing any programming that contains depictions of tornadoes, typhoons, mudslides or earthquakes before 10 p.m.

Families of tornado victims are also fighting back. A $300 million lawsuit has been brought against Twister director Jan De Bont, and similar suits have been filed against the makers of other tornado-glamorizing films, including The Wizard Of Oz. And more than 300 survivors of the Oklahoma tornado attack have filed a class-action suit against director Oliver Stone for the "tornado jailbreak" scene in his film Natural Born Killers, which, like the Oklahoma tragedy, took place on the Great Plains.

As a further measure, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is calling for mandatory life sentences for homicidal funnel clouds.

"We need to send the message, loud and clear, that this sort of weather will not be tolerated," said Roberts, wearing a maroon ribbon in memory of the 41 people slain by the tornado. "Too many lives have been lost. Our nation's tornadoes must learn that there is a price to pay for their actions."

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