In the case of Darfur v. Cruise, Jocko and the Runaway Bride

… the television networks find for the celebrities.

Just in case you were wondering whether television news executives thought you were a shallow individual obsessed by trivial concerns, The St. Petersburg Times provides decisive evidence: They do.

Reporter Susan Taylor Martin’s story begins:

As a measure of what the broadcast and cable news networks consider important, here’s how many segments they devoted last June to the runaway bride, Michael Jackson and Tom Cruise: 8,303.

Here’s how many they devoted to the crisis in Darfur, Sudan, that has killed at least 180,000 people: 126.

”There is a discounting of African lives that is complex, but what it comes down to is that the people of Darfur are poor, black, Muslim and don’t sit over any valuable natural resources,’’ said Eric Reeves, a Smith College expert on Sudan. “You can’t get any poorer than that geopolitically.’’

To the paper’s credit, the story doesn’t remain fixated on the imbecility of television news (fish in a barrel) but explains why it is in American’s self-interest to be concerned about crises in distant lands.

Says Edward Kissi of the University of Soth Flordia: “It is very imperative — and practical — for the American people to do what they can to encourage their government and Arab governments to stem a tide of what is likely to be a very serous refugee inflow to the United States or other parts of the world.’’

After Somalia, another country in Africa’s eastern “horn,’’ descended into civil war and chaos in 1991, Minnesota, Maine and other states absorbed an estimated 40,000 Somali refugees. Critics say they have put a serious strain on schools, housing and social services.

(My thanks to FaithStreams for pointing this one out.)

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