Zachary Antoyan is a political science senior and Mustang News liberal columnist. | Ian Billings/Mustang News

Zachary Antoyan

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Zachary Antoyan is a political science senior and Mustang News liberal columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.

I got this columnist position because I read the news. I wasn’t because I read a lot of world news that qualified me to write; editors and Fox News commentators know you don’t have to understand the news to write an opinion about it. Previous authors of this column serve as evidence to that fact. Instead, what I mean is that one day I picked up the Mustang Daily (or Mustang News, whatever), saw an ad for this position and inquired about it. Perhaps we have discovered the root of the problem.

Either way, in this column and in my life I strive to gather as much information as I can to form an opinion about an event. For me, that involves reading as many different news sources as possible. So in a totally NOT obsessive-compulsive search for news, I have come to understand that some news stories are popular and some are not. Some are the kids who hang out in the amphitheater or parking lot and talk about their most recent party, while others are the kids who sit in the debate classroom and talk about what their next competitive speech is about. Guess which one I was.

For instance: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know the virus, Ebola, is killing people and making its merry way out of Africa and into other countries. (Actually, is there any space under said rock? I could use a disease shelter.)

Anyway, recent headlines have surfaced about a Spanish nurse’s dog who contracted the disease, explaining that Spain intends to euthanize the animal. Even when National Public Radio (NPR) had an article about this situation, before someone noticed the absurdity of the coverage this dog was getting, NPR published an article entitled: “We Don’t Know A Lot About Dogs And Ebola — But We Should.” They needed a second article to justify the very existence of the first one. 

And in many ways, this does constitute an important piece of information. We don’t know very much about how dogs and Ebola mix, and we should understand that relationship. Hell, the situation surrounding this dog has real-world implications, with a petition of 325,000 signatures to save its life and some activists harassing medical workers trying to retrieve the animal from its home. Of course, though, we can’t muster that kind of activism when the disease killed more than 2,000 people in Libera, but when Snuffles (the dog’s real name is Excalibur) gets a cold everyone loses their shit.  

Point is, it can be easy to focus on the non sensical glorified stories that don’t necessarily matter. This drives attention away from stories that do matter. You want to avoid the infinite CNN coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight(s) and dig deeper for things you may not otherwise know about. Filtering out the crap from the candy can be difficult and is made even harder by the popularity contest these stories create.

To draw a comparison and illustrate an example, we are going to take a quick look at the curious case of North Korea’s missing Supreme(ly chubby) Leader and the current state of Yemen.

North Korea is the popular kid. It’s always in the news, people want to know what’s happening there and it somehow always gets away with its shenanigans. Donuts in the school parking lot, ditching class, launching rockets, enriching uranium and naught a punishment from Principal United Nations save for economic sanctions. But for the last month or so, no one outside of the inner circle of hell — I mean North Korea — has seen Kim Jong-Un. Has no one thought to contact Dennis Rodman about this? 

Not only this, but the press has been freaking out about two more pieces of news. The first is that officials from North Korea held talks with officials from South Korea about … well, no one really knows what. But they talked, so that’s good. Presumably they talked — we can’t confirm that either. And the second is that at a United Nations meeting, a North Korean official made reference to their “re-education program,” or something you and I call “labor camps.” But we already knew about those, talks between the two countries have failed before and we will probably never know why we haven’t seen Kim Jong-Un in a while. Most (if not all) of it does very little to inform the reader about current events, and at best, this trickle of information is nothing but speculation. 

Meanwhile in Yemen, a small country located on the southern border of Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea, is dealing with a straight-up rebellion in their capital. Yemen, unfortunately, is not a cool kid. It is the unpopular younger brother of one of the cool kids and only gets attention when the United States starts to talk about drone strikes. But other than that, Yemen just sits in its car and waits for the bell to ring for class.

News outlets around the world including NPR, CNN, BBC, BBQ  and The Onion (don’t quote me on that last one) have merely reported general violence. None have analyzed what is truly at stake in this conflict. There has been no background explanation of the Houthi rebels who hold key parts of the capital. Not even so much as a Buzzfeed: “10 Reasons Why Yemen Should Instate a New Prime Minister” or “Which seized Yemeni government building are you?” The implications for the United States’ war on terror rests on the next major events in that country, and we haven’t even attempted to understand the conflict. 

Yet here we are, focused more on whether Kim Jung-Un has gout than the political and social violence occurring in a country that has been instrumental in fighting al-Qaeda.

Now, I’m not trying to say there is some hidden value in spending your lunch in the debate room; I deserve the chuckles (OK, laughs) I get when I tell people I did debate in high school. But if we keep glorifying events that have little impact like we glorify the relationship statuses of our celebrities, we will continue to be the uninformed and apathetic dinguses we are. Well, I guess you’re less of one now. 

This is Zachary Antoyan, definitely not calling you a dingus. Just everyone around you. I’m kidding. Sort of. Have a great week. 

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