The John Mark Karr Feeding Frenzy

Channel-surfing recent wall-to-wall TV coverage of the decision to drop all charges against John Mark Karr was like walking through the halls of a drug rehab center -- everywhere you looked, you saw addicts unable to break their addiction.

All in the MSM -- well, all except Nancy Grace -- know how sick they are for continuing to talk and talk and talk and talk about this case.

But they just can't help themselves. They know they shouldn't do another eight ball -- they know, after all, this guy is not the killer -- yet they go on and on and on.

The sad thing is, they can't even enjoy the cheap buzz of dishing out the titillating trash -- you can see the embarrassment on their faces as they reach for the ersatz-breaking-news bottle. As I wrote about scandal-addicted newshounds during the Robert Blake bacchanal: "They're like Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick in the last reel of Days of Wine and Roses. They're no longer drinking to get high; they're just hoping to avoid delirium tremens -- which in TV-land translates to 'big time ratings slump.' You know, just a little pick-me-up to 'take the edge off.'

But the 12-day Karr bender is worse than any of its lampshade-on-the-head predecessors. Worse than OJ, worse than Robert Blake. At least those media circus clowns were connected in some way (wink, wink) to the crimes in question.

Karr is nothing but a disturbed wannabe -- the walking, talking embodiment of a non-story (or, perhaps, a minor mention buried deep inside the pages of the Rocky Mountain News). Instead, the media tumbled down the 12 steps and embarked on a frantic binge that saw countless articles and hours of airtime devoted to the minutest details of the life, times, and airplane menu of a pathetic murderer manqué (Fried king prawns and roast duck -- oh my!).

In one of the creepiest displays of schizophrenic TV I've ever witnessed, Nancy Grace, captain of the lurid crime cheerleading squad, managed last night to conflate for a few fleeting moments the war in Iraq with the Karr scandal. At the end of another show devoted exclusively to the Karr nonstory yet, Grace sought the reassurance of her guest, People magazine staff editor Larry Sutton, that she wasn't going to have to go cold turkey on the Karr/JonBenet juice.

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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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