One Month Later: Regarding Joyce Carol Oates and Dinosaurs

Something that never ceases to interest me is how different the world can be, depending solely on what news you consume. I noticed this more than ever one month ago, in the situation in which Joyce Carol Oates, in her confused glory, tweeted a very confused tweet about dinosaurs and Jurassic Park.

You can click on the link above, if you want, to figure out what I’m talking about if you were lucky enough to miss it when the news agencies mistook it for news. The situation is not worth rehashing, especially because everyone has already forgotten about it, as it never mattered in the first place.

We are talking about the author of one of the most widely-anthologized, beautifully-written, intelligent stories by a living author.
We are talking about the author of one of the most widely-anthologized, beautifully-written, intelligent stories by a living author.

The fascinating part to me is the way different magazines, websites, and blogs reported this story-that-should-never-have-been-a-story. Specifically, how did they describe who Joyce Carol Oates is? Did they assume their readers already knew her? If so, what did they say? If not, how did they explain who she is?

Here are their descriptors:

The Guardian:  “prolific author, National Book award winner, Pulitzer nominee. And … dinosaur conservationist?”

Fox News: “Joyce Carol Oates may have several Pulitzer Prize nominations to her name, but the author was seemingly fooled by a photo from “Jurassic Park” on Twitter.”

NPR: “Author Joyce Carol Oates,” and “Was the author, 77, slipping?”

Breitbart: “Joyce Carol Oates, the 77 year-old author, professor, and Twitter-genius…” and “the feminist wrote…”  And finally: “This is America’s pro-science crowd, folks.”

Salon: “the American author whose Twitter feed is an jewel box of absurdist, vaguely offensive half-thoughts, showed her stripes as a true conservationist.”

Young Conservatives: “Feminist nutjob…” and “Liberal Author…” and “This lady.”

What concerns me most about all of this is that it (and this is only a small sampling of the many articles about it – in fact, it seems nearly every muckraking, huff-and-posting website cranked out something based on this one tweet) is that the majority of these articles assume that their readership has no idea who Joyce Carol Oates is. Only National Public Radio was confident that their audience had heard of the author.

The other, sadly not surprising, aspect of this is the way these “conservative” blogs paint a picture of Oates. What possible relevance could it have that Oates is a feminist? Whose first association with Joyce Carol Oates is that she’s part of the “pro-science crowd”?

It’s frustrating, and it’s sad, and I should resist painting with too broad of strokes. But it’s striking how people living next door to one another can live in completely different worlds, based solely on the news and media they consume.

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