This weekend was not a slow time for news. Yet the NY Daily News found room to print a breathless piece about David Buckel's suicide by self-immolation, in which it parroted Buckel's suicide note comparing his death to Tibetan monks protesting China's occupation.
Come on. This isn't journalism.
The NYDN printed enough of Buckel's suicide notes (he left more than one--including a neatly typed version) to qualify those documents as press releases. In fact, there are questions in my mind of whether anyone in New York's media circles was tipped off to the spectacular and pointless stunt--a man taking his own life.
I won't quote the piece, or Buckel's notes. Suffice to say he made sure everyone knew why he killed himself so publicly. The NYDN called Buckel "a well-known environmental activist," and also a gay attorney who worked with the Marriage Project and Lambda Legal. Maybe he was well known to the NYDN, but I don't think anyone outside those circles would conclude this guy was a national figure. I certainly had never heard of him, but what do I know (being a provincial hick in Georgia, that is).
In any sane, objective view, Buckel's death was the result of mental illness. Nobody types up a long screed about the environment, global warming, calling his own death "honorable" and hoping it "might serve others," without facing some serious emotional and mental challenges.
Factually, Buckel did nothing to lower his own carbon footprint, and actually chose the most carbon-producing (and gruesome) way to bring attention to his cause. Add to that the fact that this man felt his own death was required in service of his beliefs, and it's apparent that he needed help (which he did not get).
What he did get was a friendly media outlet printing his suicide note, interspersed with quotes from appropriately freaked out people in the Brooklyn park where the suicide was staged.
This sad death helped nobody's cause; it swayed nobody's opinion on the urgency of dealing with global warming; and the NYDN's reporting of it was morbid activism.