The American attraction to bad news is fueled by a multimillion dollar information and entertainment market. That our down time in front of the television is danger driven may make you uncomfortable; but violence on TV is first and foremost viewer driven. According to viewership polls, if the title has crime investigation attached to it, it is pretty popular and no one is sitting holding a gun to your head to watch. Despite the comedy attached to it, MASH is still the most popular TV show ever, albeit it was based on a real war!!
Likewise, our tastes for on the spot news coverage tends to lean toward the network that prides itself on instilling fear and anger in any decent American watching it, albeit all in the name of news you need to know. The format of pretty sets, high tech digital screens and video boards all come fully attached to reporters who blur the line between personal opinion and real news to the point that the most astute watcher has a hard time distinguishing between the two. What was once gossip and water cooler chitchat is now considered hard news exposes!
For years scientists have studied the effect on watching make believe violence such as video games on television. Few studies have been done as to what effect watching real violence in the real world has on us. No doubt an issue can be made that there is a correlation between watching television violence and being violent in the real world yourself. Anyone who locks their doors because they fear what they have seen happening in their neighborhood on their local news should have little trouble drawing a correlation between seeing bad news and reacting to keep the same thing from happening to them. And if we take it one step further and understand that fear leads to paranoia one can easily see that the American psyche is a bit frazzled as of late. The paranoia fuels the fear and the fear fuels more paranoid. The only cure is either not watching or to re frame your personal mindset to understand that there is good news out there and that maybe things are not as bad as we have been led to believe.
It is only logical if bad news creates fear and paranoia; good news has to have just the opposite effect. So where is the good news that could turn all of this around? Is all we can find on the major news casts little sixty second news stories most run a couple of times a week? The hot dog man at a college game remembered fondly for tossing hot dogs? A free throw shot by the boy with autism who wins the game then disappears into the crowd with the rest of the non-dangerous news?
In the, “I, me, mine” world of conservative speak, few areas of government are immune from being challenged for the over spending of public money. Add to this the idea of no new taxes for any reasons, and we soon get a pain index increase for many people who rely on those taxes for revenue for their jobs. Increasing the general overall pain index just adds to the snowball of fear and paranoia.
Is there no end to where all this negativity is going and the effects it will have on us as a nation and a culture? Surprisingly, the best way to get away from the negativity is to just turn off the TV. Limit your sources of information that you know are designed to get you upset, and thirdly pursue every issue as if you too needed to know the facts yourself. One quickly finds that a sound bite news item has a lot more to it than we might be originally led to believe. I’m reminded of a John Prine lyric, “ blow up your TV, throw away your paper, go to the country, build you a home. Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, try and find Jesus on your own!” The title of that song is Spanish Pipe-dream, and perhaps it’s just a pipe dream to think we can escape the negativity that surrounds us. But maybe not!
(more to come)