America's Security Blanket: indulging in the suffering of others
March 27, 2006

Seattle's been making national headlines lately and I am reminded why I really really hate the news. In fact, if it's possible, I probably hate the news even more than I hate eggplant. Which is to say, I'd rather subject my digestive system to a slimy, tasteless vegetable than indulge in the doom and gloom reports that mark our daily news.

On a daily basis, tragedies, every day situations, and the decay of humanity are sensationalized and emotionalized in order to produce ratings. Whereas at one point the daily news was intended to inform us of the world's happenings, nowadays it seems to be nothing more than tabloid-style prophecies of death, fires, missing children, rape, car accidents, war, and everything wrong with the world. Is it true that these things are occurring on a regular basis? Yes. But as I've often lamented here before, if the news reports were centered on the great and exciting things taking place throughout the world, far fewer people would watch.

Can you imagine a news broadcast dedicated entirely to celebrating the fabulous things taking place throughout the earth? We could call it "Extreme Makeover: World Edition!" Three times a day the show would report on families that made their final mortgage payments, people who were on their deathbeds and then completely healed of cancer, lost children found, unemployed finding jobs, miracle car crashes where the passenger walks away unharmed, the victories in war, stolen money returned 100-fold, and interview every day people getting out of debt.

Too bad it'd never take.

There is something really sick and twisted about human nature that is actually pacified, if not downright happy to watch other people in their sufferings. We've all done it before. We've secretly sat back as we watched the latest horrific news report thinking to ourselves, "Man, I'm sure glad that wasn't me." The stress of our days and cares of our lives are at least made somewhat better by the knowledge that it wasn't our house that got robbed last night or our child shot to death on the street.

If our selfish news-watching highs weren't enough cause for concern, we always have our desensitization to fall back on. I recall during Hurricane Katrina, I eventually just turned the television off. It wasn't that I didn't care. It was that I knew my own limitations. The degree to which I personally could take action to help that situation was not aided by my television. You can only watch people in desperation for so long before the repetitive images of the same interviews and footage begin to numb you to the reality that people don't have to live that way.

I think we actually believe that we have the best of intentions. We want to be informed, we want to be sympathetic and we want to be spurred on to some sort of emotion, be it rage, sadness, or even consciousness. These motives notwithstanding, I believe our mass media does nothing more than reinforce lies in our minds that "what we see is what we get." Things are just going to get worse so we might as well protect our own and throw up a prayer for the rest of our world.

The problem with this effect is that it calls few people to accountability for their ability to change their world. Rarely do I see media honestly reporting on the cause/effect nature of many of country's most tragic events. We hear the media asking questions like "How could this happen?" or "Who's to blame for this?" In fact, we ask those questions ourselves. Yet little energy is spent answering the questions "Does my city really have to function like this, and what needs to be done to change it?"

To some extent, there is no incentive to change the way our society functions. We accept that violence and murder rates will increase and there are entities in this world that actually thrive off high crime rates. Where there's crime, surely there is a compelling news story, right?

The answer to the real questions could put our local news affiliates out of business. Even worse, it could put our low self-esteem "At least I'm doing better than 'them'" attitude in jeopardy of losing its Linus blanket.

(Image Copyright: Peanuts)

Posted by Ambra at March 27, 2006 3:58 PM in Current Events
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There is (or was) a Web site that specializes in reporting only good news. I thought I had it bookmarked, but I can't find it now. I'll keep looking. I'm sure at least one of your other readers knows about it, too. I think it was Christian owned/operated, but the reporting was non-partisan.

And I beg to differ with your opinion that "it'd never take." To wit, your allusion to the show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." That's basically what that show is, right. Good news in an hour-long, overly sappy format. Same with the new show Miracle Workers on ABC. Granted, those two are very specialized, but I think a 1/2 newscast that featured the distribution by Sears of 22 washers/dryers to residents of a trailer park--courtesy of Katrina, and the restoration of sight in one eye for a little boy blind from birth (after 3 or 4 failed cornea transplants) would definitely work. I think if they built it, they (viewers, advertisers) would come.

I should move to Cali and pitch it. If they can do Hogan Knows Best, they can do "Lookin' Up." Hey, a name. I'm on my way.

I believe the site is called

Well, there you go. Thanks, Jerry. I'll try not to misplace this bookmark again.

Oh, and my original comment should have read:

...but I think a half-hour newscast that featured the distribution by Sears of 22 washers/dryers to residents of a trailer park--courtesy of Katrina--and the restoration of sight in one eye for a little boy blind from birth (after 3 or 4 failed cornea transplants) would definitely work...

It was missing the word "hour" and a couple of dashes (--).

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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