“Why should I listen to you?” was a rhetorical question asked and answered a few decades ago when I decided to stop watching the news.
Initially, my reason was a simple one. I lived alone with my first Doberman during the time of a series of home invasions in my own and surrounding neighborhoods. The local Houston news graphically called them the ‘Kick-In Burglars”; fitting, since once these crooks kicked in the front door, they could proceed on to do whatever they wished.
What value, I reasoned, was daily listening to details about these frightening break-ins? I had my dog, my pepper spray next to my bed and my 38 on the floor under it- I had done all I could think of to protect myself. Listening to the endless nightly reports simply scared me and to no avail. Over the years, my reasons for opting out of the national, perhaps global, obsession with the nightly news grew at an exponential rate.
- Most likely, I did not frame my rhetorical question exactly like ‘Tell me why I should listen to you again?” but it was close. Intuitively, I resisted the increasingly attractive faces with their disturbingly emotionally appropriate expressions to match whatever catastrophe they were reporting.
- I thought frequently about Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic statement about the impact of television and its images upon culture and society: ‘The medium is the message.’ How did it happen that the arguably best educated citizenry in history relied on strangers with great haircuts to form their opinions about their world?
- Our ability to question, to demand evidence, even proof to be convinced seemed inversely related to the power of a smile, the presence of absence of a smirk upon our judgement.
- During several times in which I held a position of authority, I was exposed to several television hosts and agreed to interviews in hopes of using the exposure for public education only to learn that sound bytes are just that.
- Over time, I learned to keep my mouth shut during conversations with colleagues and friends rather than confessing that I did not watch the news: Explaining why was futile.
- Incrementally, within the last ten years, there have been increasing numbers of articles, written by non-traditional types describing the effects of watching fear- filled graphic messages right before bed on the viewer: physical consequences like insomnia, high blood pressure , anxiety are among the more innocuous. The articles were distressingly still counter cultural.
Therefore, I was surprised and pleased, to read Adriana Huffington’s post on LinkedIn the other day. Her message?
The news media is far too removed from the reality of main stream life. Despite the fact that we are living in what is the ‘safest period’ of human history, the print and visual news media are filled with violence, murder and mayhem, locally and around the globe. Liberally quoting from Steven Pinker’s latest book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Huffington observes that big city rates of murder, rape and other felonies are significantly lower than in twenty years yet our print and media news men and women defend their nightly forecasts of fear and gloom.
Imagine a diet of news no longer grounded in fear?