“Violence is interesting which makes it a great obstacle to world peace and more thoughtful television programming.” –P.J. O’Rourke
Crisis, conflict and violence are the prevailing themes of our 24/7 media. If some stranger talked to us the way newscasters do, we’d tell them to go jump in a lake. Likewise, if our boyfriends made us feel the way headlines often do, our friends would line up for an intervention. ‘Toss the jerk out on his head,’ they’d say.”
Living in fear sells products, creates economies, elects politicians and keeps the flying monkeys on the job. But it’s not the truth about the world.
The reality is that the world is safer today than at anytime in history. The murder rate has plummeted in the last ten years. School shootings are no more prevalent than they were in “Leave it to Beaver” days. In fact, collaboration, goodness and, yes, love are the norm.
It’s just that the dominant paradigm, the one we’ve blindly bought into is “life sucks.” Any thought to the contrary is sidelined immediately by the 27-inch box in the corner of most of our living rooms (and kitchen and bedrooms). In fact, if you pay attention to the box–and most of us use it to form our view of reality–you have little choice but to conclude that murder, rape, war, and genocide is the human condition.
But if you look at it scientifically, the math just doesn’t work out. For every Koran-burning Terry Jones, there are 335,000 ministers who aren’t burning the Koran, who are espousing peace and love and tolerance. For every Scott Peterson, there’s 58.9 million husbands who didn’t murder their wives.
Every day, we’re spoon-fed “news” about missing children, identity theft, the mild-mannered neighbor who walks into work with an AK-47 and a bomb pack and blows up his boss and 27 co-workers.
Why do we think this is news?
On the same day (February 18, 2008), two-year-old Karissa Jones was abducted from her home in Louisville, Kentucky (by her father, as it turns out), there were 53,298 two-year-olds in Kentucky who didn’t get abducted, who were safe and sound at home, happily sipping apple juice from their Winnie-the-Pooh high chairs. Nearly a million children of all ages in Kentucky also didn’t get abducted that same day.
Why is Karissa the “news?”
News, by definition, is new information that teaches people about the world. Picking out what happened to two-one thousandth of one percent of the state’s two-year-olds is not an accurate picture of the world. If you ask me, what happened to the other 53,298 two-year-olds is a bigger story. Or at least it’s more realistic news.
What you see on the newscasts at night, what you read in the morning newspaper is not a realistic perception of our world. It’s an anomaly, an out-of-character thing that happened at one moment in time. News junkies pride themselves on believing they’re well-informed. Because they know what Ann Curry said about the latest layoffs at Boeing and what Morley Safer reported on the earthquake in New Zealand, they smugly believe they’re up on current events.
But do they know about the African-American postman in Germantown, Tennessee who jumped into a lake to save a couple whose brakes went out of their car when they were coming home from a hospital dialysis treatment? Do they know about the Marysville, Kansas attorney who flew, on his own dime, to Israel to donate a kidney to a 10-year-old he’d never met?
Thinking you’re informed because you watch the news is like thinking you understand a zoo when you’ve only seen the “Z” on the entryway sign. It’s not a complete picture, guys. It’s not even a good picture. I’m not going to argue that you can’t find the letter “Z” at any zoo. But if you try to convince me you’re a zoo expert or even that you have a faint understanding of what a zoo is all about because you’ve seen a “Z,” well, I’m sorry, I have no choice but to argue.
Attention-grabbing headlines and newscasts are nothing more than a sales tool, no more “factual” than “The Simpsons.” Isolated incidences get turned into frightening trends and our own thoughts have become conditioned to leap to the worst.
The mission of this blog is to free readers from the straitjacket of the relentless news media. Instead of asking “What’s wrong?,” a question we hear over and over again, I’d like to pose a simple question with the power to change the world: “What’s right?”
wow this a.m. I told my husband to turn the news off in the morning so that my days not start with distressing news, but rather with intentions to make it a good day. Your writing is fabulous and inspiring. Thanks for sharing and I will recommend your new book to my clients.