Here are some of Sunday’s Headlines:
Phelps Finishes with 18 Golds
Fighting Intensifies in Aleppo
Pakistan Police Parade Naked Pair
Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A’ Draws Kissing Activists
Jackson Siblings Deny Money at Root of Family Dispute
Suicide Bomber Kills 45 in South Yemen City
U.S. Economy Showing New Resilience
I almost feel like I don’t need to write anything else. It’s incredible to me that so much is going on in the world- at the same time that I am addictively watching the Olympics, people are dying, killing, kissing, fighting, and generally wreaking havoc and chaos around the world. According to the headlines, people are heroic, violent, active and passive, all in the same five seconds. It’s truly enough to make me dizzy.
Now that the internet has made news and information instantly available, we are surrounded 24/7. You can turn it off, but it is always there waiting. I received a “push notification” on my cell phone about the death of Osama Bin Laden while at a party. Cheers! Information overload causes us either to become complete anxious wrecks or to live with our heads in the sand. After September 11, 2001, I had to make my mother turn off the television for days at a time- she was so afraid for our safety she could barely sleep, due to the sensationalized interviews with imams who were pledging to finish the job and the constantly repeated images of the attacks on the World Trade Center. I really think that people have always been crazy and out of control, but the instantaneous world-wide reach of the internet bombards us constantly with all the bad news that’s fit to print.
“News” is not news anymore, really. The television stations even call it “news show” or “news program”. I grew up watching young men dying on the front lines of the Vietnam war on television, and I fell asleep to the CBS announcer calling out draft numbers on the radio. Now the first twenty minutes of the nightly news is spent on ridiculous stories or very localized information or the opposite opinion of the story from the day before. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in the George Orwell’s 1984– one day we are at war with someone and the next day we are allies; one day our economy is dismal and the next day not so bad. If I want to know what is happening in Afganistan or Syria or even the United States, I have to watch C-Span or go online and read the BBC news. If I want an in depth look at an important story, I have to tune into NPR. I actually have to make an effort and search for information. Does the average American do that on a regular basis? The average American does not even vote in presidential elections, so I think not.
The newest television reality shows, which feature either tremendously stupid people (ie: “World’s Dumbest” video series) or tremendously stupid competitions (ie:” Craft Wars”) seem designed to distract the majority of Americans from the serious shit that is going on around them. These shows are like weed and alcohol- they block any true thought or action from happening. Ask the average American what happened last night on Housewives of Staten Island, and you will get a full and emotionally engaged explanation. Ask the average American what happened last night in Afghanistan and you will get a blank stare. And it is not just Americans that prefer cupcakes to craziness- European and Japanese television started with competition shows in the 1970’s. I used to watch them in the Netherlands as a teenager. We are actually way behind in the Mindless Television Show category.
So, what’s in the news? It’s mostly bad because that gets more attention. It’s mostly spin because that’s what people pay for. It’s mostly sensational because sex sells. But what’s really happening in the world? Good luck with that one….