Prophets of Perpetual Pessimism

I like this blurb by Roger Simon wherein he links to this excellent analysis re the propensity of the press, most particularly the ever execrable NY Times, to kill stories that offer hopeful or positive outlooks in favor of the usual dreary, cynical, pessimistic, nihilistic and depressing crap they usually serve up.

The analysis is by one Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, who is a Professor of Psychology at U Pennsylvania, the founder of the field of Positive Psychology, and the author of 21 books including his most recent best seller, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. (hmmm, that might be worth looking at…)

So while some may say he “has a bone to pick” with the Times (because, let’s face it, what positive book ever gets a positive review on those oh-so-sophisticated and dour pages) – the man has a background in the whole study of optimism over pessimism – a field very worthy of study, particularly these days.

He writes: Yes, there are professional pessimists. Yes, there are nattering nabobs of negativism. There are media dedicated to the dividends of darkness that both reflect a cultural bias toward despair and simultaneously shape it. They are enormously influential, and if you wonder why our young people are in the midst of an epidemic of depression and meaninglessness in the presence of unprecedented wealth, education, and opportunity, you might start with what they read in the New York Times.

I concur. I have always suspected, though, that the basic embrasure of negativism is simply superficial left-over sixties posturing: how can these “cool” kids ever let go of their cynicism? They might be thought out-of-touch!

It’s not just the NY Times, though. Just last week, we saw the UK Telegraph, and other EU media, write this lede – with great, cackling glee – of The Archbishop of Canterbury: The Asian tsunami disaster should make all Christians question the existence of God, The Asian tsunami disaster should make all Christians question the existence of God…

I imagine the three (3!) goofballs who reported on the Archbishop’s remarks giggled like idiot trolls as they took various lines of his out of context and created a lede that reflected a bleak and most unhelpful message of impotence and faithlessness. They spent little to no time writing of William’s wiser statements. Williams (of whom I am no fan) actually said some very good and right things concerning faith in the midst of disaster, but those went under-reported, and the “question the existence of God” lede was the whimper heard ’round the world; it was what people responded to, and what they will remember of the Archbishop’s remarks. That lede will contribute to making the world a colder, darker and more hopeless place.

In the midsts of horrific tragedy, the UK Telegraph and its reporters chose to deliver the most unhelpful message it possibly could. This strain of negativity exists throughout the craft and industry of modern journalism. If it is not a cancer, it is a very dark spot indicating nothing good. I wonder if the men and women peddling the pessimism ever wonder who and what they serve when they embrace darkness and spin over plain old straight-reportage and truth.

Full disclosure: I am ashamed to admit that I fell for the lede just like too many others. In my dislike of Canterbury, I was too eager to believe that he had so shirked his responsibilities as a Shepherd, because I am a dark and broken creature full of prejudices, myself.

I guess the difference between me and those reporters, though, is that I am willing to admit my prejudice and try to correct what was wrong. I’m not spinning, and I have no pretense of being “unbiased,” either.

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