When was the last time you looked at your newsfeed and found inspirational and edifying stories?
You certainly won’t find many wholesome stories at the top of the newsfeed on mainstream media, whether they represent both the left and right ends of the political spectrum like MSNBC or FOX. Nor are you likely to find much good news on public news outlets such as PBS and social media platforms.
The reason is obvious, we don’t expect the news to be good. It’s not the purpose of the news to inspire and tell us about all the wonderful things happening in life. Rather, the nature of the news—especially these days—is to tell us how desperate things are and to rile us up. And much like a basketball team in the NBA playoffs, many of today’s news sources are using full-court press tactics to manipulate our perceptions and compel us to play on their team.
Who is to blame for the strategies news outlets use and the data they stream into our devices?
As the audience, we choose the broadcasters we like and who talk about the things we want to hear about. We choose our favorite news sources based on whether we prefer more in-depth and factually based programming or talkshow style commentaries such as stations found on YouTube or AM radio. We help generate the advertising dollars for network television news sources, and we are responsible for the “pay for click” dollars that provides many social media influencers with the income they enjoy.
Sure, it’s all a bit like the analogy of whether the dog is wagging its tail. Or is the tail wagging the dog? But ultimately, we dictate what news sources report on the moment we choose their channel over another.
Lately, however, I’m not so sure whether the events that are being reported in the news are getting worse, or whether it’s just the way the news is being delivered that makes me believe all hell is breaking loose.
There is one thing I’m certain of though, a dynamic of many news sources I find particularly distasteful, which is the way those who deliver the news are spending more and more time badmouthing people. Yet, “badmouthing” doesn’t quite capture the voracity to which many broadcasters are characterizing the villains in their stories. They are demonizing people—and segments of our society—with the avidity to which the Pharisees vilified the gentiles.
“Shooting our own wounded,” is how a professor of mine used to describe the tactic. “Kicking a person while they are down,” is the common cliché. And then there’s the expression “if it bleeds it leads,” which tends to be the media’s justification for running a story that could literally ruin a person’s life or reputation long before they’ve been proven to have done anything illegal.
Don’t get me wrong though. I’m no angel. Like everyone else I enjoy a good story in which the deeds of the “evil doers” are exposed and justice is swiftly enacted. In fact, at this very moment I am following the news cycle waiting to see if several former politicians and civil servants will be punished for their unethical conduct. But I’m not holding my breath. I’m not naive regarding the favoritism the American Justice system extends to the rich and powerful.
That said, I have devised a new rule in choosing which broadcasters, journalists, or social media influencers I listen to. The moment I hear them thoughtlessly ridiculing a fellow human being I switch them off or find another story more edifying to watch. I’m looking for facts not commentary, and especially the commentary that hurls insults and insinuations at people without proof.
Besides, the distribution of factual truth does not require kicking an opposing player while he or she is down, much less inflicting a mortal wound to their psyche and reputation. Nor does it require demonizing any segment of our society such as another political party, or religion—or whatever. And the moment the one behind the mic attempts to incite my emotions by getting me to hate another person . . . well, that just tells me they have little or no factual information to report.
Blinded by hatred and anger
There are unethical and immoral people in our society. (Some even hold public office.) There are groups and organizations in society that are counterproductive and cause much harm. It is the duty of the news to report on these segments of society and the individuals who are causing the mischief.
All I’m saying is we could do without the cheap insults hurled by the media towards others, because this kind of demoralizing language only serves two purposes: to incite hatred and fuel anger.
Either emotion will blind a person and render them unable to discern fact from fiction.