First appeared on Blogcritics.
My father used to say that TV reporters never met a disaster they didn’t like. I used to think that he was just making a joke, but as I have grown older I see how true his observation has become. Everything is doom and gloom, and this holds true for all media.
Sign on to the Internet and you are inundated with headlines playing on your worst fears about your health – "Four Signs of a Heart Attack," "Serious Causes of Your Back Pain," "Seven Foods to Never Eat," "Why Doctors Want You to Take Meds," and so on. People are so susceptible to this kind of manipulation, and if you click on one of these links, disappointingly you will be usually led to a long video presentation hawking some kind of alternative product. Sadly, it's all about making money and has little to do with what is best for you.
As for the so called "news," a pernicious attack on our senses is thrust upon us by the media every day and is overwhelming in our lives. We are bombarded with negativity; whether the stories are about politics, North Korea, Iran, ISIS, fracking, global warming, or the Zika virus, they are all manufactured to cause anxiety and fear among we who keep watching because we have been conditioned to believe those promoting the problem also have an answer to it.
There is an old saying that is true more than ever for the media – “If it bleeds it leads.” So you get all sorts of stories about murder and mayhem and the usual warning not to watch the graphic images that are coming on screen. Of course, then many viewers continue watching and see how ugly the world can be.
I have long complained that the media will focus its attention on perpetrators after an incident. I refuse to watch these reports, but many do under the guise of understanding the mind of a killer. I know I for one don’t want to know anything about the killer or the reasons why he/she became one. Giving exposure to mass murderers or child abusers is like a recruiting tool for the next psycho longing for fifteen minutes of infamy.
One just has to look at the current political campaign for the presidency to see how the media has used it to pump fear into the electorate. We are bombarded with negative stories about the candidates. Whether it’s Mrs. Clinton’s emails, Mr. Sanders being a socialist, or Mr. Trump’s outlandish comments, the observations we can take away are all derogatory. The candidates do not help matters by throwing as much mud as possible at one another.
The Zika virus story is another example of the media using a story to foment fear. Today I heard several headlines on the radio or television that were something like “Zika Virus Passed By Sexual Activity,” “The Zika Virus Causing People to Cancel Vacations,” and “Zika Virus Threatens All 50 States.” Then the latest thing I heard was that President Obama was requesting $1.8 billion to battle Zika, but wanted Americans to know there was no need to panic. If you are listening to all this what are you supposed to believe? The sole purpose involved here is to scare the audience and make certain it reads, watches, or listens to the story.
More doom and gloom comes to you each day from the pharmaceutical companies. They advertise everything from anti-depressants to sexual performance drugs, and their ads are as slick as they come. Usually we are shown someone who is at first suffering in some way – these people are in hopeless states before learning about the drug in the ad. Suddenly the screen becomes bright, people are smiling, and all is right with the world because of that magic pill. If you hang on long enough to listen to the side effects, which many times will include something like “and can cause death,” you might think twice about taking that pill no matter what your symptoms are.
According to the so-called experts in the media, there is something wrong with everything we like or enjoy doing. Sodium and sugar are agents of evil; soda and juice are like arsenic and old lace, and beer, cold cuts, and desserts are enemies of the state. Literally anything we like to eat or drink comes under some kind of warning with a skull and crossbones over it. Again, this is the operation of causing fear and making us feel that only the source broadcasting these admonitions has the answer to solve the problem.
Perhaps the most extensive media coverage goes to disasters. Give news people an earthquake, blizzard, tsunami, hurricane, or tornado to cover, and they are as giddy as children on the last day of school before summer vacation. Each time something like this happens we are subject to overwhelming coverage of the event as if there is no other news anywhere in the world.
At this point the media no longer does its job of reporting the news. Now the media has become our watchdog, our overseer, and our conscience. The days of relying on the media to convey what’s happening in the world are gone; now its purpose is to incite, to condemn, and most of all frighten viewers and readers. The incongruous theory used must be this –
The more we frighten people the more they will tune in, and in the end the media’s concern is nothing so benevolent as our health and well-being but ratings. Ratings equal money, and that is what drives all this fear mongering.
So if you have had it with the culture of fear created by the media and its kindred spirit the pharmaceutical companies, change the channel or turn off the TV. The ultimate power still lies in your hands – the remote control.
Photo Credits: cnn, foxnews