I started my day today as I always do — waiting on brewing coffee and checking my email. Authors have so much email. An average morning has around 75+. I won’t even go in to what it looks like if I don’t check it throughout the day. After a vacation two years ago I had more than 1000 waiting on me. The thing about checking my yahoo.com email is to get there I get to see the headlines page. This morning I saw this: Islamic State militants destroy one of Iraq’s most-revered shrines.
Maybe it’s my historic preservation background, or maybe it’s just my sense of right and wrong, but this stuff, like the bombing of the Bamiyan Buddhas, or the Nazi sacking of the Amber Room in the Russia’s Catherine Palace, is repugnant. Destroying the culture and history because they don’t fit your ideology just brings the whole world down.
I try not to look, I really do. But a headline will catch my eye. (that elephant from a few weeks ago is burned into my heart) I rarely follow that headline. One sentence is often more than enough to make me feel hopeless. If you’re like me, you’re swimming up to your eyeballs in bad news because the media uses it like a cudgel on our sensibilities. From every angle, from every corner of the world, from under every rock it seems, they find bad news to share with us. It’s a barrage. What else can we possibly feel if not doomed? If you stop to think about this, really think about it, you’ll realize it’s over the top for a reason. You also might find yourself getting angry. I do.
Pure and simple –sensationalism sells. Sponsors pay money to news syndicates in the hopes their product will be seen or heard about. If people are watching, they’re getting a dose of products for sale along with their fear and anxiety. Yes, fear and anxiety. Bad news makes us fear and fearful people stay close to the news. When there’s bad news, people stay tuned to be sure something terrible isn’t headed their way. Staying close to the news keeps us close to sponsor product. I can’t express how insidious this is.
Not all that long ago, researchers discovered that it only takes a minority of just 5% to influence a crowd’s direction. That means the other 95% follow without realizing they are. FOX news has this flock tending down to a science. From the way they dress their female commentators to show bare arms and short skirts(even in January) to add a subliminal sexual undertone to sharpen the watcher’s focus, to the repetition of rhetoric and precision-placed talking points that read like taglines and slogans. Sex and slogans work.
What Boomer doesn’t know these products? “plop plop fizz fizz oh what a relief it is” or “snap crackle pop” or “two-all-beef-patties-special sauce-lettuce-cheese-on a-sesame seed bun”?
Going further back, how about: “I’d rather fight than switch” or “you can trust your car to the man that wears a star”?
See it in the news: “if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit” or the “Palling Around’ With Terrorists” or “Barack Hussein Obama” as if this middle name somehow tied the man to the dictator of Iraq.
I just realized I have a load of these things imbedded in my brain. There are so many I might do a series on slogans!
Here’s a humorous peek at how we’re bombarded with a single talking point. I had to reload it because youtube had it in a playlist and it ended up being a woman playing piano. Have a laugh, then imagine they’re talking bad news instead.
Herd mentality is a double-edged sword. The roots go back to cooperative hunting– to work together to ensure survival. Today, we’re well-fed and this natural inclination for community teamwork has been hijacked and corrupted. The 5% shout the bad news and the 95% eventually have their innate empathy and compassion sandblasted away. It breaks our moral compass. This is how we get extreme behaviors in society. This is how we get “us vs them” and that leads people to hate and becomes what drives them to find the scapegoat. This is how people gather to shout raging obscenities at frightened children at the US border. This is also how people come to stand passively by while others are led to gas chambers.
Free speech is a beloved gift in this world. In fact, I’m exercising it here. But the right to wag your fist ends at the other guy’s nose. If bad news has broken the moral compass that says enough is enough, then the fear rules and the hateful herd grows.
“Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.”
~Bertrand Russell (philosopher)
I would think the best way to combat bad news is to be sure good news gets talked about. I’ll leave you with some good news –LOTS of good news. Because it really is out there. Spread the word.
For 100 days, I’ll post something from my chosen topic: Clichés.
There are 60 entries to come.
Here’s a cliché for today:
Birds of a feather flock together
Today is an interview with Author Victoria Adams
The Romance Books ’4′ Us Annual Christmas in July Contest is almost over. We have 32 prizes for ONE WINNER! http://www.romancebooks4us.com
Victoria is also on the Exquisite Quills blog today taking part in a fundraiser for shelter dogs. Come see.
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