Words matter. Take it from me, I’m an author. Well-chosen words can eulogize, sanctify, memorialize, rouse, inspire, sway, calm, and other verbs do even more. Words spoken on media outlets really matter because they’re specifically designed to strike some sort of chord. They’re purposefully chosen to manipulate to achieve a desired response. So that headline got me thinking. Then it made me remember. Here’s a bit of updated déjà vu. Some of it may sound familiar because you may have read bits of it here before.
Monday Déjà vu
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, out from under every rock, it seems, they find a barrage of bad news to share with us. It’s usually delivered with a slice of fear on the side. 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 know I do. What thinking adult wants to be manipulated?
Pure and simple –sensationalism sells. Sponsors pay money to news syndicates in the hope 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, exactly that– 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. The human mind only has to see or hear something three times before it sinks in. I can’t express how insidious this all is. Test yourself. I’ll wager you can recall the slogans of several products right off the top of your head, and recognize dozens more corporate logos at a glance.
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-mindedness has been hijacked and corrupted. The daily dose of fear-manipulated news causes our innate empathy and compassion to be 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 or go on shooting sprees in churches and movie theaters. Before we realize what’s happening, people gather to shout raging obscenities at frightened children at the US border, and horrible picketers at funerals carry signs written with hateful things like your soldier son died because god hates fags. This is also how people come to stand passively by while others are led to gas chambers.
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. You see this in 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. You hear it in the repetition of rhetoric and precision-placed talking points that read like taglines and slogans. And it’s all done on purpose because sex and slogans work. Now imagine sex and a slogan in context with fear. Who can turn away from it?
Early in August, this same media outlet will choose the five most popular republican candidates deemed worthy of air-time for a primary debate. And to make it a sideshow worthy of big-money sponsors, it’ll have nothing to do with the candidates’ governing experience or what their solutions to very real problems might be, rather it will consist of name blame and petty antics. The winner at the end of the night will be the guy with the most flagrant showmanship. I already have an idea who that will be.
So here we have the minority of just 5% influencing the direction of other 95%. The serious office of the president of the United States is treated with all the respect of a reality show. What has happened to this country? When the world is such a volatile place right now, is this really who we are? Is it really who we should be?
Here’s a humorous peek at how we’re bombarded with a single talking point. Have a laugh, then imagine they’re talking fear-based talking points instead.
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.
My 100 things will focus on malapropisms and I’ll stick with it until I can’t find any more. From the French mal a propos (meaning inappropriate). Dictionary.com defines malapropisms as an act or habit of misusing words ridiculously, especially by the confusion of words that are similar in sound.
Here’s one for today:
It will take time to restore chaos and order. GW Bush
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