Is constant bad news crippling our emotional and cognitive resilience – plus creating lame and ineffective politicians?
I happened to be watching the Chaser’s Media Circus on the ABC last night – and they had Tracey Spicer, a long time Australian news reader, on the show. She was trying to place the order of news items in a game called ‘Out Of Order’, when she came up with this statement:
“This is a really tough one… a boss at a radio station once told me, ‘You need to scare the audience into listening to you. Its all about fear. You’ve got to frighten them more’….” (extract below)
Tracey, a 27 year news veteran, has nailed it. News is about manufacturing fear – and fear sells.
I grew up in South Africa without television (which only arrived in 1976), and thus we were not only isolated, but insulated from news. Very different today. I have also become more aware since starting this blog, that the delivery of news has been distorted to transmit fear. And that this is measured and DELIBERATE. A recent and blatant example is the orchestrated campaign over the (partly fabricated) ISIS beheading videos alongside the extreme coverage.
Governments also understand that by frightening the people about terrorism, for example, they can then go to war, remove civil liberties, and pass deplorable laws with permission from the people – and politicians take advantage of this to win or stay in power. They know fear facilitates compliance, while selling papers and boosting ratings in the mainstream media (MSM).
But what about Fear?
Fear is a human emotion that is triggered by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism that signals our bodies to respond with a fight or flight response (or freeze), and it is medically known that people who exist with constant fear can become incapacitated.
Fear prepares us to react to danger. Our body releases hormones that slow certain functions; changes our heart rate and blood flow; and increases hormones to an area of the brain known as the amygdala etc. Once the fear pathways are ramped up, the brain short-circuits more rational processing paths and reacts immediately to signals from the amygdala. When in this overactive state, the brain perceives events as negative and remembers them that way.
Thus, living under constant threat or fear weakens our immune system, can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems, and can interrupt processes in our brains that allow us to regulate emotions. This can generally lead to depression. And I believe fear-mongering (especially in the manner proliferated by news) has led to an anxious, compliant and demoralized society.
The rise of Depression.
The rise in mental health problems is somewhat a puzzle. As Paul Frijters writes “A true modern puzzle: why is the rate of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety increasing in the US, Australia, urban China, and most Western countries?” He does not believe that improved health care or greater recognition of existing illness explains the increase, or the trend for the younger demographic to have anxiety disorders. It is said 50% of people will at some point suffer from depression.
It is clear that for the individual: News is bad for you and giving up reading it will make you happier (says The Guardian), and that we are beginning to recognize how toxic news can be. As described in the article, the media generally feeds us small bites of trivial matter that can mislead; be irrelevant and waste time; has no explanatory power; increases cognitive errors; is addictive; makes us passive and kills creativity. Their conclusion:
MSM News is toxic.
But there is a qualifying note:
“Society needs journalism – but in a different way. Investigative journalism is always relevant. We need reporting that polices our institutions and uncovers truth”.
So it seems news is demoralizing, dis-empowering, and presents our dysfunctional world as normal. Feeding us mainly BS fear is one thing. But I believe there is a bigger problem. The news is…
Poisoned with Deception
Take 9/11 for example. Two planes smash into the South and North towers. But three skyscrapers come down.
The MSM immediately went into overdrive to conceal what really happened that day on the 11th of September. And by taking advantage of fear immobilizing a nation, the MSM played their part in fabricating the enemy, and thus being part of the great deception. So…
“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed”. Adolf Hitler
I speak to people who carefully exclude the bad news from their life (and are probably happier for it). But unless we start rejecting the fear mongering mainstream media and expose their DECEPTION, these people will remain living in a fool’s paradise.