Read (Don’t Watch) Your News

news-1074610__340With new shootings in the news every week, and after months of headlines delivering the latest samples of hatespeech from presidential candidates, the concerned citizen should be asking “where did all the animosity, the anger, the hate come from?” –I have some ideas that could serve as a starting point for an answer–as well as a simple suggestion for those who wish to reduce the negative energy in their lives.

The first idea is that since 1987, the FCC stopped enforcing the Fairness Doctrine, then eliminated it in 2011. This policy was designed to preserve “honest, equitable and balanced” use of the airwaves—which belong to the public. It seems no coincidence that within a few years, talk radio became increasingly provocative and outrageous. The TV networks would soon follow. We need to put the Fairness Doctrine—or a new and better version of it—back into force; the airwaves belong to everyone (in economics this is called a ‘public good’) and allowing propaganda and hatespeech across our airwaves is the social equivalent of polluting the water or air.

The second idea is that in the battle for political and economic power (we are in a class war in case you didn’t notice) the use of logic fails—mostly because there’s something better to use, namely emotion.

How many members of a majority would support a candidate who represented an elite minority? The answer is: quite a few—if they are made to FEEL and not think.

Earlier this year, I watched the movie “Our Brand is Crisis.” Based on real events in Brazil in 2002, the American campaign manager used emotion to win the election for a corrupt politician in a small Latin American country. Emotion (usually hate) is the tactic of choice for propagandists. In Orwell’s 1984, the Party members attended a daily session called the Two-Minutes Hate. They watched images of various “enemy” characters and groups and shouted and screamed their rage at them on the screen. Orwell knew a thing or two about propaganda: he observed the best of them from Franco to Goebbels to Stalin.

The last idea is that most people today get their news on social, global, or national issues from 24-hour news TV or online versions from the same sources. Anyone who watches these presentations, with highly-charged debates amid shouting matches, gestures, and images that convey a narrative of fear and outrage, cannot stay neutral for long. Maybe the fact-checking comes along later, but the damage is done. Anyone who watches their news is “talking to the dragon”: they fall under the spell of an old, wise, powerful, and cunning creature.

While I do not suggest that essayists, journalists or bloggers cannot impart bias and stir emotion, anyone who visits diverse (this includes international) news sources and reads their news is less likely get the full context of feelings expressed visually, the physical and visceral and emotional context of “hate.”



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