I like that social media allow for real time interaction with people from around the world. One of the people I have made contact with is a blogger from Japan who is posting at http://holyfirejapan.blogspot.com/ named Steve Barrett.
Steve posted a Twitter comment (@stevetsunami) about the hysteria of American media in their coverage of the events in Japan. As a result of my recent experience in Rome his comment triggered some thoughts about news media.
I previously posted about the similarities of television and movie violence to the spectacles of the Roman Colosseum. When I wrote that post, I did not think to include television news in my musings. Someone once jokingly said of TV news, “if it bleeds, it leads.” In other words, the most shocking story is the one that gets the most attention. We, as fallen human beings, seem to gravitate toward shocking.
Perhaps this stems from a need to find someone worse off than we so that we feel better about our own conditions by comparison. Perhaps there is something in the suffering that provides perverse stimulation. Perhaps it allows the viewer to feel superior to his peers, like the person who likes to always be ready with an “I told you so.” Whatever the impulse behind hysteria and overstatement, it is wrongheaded and sometimes very creepy.
I suspect that sometimes the stories are chosen and overstated for their support of the political or social world view of the news editor. For example, before “global warming” morphed into “climate change,” every cataclysmic event was heralded as a consequence of man’s destruction of his environment. This exposed the semi-religious fervor of many in media for the “green” movement.
The only good motivation for knowing about a tragedy is to pray and to find ways of helping. The good news is that historically, Americans have responded to disasters (how we use this word so glibly) in a positive way. We have sent supplies and personnel to help alleviate suffering around the world.
The question I have to ask myself as I consume any news is “toward what end is this driving me?” Is the news vendor trying to lead me in a particular direction? If so, what is that direction and is that a direction that God is leading me to go?
We are called to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. We need to be aware of what is happening around us but not loose confidence that God is in control The question to be asked is what would God like me to do in response to the needs around me? How can I make a difference?