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September 2015

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Archie Bunker

24-Hour Not-Really-News

For a few years now I have avoided viewing TV "news" fairly successfully, and it has truly been nothing but beneficial. Every once in a while though it surprises me, like the old pie-in-the-face bit, but in slow motion...and as the filling starts to inevitably engulf my face...I realize with horror that it is made not of cocount cream...it is made of shit...

Yesterda I brought our car in to be serviced. Somewhere between the front desk and the waiting room I remembered that the TV would be on, as it always is, and probably at a volume which would make reading difficult. (Usually there are three or four people obediently gawping up at the screen, regardless of what is on. Daytime game shows, soap operas, and the news channels all seem equally enthralling to the viewers somehow.) Today there was just one other man. He was leafing through a brochure on the new 2016 Silverado while the TV assaulted the room. Sure, the brochure wasn't exactly deep reading, but he wasn't absorbed by the TV which was promising. Then with a smile he handed me the remote control and said, "Whatever you'd like to watch is fine by me."

Returning his smile I replied with a hopeful, "Actually I'd prefer to just turn it off entirely."

His smile disappeared and he looked at me as though I had just suggested we pass the time by trying to guess how many men his mother had slept with in her lifetime.

Ok then. CNN it is.

A press conference had just started where a bunch of appropriately somber-looking officials took turns talking about bravery, tragedy, sacrifice, and then offering little to no information about the latest shooting. Makes sense. They're investigating. More info to come. Check.

Moving on?

No. Now it's time for the press to ask questions. And boy, what questions they were! "Was the slain gunman shot multiple times, and if so, where was he hit?" The answer to this was probably the only one which I found to be personally satisfying: "The forensics aren't back yet but he was hit enough times in the right places to kill him." I can't recall the other questions; almost all were inane, pointless, and asked with an excitement that made me feel ill. The questions seemed to be posed simply because they wanted to have something, anything, to ask, to have something add to the non-story that had just been given to them. But why?

My answer came after the press conference wrapped up and a commercial break.

Back to the studio and a parade of anchors, "experts", and a few contributors that seemed to have wandered into the studio, found a microphone, and just started blathering nonsense. They dissected every piece of non-information, mentioned multiple times that the FBI said the shooter had been wearing a "load bearing vest" (which is relevent to us sitting at home how?) and, most astounding, started filling in all the blanks with wild speculation. I get it; they are trying to fill 24 hours by spreading the most sensational stories of the day incredibly thin. How do they seriously call themselves a "news network?"

Of course it's not just CNN. There are several. The majority of them really. And they do it with enthusiasm...a thinly-veiled glee. Yes there are a few that straightforwardly report the news, such as the PBS NewsHour, but they garner just a tiny fraction of total viewership.

Why do we feed this machine? Why do we give energy to this...sick, awful THING...a Thing that picks at the bones of both the dead and the still living with barely contained ecstasy? Why?

The next time someone asks, with that usual air of surprise and mild superiority, why I don't watch the news my answer will be simple:

Because this is not news. It is the most vile sort of pornography. It is the pornography of pain and suffering. It is obscene and I refuse to give it more power.

And If enough of us stop giving it power, it will die. A death which cannot come too soon for my taste.

Comments

You absolutely nailed it: "The pornography of pain and suffering."

It's a ratings game. No one seems to actually care about the people...the real story.
Nearly all the focus is on the criminal(s) instead of the victims because that's what sells. Drama.

When Charlie's mom was murdered and the news did its obligatory pornographic spiel, they got half of everything reported wrong. And they tried hard to focus on gruesome details instead of her or her life or the wake of sadness left in the lives of those who loved her.

Like you, I try not to watch news anymore. In some ways, it does disconnect me from important events. I'm not up to speed on what's going on the world, but if it's something big, Facebook will let me know and then I can find out what I want from various sources. Otherwise, going news-free has removed a great deal of emotional negativity.
Thank you for sharing that aspect. I'm a little embarrassed that I hadn't specifically explored how it might feel to those close to the victims.

There is a show on Netflix called "The Killing" which was mostly slow and uninteresting, but they did explore things from the side of the family and the shit they deal with between the media and police. Of course it's fiction and probably misses the mark in many ways, but I think it's important that we consider the impact on the lives of those families and friends of victims who are left to deal with the aftermath. Empathy and compassion are sorely lacking.
I have often been the one in the car place who, when I notice no one is watching, walks over and turns the tv off. the end.

But yeah. no news is the best thing for the mental stuff and the heart stuff. otherwise we all go a little crazy and our hearts break over and over.

Edited at 2015-07-28 06:44 pm (UTC)