I rarely sit down to watch the news on TV. Sometimes, I’ll put on the evening news while cooking dinner, but for the most part I avoid TV news entirely. I get most, if not all, of my news from the internet these days. I can open a tab, browse a news article, and then close it when I’m done. Written articles, for me, are far less anxiety provoking; with written news articles, you don’t hear looped sound bites, or see flashing words, or try to make sense of panels of up to 9 pundits scrutinizing some political decision. Written news doesn’t catastrophize nor does it sensationalize to the same degree that TV news does. It just is.
TV news, on the other hand, is hard to look away from. The news being reported itself doesn’t change very quickly, but TV news outlets can spin one story five different ways within a half-hour segment. When tragedy strikes, the images of the tragedy are looped, and people with no authority/credible voice speculate to a degree that causes mass hysteria. It’s hard to look away from, like a train wreck in slow motion. You know the outcome, the devastation, but you can’t look away.
I remember being ten years old, on vacation with my family in Puerto Rico, and unable to look away from the TV as reports about the TWA Flight 800 crash unfolded. I remember being 13 and watching SWAT teams go into Columbine High School ushering out survivors. I remember being 15 and seeing the planes crash into the Twin Towers on 9/11 every five minutes on CNN. I remember the earthquake/tsunami in Indonesia in 2006. School shootings, natural disasters, assassination attempts, movie theater shootings, threats of chemical attacks, plane crashes… the media is there to wind you up, to provide 24/7 coverage, to make assumptions, to retract misstated “facts,” to provide opinion, to place the wronged on pedestals, to vilify any and all perpetrators, proven or otherwise. Major news outlets will always be there.
And we will always be there to watch. To absorb. To have fear instilled in us. To find someone to blame. To attempt to explain something that, without evidence, can’t possibly be explained. And we act based on what we absorb.
The decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown has evoked a lot of raw emotions in the American people (on BOTH sides of the argument). I’m not going to get into the politics of it. I’m NOT going to make my stance clear. That’s not what this post is for.
I write this as I sit in front of my television. I’ve been watching Al Jazeera’s news broadcast since 10 AM, hoping it will provide the least commentary and spit the least vitriol. I’ve been watching clips of Ferguson, Missouri burning. I’ve been watching clips of riots and protests all over the United States.
People are hurting. This is being made abundantly clear. Their hurt is manifesting itself in different ways, but the bottom line is hurt being experienced across the country.
It is easy for news outlets to fixate on negative news, because that’s what gets ratings. The negative, the tragedies, they serve as a call to action or inaction, to inspire fear or resolve. They are meant to divide, plain and simple.
I have my opinions and beliefs about what is right and what is wrong. They are mine and mine alone, and I’m not here writing in an attempt to sway you.
What I am saying, what I am passionate about, is reducing or stopping altogether the mass hysteria. What I am saying is that we need broadcast media to pare down their reporting to the facts. We need unbiased truth.
We need to turn off the TV. We need to turn off the radio. We need to close the tabs on our browser. You’re allowed to walk away and breathe. You’re allowed a reprieve from the madness in the world. You can just be.
One last memory before I end this post. After 9/11, my friends and I were sitting in my basement. It was 9/12 at that point. CNN, MSNBC, FOX were all looping the same footage. The radio stations all looped CBS news soundbites. Finally, around 7 PM on 9/12, one of the local radio stations decided to stop looping the news and instead provide a bit of normalcy, a reprieve from the madness. They wanted callers to call and request songs. The first call requested “Everybody Hurts” by REM, and it couldn’t have been more relevant. It acknowledged the pain felt across the country, but in the last line, Michael Stipe encouraged everyone to “hold on” as the song faded out.
Turn off the TV. Don’t let it fuel your fear, your insecurity, your anxiety, your hate.
Just hold on.