I've decided to stop watching the news. I'll stop reading it, too. No more compulsive tapping on the refresh button on the CNN.com home page in the hopes that something wildly tragic has happened somewhere so I can palliate my boredom for five more minutes. No more news, because the news has blackened my worldview.
I no longer see happily playing children, bustling big cities, nor dedicated world leaders. Instead I see kidnapping victims, terror strike opportunities, and shifty members of clandestine organizations who are orchestrating psychological attacks on the news-viewing public. Each time I flip on the TV or pull up a news site, I'm looking for the next big hit: another 9-11, a ballsy daylight assault, a new tragedy to fill up that hole in my soul that used to be reserved for Three's Company and What's Happenin' repeats. In other words, tragedy has become my entertainment.
And Hollywood and the media are way ahead of me. In the same week that two children were abducted following the bludgeoning deaths of three of their relatives, Fox was plugging a new show called The Inside. "The evil that scarred her as a child now gives her insight into the FBI's most heinous crimes," goes the tag line. To paraphrase: A sexy gal who was abducted as a sexy child puts her trauma to work in a crime unit investigating sexy serial killers. My god, maybe someday poor little Shasta Groene will become a hotty with the balls to entertain us in this fashion. When I saw the promo for this new show, I realized how deeply the lines between entertainment and reality have bled.
The idea that I or anyone else could start thinking about the horrors of the nightly news as prime-time amusement forebodes a grim illness creeping into society. Would someone please issue an Amber Alert for my soul? I'm freaked out enough by the terrible stuff that actually happens. In addition to troubling my sleep, worrying me about my defenseless nieces, and convincing me that I'm going to die in a bombing that will martyr me against my will to "freedom," does it also have to be glamorized by putting a woman in a sexy skirt and sending her slithering right into the arms of fear? And it is being glamorized.
I'm no social scientist, but I am a journalism grad and there's a reason that people who commit suicide don't usually get a lot of air time. Yes, Fox News viewers, journalists do have a code of ethics (it's a self-policed policy for the most part), and it states that we don't glorify jackasses. Somehow the code doesn't stretch to cover people who commit crimes of incomprehensible violence on others. Instead we plaster their shameful faces over hill and dale, produce TV movies, and publish scads of minutely detailed infotainment on their deeds that make celebrities of them. I blame The Real World. They were our first taste of glorified criminality. That lot of bigots, unintellectual social deviants, and cretinous turds fallen from the scabby asses on high of Abercrombie & Fitch certainly gave the world the impression that we hanker for a hunk of the sordid.
Now, I'm not saying that it's all the fault of the media that there's been a noticeable upswing in tragedies. After all, it's the job of the media to report such things and if we discovered an unreported incident, we'd wonder what conspiracy was operating to withhold it from us. But I do think it's important to recognize when we, individually, start perceiving news stories as entertainment.
Admit it. When you saw the first, fresh footage of the attacks on 9-11, when you watched the president announce that we were going to war with Iraq, or when you heard that Saddam Hussein had been captured in his spidey-hole, you felt that little surge of electricity shoot up from the pit of your stomach, didn't you? It jolted you into calling someone, emailing someone, running to someone's desk and sharing the big news. You wanted to have a little half-day for water cooler discussion. You craved the next big development. You gnashed your teeth wondering how it was all going to pan out and hoping for another little surge of excitement. Go on, admit it. And when your regularly programmed viewing was interrupted last week for "breaking news" on the London bombings, you thought, "Finally, here it is!" and sizzled there in a little 20-volt jolt of excitement. You spent the rest of your day checking into news sites, hourly, hoping for another whopping revelation. You may even have been a little disappointed to eventually discover that only just over 50 people died.
This is why I must stop giving so much of my sparse attention to the news. If you really think about what kind of sensation you're getting from the news, you might discover that not only is it causing you to view the world through blood-tinted lenses, but it's also turning you into a vampire. We should respect and fear tragedy as anomalies, things that are not acceptable and not everyday, expected events. We shouldn't dampen our sense of shock by wallowing in bad news. We certainly shouldn't start expecting the same kind of macabre rush from movies and fictions that glorify killings and rapes.
There's a line between being well-informed and working bad news into my leisure activities, unfortunately, it's becoming more and more difficult for me to make the distinction, what with so much information available at all times and all the media chasing after increasingly more horrific stories with which to satiate my growing appetite. I partially blame the Internet, with its 24/7 access and its ability to network psychopaths into self-sanctioning groups that allow them to believe that their bizarre inclinations are acceptable . . . but that's getting ahead of myself. News addiction is a tough one to break. After all, how will I amuse myself every five minutes without discretely packaged clips of sensationalism? Will I be expected to turn to a book, where it will take me days to uncover the story, where the finale is life-altering character development, and where I have to provide my own, unmediated, one-sided analysis, without the guiding hand of Wolf Fucking Blitzer? It may very well come to that. And I hope to eventually recover the less wounded Weltanschauung of pre-9-11.
Photo Credit for Vampire Rabbit: Philip Lindsay
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