Good News Bad News

I’m harboring a grudge. Why are news programs and movies so violent? I can’t punch my tv remote fast enough to avoid horrors scarring my brain. Because today is a slow news day locally, I see footage of murders in Finland. And when I quickly flip away I witness two bikini-clad blondes running from a fake crocodile who swallows half of one of them—and as the other woman pulls and pulls her friend, she’s left holding half of her friend’s bloody bikini-clad torso.

It’s simplistic to blame (as does the Financial Times) Rupert Murdoch. He’s only feeding our collective psyche. The target is too big and amorphous to focus a counter attack.

It’s getting worse. I think it’s somehow similar to cars slowing down as drivers gawp at a traffic accident. Why is an abandoned baby news?   Why aren’t newspapers filled with stories of baby adoptions?

Dr. Andrew Weil has suggested if we feel depressed or sad we should try taking a news fast.  Wise man.

I can’t figure it out. Maybe we’re sublimating. Social scientists tell us that we are living in a less and less violent world. This fact is noted in the recent book Better Angels Of Our Nature by Steven Pinker ($24.09 on Amazon).

And perhaps we are wired for violence, so violent news actually helps bring us to a less violent place. (I use the word “we” with caution; testosterone plays a big role in violence, I suspect.) This theory maintains that watching violent news footage satisfies our violent impulses.

A male friend casually opines that “sensationalism” is the reason for reporting violence. He can’t define “sensationalism” and instead my usually-sensitive pal eagerly enumerates many of the latest news horrors—he starts with a recent national story about the branding of prostitutes by a pimp.

One unpleasant elephant sitting in the middle of my room is that in Manhattan–and I suspect elsewhere as well—black people are tabloid fodder. When a horror story is about middle or upper-class white people, it’s usually accompanied by photographs of them.

Switching gears, here’s another theory: maybe since we are living longer we experience more tragedy. And maybe witnessing the violence and misery of others makes us feel less alone and less prone to violence and misery.

What to do.

Dr. Weil suggests comedy and other reasons to laugh—as substitutes for violent news and movies.

What do you suggest?

I try to ignore the problem and giggle through old Frasier or Seinfeld episodes. It almost works.

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