I used to work in broadcasting. Back in those days (I hate when I hear myself say that), to produce even a half hour of local news cost an astounding sum of money. I am going to share with you what I learned from years of working in TV; the programs exist to fill the spaces between commercials and the commercials (which exploit every conceivable weakness and fear in human-kind) bring in revenue which is mostly used to fund news departments. So when CNN launched 24hr News on June 1st, 1980 almost anyone who worked in the news industry thought it would be unsustainable and a whopping financial flop. That was over 35 years ago.
In spite of the unlimited video recording devices in our back pockets, TV news remains astronomically expensive to produce. Soon TV executives came to realize that it was too expensive to send reporters out to report on actual news and much LESS expensive to hire personalities to give their opinions on perceived news. Then those opinions can be played over and over until we accept opinion as fact. These are the people who are molding our history now. Heck, even Glenn Beck is writing and producing History House, preserving his version of history in stories for children who, he imagines, are just waiting for his opinions.
I recently met a group of friends discussing the violent crime rate and what we could do, as concerned citizens, to reduce it. If these fine people had read FBI reports instead of listening to 24hr News they would know that since the early 1990’s crime in America has dropped… sharply. We have reduced crime. We continue to reduce crime. Crime rates now are almost as low they were in 1960. That is fact (please google the FBI violent crime statistics if you doubt this), but how can you convince someone who watches the news… for the news cycle knows how remarkably effective fear is at keeping our eyes on the screen. They run and re-run opinions, between re-runs of shooting and gore… until we accept that NOW is… (Insert computer generated explosion) an unbelievably horrible time in which to live.
So I’m just going to come out and say this… TV is not real. TV news is an illusion. Magic pictures fly through the air. They invade our homes like body snatchers for profit, paid for by commercials selling products that promise to make us feel better. TV is turning us into a nation of frightened people and that’s a pretty sad commentary on the Home of the Brave.
All the while the world improves… silently.
Six months after the debut of CNN, singer/songwriter, John Lennon was shot down outside his home in New York City. It was run and re-run, between ads for deodorant and aspirin. You might have seen a picture of him on my FB page on the anniversary of his death. I reposted it from a woman named Chiron O’Keefe who keeps better accounts of such things. A day later I heard the lyrics of his song:
“A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.”
And that is what I wish for too.
So, make it a good one. And if you want to watch your news, by all means, watch. Just remember that fear has been brought to you by someone who just wants to sell you something.