Does the News really make you as informed as you'd like to think you are?
Posted on 20th January 2021 at 07:20
And, yes, before we go any further we know this simple question is going to touch a raw spot with some people. But, as usual, we’re not trying to send anyone’s blood pressure through the roof or be provocative. Merely give you a different perspective on something we all take for granted. We’ve mentioned it in passing on a number of occasions and, with the increasingly hysterical nature of mainstream reporting, thought it was time to make it the topic of the week. So, if you need to, take a deep calming breath – or two (!) – before reading on.
Turn back the clock a surprisingly short time – relatively speaking (!) – and News was very local in nature. Largely by word of mouth, it concerned what was going on in your particular village, town or area. Some was good. A new arrival, marriage or piece of good fortune. Some less so and usually acted as a warning of something you needed to be aware of. A possible or direct threat. Theft, attack, illness or death. Often it involved people you knew or were related to, whether directly or indirectly. Occasionally, News came from further afield. Perhaps about fighting or a truce between neighbouring countries. However, in the main, the News affected you personally in some way, came from someone you actually knew – whether directly or indirectly – and was useful for you to know.
Come back to today and the News is very different. Not only HOW it reaches us but, more importantly, its CONTENT, SOURCE and CONTEXT. No longer being local and personal to us or where we live; but worldwide and impersonal. Nor covering ALL the News – good and bad – but focussed on the bad, whatever and wherever it may happen to be. Not coming from someone we know personally, however distantly and so can vouch for.
Not surprisingly, this very narrow and negative focus generates a huge amount of concern and fear. It’s also led to the very natural assumption that the world is a much more dangerous place than it’s ever been – and getting more so every day. However, a large number of studies have shown this is simply not the case. Rather than the world being the most dangerous place than it’s ever been, for most people the reverse is true. And, yes, we appreciate this is rather a sweeping generalisation. While there will always be people affected in some negative way, for the vast majority of people, the world is a much safer place than it’s ever been.
Which brings us on to CONTEXT or, all too often, its lack. Simply reporting x, whatever x may be, is essentially meaningless; leaving us to make assumptions to fill in the gaps. Crucially, we do this using our own experiences and our own lives, not those of where whatever it is occurred. And not forgetting that to assume makes an ASS out of U and ME…
Here’s a quick example to show what we mean. Say, you live in a remote village in the mountains. Each winter wolves come into the village at night looking for food and, occasionally, some livestock or a person gets attacked or even killed. All the locals know this happens and takes their own precautions. Being more vigilant, making sure their livestock is shut up at night, not going out unless absolutely necessary. And then someone gets attacked.
To the locals, this is perfectly understandable, particularly as they know the CONTEXT. Perhaps it was due to an easily identifiable reason, a lack of care or unnecessary risk taking. Perhaps it just “one of those things”. Either way, the locals had the full facts and could assess for themselves whether any additional precautions were needed to keep everyone safe. The News was useful them.
However, if someone from another area without wolves heard the bare facts, that someone had been attacked by wolves, they may reach an entirely different conclusion. This is why CONTEXT is so important and why judging any News from our own particular viewpoint – and area – is so fraught with danger. And by our own area, it can be the actual place where we live or the country itself. It’s also why trying to judge something that happened in the past – whether in our lifetimes or centuries ago – is also fraught with danger.
Added to this is our love of a griping story, the more sensational, the better. However, all this does is generate even more fear, ironically making us more susceptible to more bad news stories as our natural survival tendencies go into overdrive.
So, a single wolf attack in one remote village is aggregated with all the other wolf attacks in the area – or country – that winter. Or over the last few winters. Very quickly a single event morphs into something entirely different. “Experts” appear in their droves, usually with little firsthand knowledge let alone experience, adding generous helpings of speculation and hearsay dressed up as facts. Then, just as quickly, the whole story is dropped as the next “big” news story appears. And, so the merry-go-round continues…
Sadly, once again, this process has been accelerated by our increasingly technological age. 24 hour rolling News channels trying to make news stories out of the smallest matter or break large stories down into a few simple “facts.” With plenty of “experts” thrown in for good measure to repeat the “facts” or message to be put across. Increasing insistence there is only one interpretation of the “facts” with the same phrases or “spin” appearing across every News channel, regardless of their purported independence or affiliations. Which on its own should sound very loud warning bells…
With most people having grown up believing they needed to follow the News to find out what was going on, this can be a very bitter pill to swallow. Sadly, the days are long gone – although this may simply be a case of rose tinted spectacles – where the News was provided independently by journalists who exhaustively researched their story before committing it to print.
This is why we ALWAYS encourage you to do your own research. Making up your own mind on what you think about a particular topic, rather than letting someone else do it for you.
And, we know what you’re thinking. It’s going to be hard work. Or, a lot of work. Well, just think how much time you spend each day checking the headlines, watching the news or reading a paper. Not only can we guarantee it’ll take up more time than you’d ever realised, but doing a little research for yourself will only take a fraction of it. Yes, really!
Added to this, you’ll have a much better understanding of what’s actually going on. For that particular issue and more generally too. You’ll feel empowered, rather than worried and fearful, no longer at the mercy of external events.
And, if you need another reason to make the break, you’ll feel so much better without all that negativity and feeling of helplessness. More in control of your life. Able to think for yourself and make your own decisions.
As always, the choice is yours.
Photograph by unknown author
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