This post first appeared in The Finger Lakes Times as a weekly column in the series, “Denim Spirit.”: http://www.fltimes.com/opinion/denim-spirit-blackout/article_9c1b5665-befc-5524-9dc6-5e6e3ef1e1a9.html
Ugh, hurricane blackout again.
The Trump blackout will return soon enough, and initially the hurricane blackout was a moment of relief from the Trump one, but are we really incapable of sustaining simultaneous attention with multiple events? Is the gawker’s stare at tragedy or slow drive-by rubber-necking at carnage, truly a penchant of the majority of the viewing audience? Are we condemned to this mindless, nonstop blathering about the same thing, twenty-four hours a day, even if it is about real people and places we truly care about?
Someone should tell Anderson Cooper how ridiculously inauthentic he looks pelted by rain and buffeted by winds, when everyone knows his being there adds nothing new to the story except him. Big storm, bad stuff happening, people struggling, government and business behaving admirably or badly, okay, next news item please.
In any given moment around the planet, there are multiple monstrously bad things happening simultaneously, and rarely do they penetrate the hermetically sealed American awareness.
Genocidal pogroms in South Sudan, Myanmar, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and Burundi are taking place right now. As Harvey slammed into Texas, the worst floods in decades hit Bangladesh, India, and Nepal affecting forty-one million people and killing a thousand. Oh, and in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown, hundreds of homes and businesses were buried by a single mudslide. Peeking through the cloud cover of Irma was a story or two from Mexico City where the worst earthquake in living memory killed scores.
Then again, at any given moment there are a multitude of amazingly wonderful things happening simultaneously around the world also. Doctors in the U.S. performed the first-ever reversal of brain damage on a two-year old drowning victim. In India, citizens planted sixty-six million trees in twelve hours. France vowed to eliminate coal powered electricity by 2022. An eight-year-old girl became the youngest person to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover have vowed to make only electric and hybrid vehicles after 2020. A Maryland police officer bought diapers for a desperate young mother instead of arresting her for shoplifting.
There are literally thousands of stories we could smile at that never see the light of day under the monolithic wet blanket of nasty news wipe.
The breadth of our field of vision, and the broader context of the stories we read and hear, make all the difference in the world with whether or not we understand them. News organizations should be public service entities rather than commercially driven profit centers, and as such, ought to care about how news is delivered as well as what news is delivered. A relentless stream of hyperventilating tragedy and mayhem at the expense of in-depth reporting about other news at home and around the world, does not serve the public well in terms of creating a well-informed citizenry.
News coverage that sells well has actually distorted the perspective of ordinary citizens, and is at least in part, at fault for the political and social dysfunction we are experiencing as a nation.
We are long overdue for a change.