This is not about Afghanistan. If you’ve been watching any national news channels then you would think the only thing going on in the world is in Afghanistan. If you watch national sports channels, it would seem the only thing worth talking about is Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys.
It is both exasperating and just plain irresponsible — at least on the news aspect, sports broadcasting is not important enough to be irresponsible. By crying foul (a sports metaphor), I am not demeaning or in any way disrespecting the suffering, grief, and sacrifices that have taken place in Afghanistan. For those who have family and friends in harm’s way, have served in Afghanistan, or lost loved ones there over the past twenty years, it may very well be their entire world at this moment. In those circumstances, there can’t be enough news. I want to acknowledge that and not seem to be criticizing those for whom this is a deeply personal moment and theater of passionate concern.
Even so, the national news is treating Afghanistan the way it covers hurricanes: an endless loop of sensationalism and conversation over limited information. It both distorts the significance and implications of the news stories receiving such hyper-focus, while diminishing what else is happening in the world as it gets ignored. Now that Ida has wreaked havoc on Louisiana, and the American deadline for leaving Kabul has just passed, it will be interesting to see how long Afghanistan remains the media wreak on the highway we are all asked to slow down and rubberneck toward.
False information and propaganda for which Fox, Drudge Report, and Newsmax are are often accused, is not the only news media problem we have in this country. Salacious cable and broadcast news distorts reality by obsessing on events that provide tragic, gory, or lugubrious images and content while ignoring local or global events and details that may seem less interesting but actually effect our lives in exceptional ways.
Economists and environmentalists have been vigorously advocating for governments to make it sharply more expensive for manufacturing and farming to emit greenhouse gases — one of the significant factors in climate change. If one half of the time spent on Afghanistan coverage this past month had been spent on who is profiting from greenhouse emissions and who is opposing carbon taxes, we would all have a clearer perception of reality than we do right now.
According to EARTH.ORG, a “third of the food intended for human consumption- around 1.3 billion tons- is wasted or lost. This is enough to feed 3 billion people. Food waste and loss accounts for 4.4 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions annually; if it was a country, food waste would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the US.” In the US, fifty percent of this waste comes from retailers throwing it away because it doesn’t “look good” and consumers won’t buy it. Never mind that it is still fine to use and consume.
There are scores of smaller stories with huge global impact we never hear about, or get in very small doses. News is a business and just as medicine becoming a business has endangered us all, so too profit-driven news.