[I drafted this on 4/23/13 during the manhunt for the Boston bomber. The
A couple of years ago I read Amusing Ourselves to Death by Niel Postman. Here is Wikipedia’s Summary of the book.)
I’m seeing more and more formerly serious topics treated as entertainment now.
This article decries the new practice by the once-sober Weather Channel of naming snowstormns.
Even the serious business of the nation’s economy has taken on a game-like nature: The President, Defense Secretary, and assorted other government officials– one after the other — took a 5% salary cut in solidarity with Department of Defense workers and others facing furloughs or pay cuts because of sequestration.
The immediate aftermath of the Boston bombing took on a surreal note of being part of the nightly entertainment on our screens, small and smaller (television and mobile devices). This article notes “the sorry collusion of news and showbiz” that is all but taken for granted nowadays. (Yes, I realize it’s from The Daily News; but admit it, you can see evidence of this phenomenon all the time.)
The next time you’re drawn to a news story, hanging on every word, unable to stop, consider this: Are reacting to the entertainment value of the issue? Could you turn off your TV (or mobile device) for a few hours and check in later to hear the developments. The facts of the stories (murder, mayhem, weather, finance) are fairly boring, actually. It’s up to the media to infuse these facts with breathless proclamations and the promise of “breaking news” that keeps you hooked.
Try this: During the next cri-du-jour that garners wall-to-wall coverage by the media, try disconnecting for a few hours each day. You might be surprised to realize that your world has kept turning during the hiatus. You might also feel some relief at not having succumbed to the siren call of entertainment. You resisted getting sucked in!
Try to discern this subtle shift from news to entertainment. It starts with naming snowstorms Who knows where it will end?