I had some international travel this year (Poland, Italy and China) and got to wondering on these trips what exactly is news? It’s certainly true from my perspective that what is news in the USA is not news around the rest of the world. The USA remains a very isolated place, covering only specific stories related to terrorism, racial division and political conflict, at least on the major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, etc…). There is a good deal more happening in the world than the people of the USA are exposed to. Be this as it is, I experience some backlash culture shock when I return to the USA after such international trips I take. At first I don’t want to even see it – the murders, celebrity scandals, terrorist threats, political infighting, and otherwise dismal state of the world from USA viewpoint. The world at large is not really like that, however, and what the USA media portrays is mostly a vision of a country so isolated from the rest of the world that it can not even see its nose in front of its face. It’s sad really, and the USA is supposed to be a world leader.

I often spend my lunchtime at work looking at the news on the internet. It’s astounding the stories that are so USA-centric, almost narcissistic. On top of that a good majority of them focus on negative aspects or have some slant towards ‘exposing’ something that will shock you. Headlines are designed to draw you in with a teaser, keep you hooked – addicted to what’s new. I find these tactics rather repulsive, but I am human too and find myself drawn into such stories time after time. It’s like a drug you can not resist. I have often used the analogy of how children like candy, but you don’t give them candy and  feed them healthy foods so they grow up well. It is analogous with the public, and the media should not feed them junk, but a healthier diet. It’s all economics, of course, and cereal makers target kids with the sugar just as networks target adults with the sensational. It’s clearly wrong, but seldom criticized. Money rules, sex sells, gloom and doom attract, terror remains a tale of trauma, and politics are pedantic to the point of soap operas. What has this world (from a USA viewpoint) developed into?

I have reached the point that I don’t want to look at it (the news) anymore. It’s all negative, for the most part, and I don’t want that as part of my being anymore – for peace of mind sake. Here are just a few things I want to say about some news topics obsessed on by the USA today. My apologies if these viewpoints offend anyone, but here goes:

1.) I’m just plain sick of the Middle East and the Arab world. I’ve had enough of it over and over in my lifetime and leave them to themselves is a policy I would like to see.
2.) I don’t want to hear about murders, kidnappings, rapes and other sundry crimes. I’ve had enough of it over my lifetime and why is this stuff always increasing year after year?
3.) Communism is a dead end – everyone knows that. Let economics decide the future of places like Russia and China. Spare me the rhetoric days past in cold war ways.

The ultimate question I suppose, putting my philosophers hat on, is simply: What is News? News is anything that is new, but does it have to be mostly negative? Could it be mostly positive? As long as money is driving the news cycle, it will remain negative because ‘if it bleeds, it leads’. It is not just money, however, and something more insidious I believe. Politicians are, by their very nature, great manipulators of their surroundings and other people. They could not get elected without that character. Why we would want people like that leading us is beyond me, but it is so. Anyway, the politicians play the media like a fine tuned instrument. Most of the people in politics are the biggest con-artists ever to exist. They call the shots and manipulate the media too. The networks think they are reporting news, but are mostly being played with and, for the most part, the stories that want to be told get told and the stories that don’t want to be told are kept secret. In reality this is how our system of freedom in the USA works.

When man landed on the Moon, that was news (it is an inspiration that anything is possible). The latest medical and technological advancements are news (they help people make better choices in their lives). Politics, economics and world situations are news (they make people aware of what is happening in the world). One could go on about what is news and cite many examples with rationale. The real trouble is that it is all manipulated at some level to keep you hooked, addicted to the negative aspects, instead of directing you to think positive. That is what concerns me most and should concern you too. It is time to tune out the negative networks and websites (to a degree) and pay more attention to positive outlets (to a degree). In the end, let the balance of  ‘What is News’ decide – Your dollar, Your voice, Your decision, Your direction will choose the trends in society and What is News…

Here’s “7 O’clock News – Silent Night” by Simon and Garfunkel from their Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album (1966):

Merry Christmas, one and all – Have a great holiday season!