Down with Sensationalism

I felt sick tonight when I saw the front headline of The Globe and Mail.  I don’t even feel like writing it here on my blog, because I don’t want it to have anything to do with my blog, but I’ve been needing to get it off my chest.  It relates to a murder trial that’s just begun here in Ontario for a little girl who was abducted and killed almost three years ago.  The headline describes an act of violence committed on the girl leading up to her actual murder – hitting with a hammer, to be precise.  Now you know.  No more details, please.  I didn’t even read the article.

And this is the current headline of Canada’s largest-circulation national newspaper!  I am appalled.  Of course I believe that this little girl’s death is a despicable atrocity and that her murderers must answer for their actions, and that the public should be able to access the testimonies from her trial, but I’m writing to protest the newspaper’s sensationalizing her death.  Descriptions of how she died (or anyone else, for that matter) absolutely do not belong at the forefront of national news.  I read newspapers for so many reasons other than gory murder details; if I want those, I’ll look for them, but I don’t want them thrust in my face with flashy bold fonts at the top of my home page.

My nausea intensified when I saw that the article was also at the top of the most-popular list.  I guess murder sells.  People derive some sort of perverse satisfaction from reading such descriptions, or else they enjoy the sensation of being horrified.  I do not.  In fact, I may go so far as to suggest that widespread knowledge of grotesque evil, especially as it is disseminated by the internet, can contaminate a society by becoming normalized.  As Dostoyevsky said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”  When details such as this one stop creating a reaction of disgust and horror in people, our souls have become corrupted on some level, and I’ll hazard a guess that crime rates rise according to the level of nonchalance with which a society reacts to it.

Thinking about this article, I recalled another quote, this one from “The Iron Lady.”  “Watch your thoughts, for they become words.  Watch your words, for they become actions.  Watch your actions, for they become habits.  Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.  What we think we become.”

Pulling one’s head of the gutter takes a bit of effort.  It’s easy to get absorbed in the fake glamour of violence, but I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with leaving the murder trials up to the experts and choosing to fill my mind with healthier, more helpful topics.  Yes, I’m tempted to click on the article and read all the rest, but then I won’t sleep.  I’ll become obsessively paranoid about my own children (already am – don’t need any more reason to be).  I’ll feel really sick to my stomach.  I will not be a better or happier or smarter person as a result of reading it, and that’s why I avoid such articles.

Some may accuse me of living in a bubble and trying to pretend the world is perfect when it isn’t.  That’s not true.  I do strive to be informed and educated about the countless evils taking place around the globe, and I don’t believe in denying what goes on.  People who do that have just as many issues as those who gorge themselves on murder trial details.  I just have a problem with being force-fed those details by my national newspaper.  The Globe and Mail has once and for all lost my respect, and my home page will be changed from now on.

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5 thoughts on “Down with Sensationalism

  1. i couldn’t agree more! for the last week or two (maybe more!) i have been doing my best to avoid the same subject and am finding it hard to do so. i had my husband close my internet browser just last night because when i looked at it, this was “top” news.

    i actually had to stop watching the news about 7 years ago because i found it too hard to sleep afterwards, as i would be obsessing over all of the awful details of whatever horrifying thing had happened that day that had made the news. i also would not want to be accused of living in a bubble or being ignorant of the world, but i find i can still be informed without being made to read or watch these things that give me nightmares and make me obsess over all the bad things that could go wrong in my child’s lifetime. i would prefer to live in my happy world and when my child someday asks about such things, hope that i can give him the information he needs without having to give him details that would give him nightmares about the world around him.

    1. I fully agree with you Katherine. Violence and its details should not be circulated. Simply because our souls become dark for no reason. I have the same thoughts for violent film scenes as well.

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