Addictive Fear

“We had bought ourselves a radio that we could listen to all day long now that we were living in a house wired for electricity. At first I thought that was just grand, but it meant that for the first time I was also listening to the news every day, and about every day, it seemed, there was a report about some crime or another in town. People were always getting robbed or having their cars stolen or their houses burgled if they weren’t getting raped, shot, or stabbed.” from Half Broke Horses (Jeannette Walls)

It’s not much different these days, almost a century later, except now it’s the Internet. This morning when I flipped open my laptop, yet another awful news heading spilled across the screen: Mass. Warzone, Bomb Suspect Dead, Another on the Run. (It’s no coincidence that the writer chose to use the short form for Massachusetts in context with “warzone.”) We’ve just heard about the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, and now this. The bloodshed is just never-ending.

My solution for dealing with such endlessly depressing stories may appear unsympathetic, but that’s not the case at all. I am deeply saddened by them, but don’t want them filling my mind for the entire day. I simply turn them off. I avoid news sites. There are so many other, happier things for me to think about, and while some might argue that awareness of what’s going on in the world is a better state to be in than ignorance, I don’t think that seeding a country’s population with fear is helping the situation.

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I have this theory (or perhaps it’s more of a strong hope) that there would be fewer acts of terrorism if the media refused to sensationalize them and didn’t keep publishing the killers’ names. Of course the perpetrators should be brought to justice, but by publishing their names for the world to see over and over again, they become notorious celebrities in their own right – which, I’d guess, is one of the reasons they do it in the first place (in addition to having sick minds). We all know the names of ‘famous’ killers and terrorists throughout the past century because they’ve gone down in history. Now imagine if they weren’t discussed endlessly, but rather were shunned into a corner of faceless criminals who, for unimaginable reasons, desired to hurt humanity. The consequences for their actions might suddenly seem less appealing if instantaneous negative fame was not one of them.

Creating fear among people is probably the worst thing you can do at a time when the U.S. is being torn apart by tragedies. Fear makes people vulnerable, irrational, and less effective. So wouldn’t the U.S. government really be doing its people a favour by keeping them posted in a less graphic, fear-mongering way? Plus, there’s a lot to be said for being knowledgeable about one’s own little corner of the earth without adding the stressful weight of having to worry about crimes happening all over the country.

“So I kept my pearl-handled revolver under my bed. I also bought a little twenty-two pistol to carry in my purse. ‘Mom, you’ve become such a worrywart,’ Rosemary said. She was right. On the ranch, we worried about the weather and the cattle and the horses, but we never worried about ourselves. In Phoenix people worried about themselves all the time.” Half Broke Horses

What do you think? Am I completely out to lunch on this or do you agree?

Related Posts:
First, let’s reduce the pretend violence
The Power of a Name
Down with Sensationalism 

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8 thoughts on “Addictive Fear

  1. I absolutely agree. I was talking with Anthony last night in much the same vein. Yes, there are terrible things that happen every day all around the word, and also many beautiful and good things. To focus on the fact that some atrocity occurred and to boil an entire day or week down to such a thing does little or nothing to better the world, whereas putting time and energy into loving each other through kind acts has a concrete, positive impact. I truly believe we reap what we sow, and if what we’re sowing is fear and anxiety, that is what we are teaching ourselves not only to see but to reap, and proliferate.

  2. I agree totally. I first became aware of the effects of such media coverage after 9/11. (Even though I was thousands of miles away and not personally affected). Later, when I looked back on how I felt during the weeks after the tragedy, I realized I had been a lot more stressed out and anxious than I normally am, and it concerned me—those stress hormones are terrible for your health. Nowadays, with so many tragedies—one after the other—and the constant media coverage, I worry what this is doing to our health as a nation (speaking as an American). Unfortunately, I doubt the media will ever limit their increasingly disturbing coverage, so it is up to us to turn it off. Maybe if we all did so, they’d lighten up a bit.

    1. You’re very right about the hormones having a negative impact. Stress can do a lot of terrible things to one’s body. Fear and paranoia never get us anywhere. I don’t know if the media can be influenced very much these days, but at least by turning it off we ensure that our own minds are more at peace than they would be otherwise.

  3. Nice rant, but if it did not sell newspapers or keep people glued to the Internet it would not be published. We have not progressed much farther than those who watched gladiators. (Sadly enough). Change starts with the individual, and is rarely easily accomplished, as most of us know.

    1. I agree 100% with the comment about gladiators, so perhaps it’s simply in human nature to gravitate toward glamorously gore. If that’s the case, I still don’t think it’s ok to just brush it off as ‘innate.’ Rather, we need to work toward refining our interests and obsessions in a healthier direction. Like you said, changing the individual and refusing to fill our minds with the horror that the media spoon-feeds to us is the first step.

  4. I agree with the comment above and I do think that it is (unfortunately) an innate quality that the majority of humans have. I am a self-proclaimed ray of sunshine. I make a conscious effort to see the bright side of things each and every day especially in the presence of my children. Right from day one I was determined to turn them into happy little beings rather than “Negative Nancy’s” like the rest of the masses. Alas things don’t always go according to plan. When asking my then 4 year old about what happened at school that day she constantly brought up negative experiences about the other children in her class. Those were the things that stuck with her the most throughout her day regardless of the strong parental influence she’d had up until that point. Of course this didn’t stop me from spreading joy but changed my perspective a bit. It takes a lot more effort to notice the good and that, in my opinion, is the plain truth. Of course, as with any practice, it get’s easier over time but it doesn’t come to us naturally.

    Also, as a side note, I recently read Half Broke Horses and LOVED it! I’d been planning to read it for ages since I read The Glass Castle a few years ago but it just never made it off my shelf. Finally I picked it up and basically didn’t put it down until I finished a few days later. Walls is a fabulous story teller!

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