Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Do You Trust the Media?

I felt the strong urge to write a blog on the media, as it’s been something that’s been on my mind for some time now.

I never questioned the veracity of the media in any great depth until I studied Press and Broadcasting and Sociology as part of my Social Science degree. It was during my first P&B lesson that the lecturer said something which had quite an impact on me: “you’re led to assume that the news you watch on TV or read in a newspaper or online is some kind of impartial window to the world, but it’s NOT. There is no such thing as impartial news coverage: news is always gathered and constructed according to a strict framework of criteria and agendas.”

The media is not your friend, and it’s not simply gathering news to “keep you informed”. It is selling product and it will use whatever sales techniques it needs in order to sell as much of that product as possible; whether it’s newspaper copies, TV ratings or website hits. In order to do that, the news stories they filter (the very fact news items are called news “STORIES” is incredibly telling in itself) are done so in accordance with strict criteria. I don’t recall the entire list of criteria, but very near the top is NEGATIVITY. Any honest news editor will admit that negative stories generate much more interest than those of a more positive nature. This immediately explains why we are bombarded by so much negativity in the news.

What’s also important to realise that the news editors will manipulate and distort their news stories in order to create maximum punch. “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story” is the old journalistic cliche, but it is a sad fact - and so many people are still falling for it. “Stories” can be spun in any number of different ways; a positive can easily be re-interpreted as being a negative and also vice versa, as often is the case when we’re being fed propaganda.

I don’t like sounding so negative or cynical, but I feel it’s such an important understanding, particularly as so many people are mass-hypnotised by the media. The media is in so many cases simply POISON. The news editors are not just selling news STORIES, but also a WORLD VIEW; a certain way of interpreting the world and what’s ‘real’ and what ‘isn’t’. This is a dangerous thing, particularly when one of the top criteria of this world view constitutes over-emphasis of negativity and an almost complete ignoring of positivity. I’ve known far too many people who watch the news like zombies (and not just once - but they insist on soaking up every last news bulletin on TV like junkies getting a heroin fix). They believe everything they see and think that’s ALL that’s going on in the world. Personally I only have to watch 5 minutes of the news to feel a grim pall descending - but at least I’m aware of that and can fight it off while reaching for that all-important ‘off’ button.

Those people who aren’t quite as conscious of what’s happening are trapped in a horrendously bleak worldview and they live in a world of misery - even though there’s often VERY LITTLE WRONG in their own lives - in fact, these people often have countless blessings and live relatively easy lives. The grim worldview presented to them by the media blinds them to the beauty of life all around them and the countless things they have to be grateful for.

This is not to ignore the many terrible things that do happen in the world. There is of course much suffering happens in the world. But I fail to see how condensing every bad thing that happens in the world into a 20 minute new bulletin which is little short of torture porn is of any value.

It is for this reason that I REFUSE to watch the news or waste precious moments of my life reading the bullshit that gets printed in newspapers.

This would horrify some people. “But you have to stay informed!” “You have to know what’s happening in the world!”

WHY? The news almost brainwashes people into believing that the world is a place filled with NOTHING BUT murder, rape, genocide and inhumanity. It does sadly exist, but the fact is for every one act of cruelty there are a hundred small acts of kindness. I remember one time watching the hideousness of the evening news and feeling disillusioned with humanity, when I saw an elderly men walking down the road and stopping to kneel down and stroke a cat. It was a clear effort for him, but he still did it. A simple, yet everyday act of kindness and beauty. It made me realise how the countless acts of kindness, love and compassion in the world are deemed ‘un-newsworthy’ and so don’t exist for many people. Only the bad things matter.

In my experience, we each create our own worlds; there is no objective world out there. “Consciousness itself is the greatest painter,” Nisargadatta said. “The entire world is but a picture.” This should be self-evident really. The depressed, unhappy or neurotic person lives in a terrible world filled with negativity, tragedy and futility. A more adjusted, optimistic and joyous person lives in a world filled with possibility, excitement and wonder. They both might occupy the exact same point in time and space, but they live in completely different worlds. Most people are unconscious and believe themselves to be a helpless victim to the world in which they find themselves. However, the truth is that we are solely responsible for the level of our consciousness, for the thoughts and beliefs we entertain in our minds and ultimately for the very world in which we exist. Bombarded by the constant negativity and heaviness of the media it’s easy to fall into this victim mode and to buy the worldview they are selling. The ability to question, however, is the first step to freedom.

I strongly recommend that people try a complete news fast.

Try it for at least a week and see how different you feel. The rationalisation that you need to “stay informed” doesn’t stand up under scrutiny. Believe me, I hardly ever watch or read the news but I ALWAYS hear what I NEED to hear and am informed about the things that are RELEVANT to me and about which I can TAKE ACTION about. In times past, before the globalisation of today, people were only ever informed of local news and events which affected them directly. The rest was irrelevant - it was other peoples’ news. That still holds true today.

The bottom line is we are each 100% responsible for the level - and content - of our consciousness. Bombarding your mind with the hideous pictures and sights of the news is a sure-fire way to make you feel depressed, helpless, deflated and disempowered. Part of me sometimes even wonders if this is intentional in some way. How do you keep the masses weak and disempowered and completely under the thumb of the current status quo? Why, bombard them with a barrage of horrendous stories and images and make them believe that we live in a dreadful, hopeless world in which change is useless and nothing amounts to anything.

I don’t buy it. I really strongly encourage others to come to the same realisation, if they haven’t already. I don’t deny that a great many horrendous things happen in the world and I don’t want it to sound that I shut myself off from such things, because in truth I am more active in social, political and environmental causes than perhaps the average person who simply sits passively observing the television news as though it’s some kind of sado-masochistic entertainment. Perhaps they’re even desensitised to the images of destruction and tales of murder and woe? Some people even get a perverse kick from images of violence. That’s something else to be avoided at all costs.

The negativity and sensationalism of the media has escalated to heights of near parody - and government is often just as much at blame. The recent swine flu pandemic (if it is in fact a “pandemic” at all, the jury is currently still out) is a case in point and I will say no more than that. If, in the course of his predictions Nostradamus happened to have tuned into our news broadcasts then it’s no wonder he thought it was the end of the world. In fact, there are fewer deaths from war today than at any other point in recorded history. Statistically, people are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. And there is a growing level of consciousness and awareness taking place upon the planet; something which many believe is part of an evolutionary process, a shifting from egoic consciousness to a more heart-based mode of being. All of this, of course, is unlikely to ever be reported, acknowledged or examined in mainstream media outlets.

My ultimate point is simple: switch off the TV, put down that newspaper and be very careful as to where your web-browser is taking you. Stay in your own power; take responsibility for the world you live in, recognising that it is a fully subjective realm. Take action for the causes that are dearest to your heart but don’t feel the need to continually soak and bask in the agenda-driven news feed that continually blasts at you. Question the unwritten assumption that you have to stay informed of every single negative thing that happens in the world. WHY? Why do we feel that it’s somehow appropriate or necessary that we add further negativity and suffering to the world by subjecting ourselves to the media torture porn?

The following is a quote and I can’t for the life of me remember who it’s by, so a gold star for the first person that can tell me: “Think differently if you please. But in all cases, think for yourself.”

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