Our Obsession with the Newsthoughts & comment — 09 Feb 2013
AS CHILDREN, we used to moan when our parents insisted on changing television channels so that they could watch the news. (Nowadays, every child has his or her own television so this probably no longer applies). It just made no sense to us as the news was not fun in any way whatsoever, and we wee folk thought that we would never be obsessed with world events as the old folk were. But as childhood turns to adulthood, we found that we become as addicted to the news as our parents were — eager to watch or read about what is going on in the world at every opportunity. The question is, why do we become so hooked by news?
By telling us what is going on in our neighbourhood, in our state, in our country and in the rest of the world, the news gives our lives context. As it is a basic animal survival instinct to be hyper aware of the environment, we will naturally become obsessed with any monitoring system that tells us what is going on in our environment.
But there is more to it than just survival instinct. For it is not really our physical survival that is important to us — most of us in Western countries have never experienced war and live in relatively stable times despite economic uncertainty — but mostly our psychological survival. The news validates and consolidates worldviews through the slant of its reporting, through what is focuses on and what it ignores, and through how it presents the information. And these worldviews prop up our sense of self. So for example, if we are a Republican, we will tend to gravitate towards a right-wing news outlet like Fox News because it will validate that worldview. And if we are more left-wing, we might want to get our news from organisations like the BBC or Democracy Now. And if we are conspiracy-minded, then we might want to get our news from David Icke. (‘Conspiracy-minded’ is not being used pejoratively here.)
So who we think we are will determine the type of channel through which we will gather information. If the particular news channel or medium does not support our worldview, then we will look for something that will. Of course, it does work both ways: we choose the type of news depending on our belief systems; but also, the news reinforces those belief systems. But there has to be some initial congruency between the two for us to be drawn to engage with the media spin in the first place.
But surely there are respectable organisations, like the BBC for example, that do not spin the news but present it as independently as it can? This is certainly a nice thought and many do hold up the BBC, for example, as a paragon of impartial reporting, but this is a media fairey story — a PR story. In reality, the BBC, like every news channel, has its own political agendas, a fact that has been recently highlighted by its poor handling of TV personality and national paedophile Jimmy Saville, as well as its handling of global warming a few years previously. Here is a recent Corbitt Report which is well worth watching:
Propaganda is big business, because not only can you collect from those who wish to influence your audience, but the audience themselves are quite willing to fork out for the privilege as well, including paying for the propaganda devices such as tvs, smartphones and computers to display the propaganda. The news and entertainment industry has become like Huxley’s soma, a drug that pacifies us to the social inequalities and problems that plague modern societies.
The world we see is the world we are programmed to see, literally. Our place or positionality in the world is largely defined by the media. And the world we live in defines who we are and the limits of what is possible and impossible. We are in a mass hallucination, but as the majority of society shares that hallucination, we can function effectively confusing our dreams with waking reality. It is only when we come up against an experience that challenges the dream, or meet someone with a different dream, that we glimpse at the fictitious nature of our worldview and of our self-image. But as that worldview and self-image is what we psychologically base our security on, few of us are courageous enough to question that base of security, dismissing rogue experiences as hallucinations, and outsiders as dangerous subversives.
But unless we see the cracks in our worldview, unless we break the cycle of media reinforcement of belief systems, we will only lock ourselves into an asphyxiating cycle illusion reinforcing illusion, so that in the end we become zombies under the illusion of being living beings. Freedom can only be experienced by breaking this cycle of reinforcement, and that begins by stopping the media circus that enslaves our minds. It is time to end the programming!