By Wayne William Cipriano
Make a list of those things that terrify us, that we see on the news every night –– fires, floods, SARS, global cooling, global warming, narco-terrorists, militias, AIDS, Bird Flu, PAII, carjacking, random killings, droughts, IRS, honey bees dying, killer bees increasing, obesity, gangs, kidnappings, school shoot-ings, bombers…. The danger is that each of these threats is real. The truth is that each is so rare or so ramped up that the probability of any one of us being damaged by it is miniscule.
Who are the real terrorists? Are they the news media driving us slowly past death and destruction allowing us to rubber-neck equally divided between morbid curiosity and superstitious gratitude?
If terrorism is using a single instance or a very few instances of tragedy to frighten a population that rationally has nothing whatever to fear and ginning it up to a level where one might be at risk, then the news media is certainly the most prolific and constant source of terrorism we have.
Oil spills from wells and tankers, unsafe nuclear power plants, pollu-tion of air, water, soil, strangers, catastrophes, crises, disasters, plagues – keep the citizenry distracted, orderly, even docile through fear of what might be. Fear of war to fear of arcane litigation potential. From powerful electro-magnetic fields produced by overhead power lines to weak electro-magnetic fields produced by cell phones held close to our ears –– dangers pursue us all the time. Children hurt by failing to be inocu-lated against childhood diseases, children hurt by the very inoculations supposed to protect them.
Fear after fear after fear com-peting for a spot on our ever-evolving hierarchy of terror. Each, regardless of its efficacy, its real danger, even its actual existence, serving its pur-pose: distracting us from those real, serious, debilitating and repairable problems of everyday life that we could fix, now.
As easy as it would be, we cannot blame it all on the news media, can we? It does after all take two to tango, doesn’t it? Can we blame the commercial news media for following what I believe P. T. Barnum once advised: “You want to be rich, kid? Give the people what they want.” If we didn’t watch, read, listen to what they give us, wouldn’t they give us something else?
Can we really be so shallow, so easily attracted by shiny objects, so willing to follow any pied piper anywhere at all?
What is wrong with us?