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If it bleeds it leads… The negative effects of fear-based media

By Marcus Santer

Let’s start with a quote:

Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.”
Roman philosopher Epictetus

An interesting piece of research crossed my desk yesterday.

I was taking a break from working on the ZEN+ Home Study Course when this title caught my attention:

Peace journalism as an alternative to the predominance of negative and violent news.

Here’s a snippet from the summary of the article:

“The continued presence of negative and violent information can influence the relationship between people and their environment, their world view, their social relationships and their attitude towards the possibility of changing things.”

Interesting.

I personally went a news-fast years ago. Because I found what was in the news depressing and demoralizing.

Since being on a news-fast I haven’t missed out on anything important. Because if something truly important happens Clarabella will tell me all about it. But I have missed out on having my head filled with doom, gloom and man’s inhumanity to man.

A while back I watched Michael Moore’s film Bowling for Columbine, and was particularly interested in the point he made about the diet of news Americans are fed which includes a steady stream of:

And so on.

He makes a point that the news in the US is heavily fear and violence orientated versus the: ‘A cat got stuck up a tree today’ type news stories of Canada.

And according to the study I read, only 1.6% of the news reported by mainstream media corresponds to positive stories about progress made.

And whilst we’re on this subject, here’s another quote from the reports author Arevalo Salinas:

“An informative treatment mainly based on tragic and adverse events or crimes can influence perceptions of the environment and relationships with others. Even some people may develop psychological states marked by fear and mistrust, thus limiting their freedoms, social relations and possibilities for action in the collective space.”

You reckon?

If it bleeds it leads type fear based news has two aims according to psychologist Deborah Serani Psy.D:

“The first is to grab the viewer’s attention… The second aim is to persuade the view that the solution for reducing the identified fear will be in the news story… The success of fear-based news relies on presenting dramatic anecdotes in place of scientific evidence, promoting isolated events as trends, depicting categories of people as dangerous and replacing optimism with fatalistic thinking.”

Ouch.

Deborah also says that children and adults exposed to such fear based media are more likely than others do do four things:

  1. Feel their neighbourhoods and communities are unsafe
  2. Feel crime rates are rising
  3. Overestimate their odds of becoming a victim
  4. Consider the world to be dangerous

I personally believe the harmful effects of over feeding on fear-based media are real.

And The seeds you allow to take root and grow in your mind will bear fruit, delicious or poisonous depends on you.

You must stand guard at the door of your mind and be choosy about what you let in.

Because the truth about this world and the people in it… Is up to you.

How come?

Well, it’s possible to find plenty of evidence to conclude the world’s a dangerous place full of scary people out to do you harm.

Or…

It’s also possible to find plenty of evidence to conclude the world is a safe place full of wonderful people working to make it a better place for everyone.

It all depends on where you’re looking.

Personally I recommend a media-fast. But if you must get your news fix, it’s probably best to get it from a quality broadsheet than the TV.

I’ll leave it with you.

Bye for now

Marcus

P.S. I was on the phone to Neal last night (the guy who does the covers for my books).

He’s going to be doing the icons for the ZEN+ HSC.

So not only will it be crammed full of useful information you won’t find collected anywhere else, it’ll also have lot’s of cool icons too.

Brilliant!

Resources used for this Z+D: