The Dangers of a 24-Hour News Cycle

by Randy Luckie, 9/26/2018

What is the consumer’s responsibility?

Believing in Beliefs

Where in the world could this article be heading? Even I am wondering that very question as I start off here. Well, let us start with considering the meaning of belief and what areas of our own lives do our belief system become an important factor in our thinking. Surely, there are areas that are not so dependent on a personal belief system, say, like what color to paint your house.

Well, okay, let us break it down for clarity in this article. When I say a belief system I am referring to a systematic way to process information in ways that help you in day to day life, in many ways. The main thing that makes it a system is that it is, generally, consistent in responses to alike, or similar, information sets presented. Ironically, even the very denial of any belief system requires you to consistently arrive at responses that your brain interprets as the belief that no belief system exist. These are not new ideas, to be sure, but they are relevant to the discussion.

Religion?

So, why drag religion into it? Well, first I am not dragging any particular religion into this discussion. What I do want to say about it that it is the most observable model of a belief system, no matter the religion of which you are speaking. Most people, the world over, have knowledge of, or can relate to, the tenants of such systems.

More importantly for this article though, is, any system’s place holder in the lives of the people who hold these systems. Here it becomes easy to see the sliding relevance to be applied depending on the situation. Consider the house painting I mentioned before; On that scale the system is probably non-existent, unless you have a belief against, say, the color purple. On the other hand, for a question like ‘should I rob the convenience store down the street?’ your belief system may well be right at the top of the scale (or not!).

We use our personal circumstances to apply our beliefs. Sometimes, it is automatic and sometimes, it takes considerable consideration to reach our conclusions. This all points to the importance such a system is to us, allowing us to navigate, in a consistent way, through the information sets we deal with every day.

 

Headlines, Headlines, Read all about it!

This is where the 24-hour news cycle comes in, or just news, in general, to our narrative. What is news? It is a large part of the information sets that reach us in a daily manner, and now in this technological age we are experiencing, the news comes at us every single minute of the day. That is a whole lot of information sets flowing right into our eyes and ears.

Is this inherently bad, or good? I don’t think it is either just on its own, after all, it is what it is, as they say. The information is there, nothing to be done about that. However, how we process the information does matter in how we conclude thoughts on the information and what it means to us.

When the news comes at us continually it interferes with applying belief systems to the individual information sets (Headlines, in this case) that we are bombarded with. In the better of the religious systems, the student is urged to test situations and actions against the scripture of that system to find consistency of truth rather than simply accept what any one (or group of) individual(s) may say the truth is about the system, or, in our case, the information sets in question.

I have to do WHAT?

This is where the consumer responsibility comes in. You hear this report or that report as a headline today. This is where something crucial either does or doesn’t happen. The worst is that you just accept the headline as its stated. It told the truth and that is it. But what if it wasn’t the truth? What if it slanted the facts, or omitted facts, or, heavens to Betsy, outright lied? Any conclusion you came to about the information set would be flawed by those conditions if you accepted the information set at face value.

It used to be that it was a given bed rock of journalism that a good piece answered the 5 W’s:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

With those questions answered, the item was worthy to scrutiny, in that it defined the verifiable basis of the of the story (Information set). In the headline world we live in now, if you get even three of those questions answered in the story, you will be very lucky, indeed.

This leaves you, the consumer, to finish out the story in order to make it a verifiable and worthy information set to draw conclusions from. This isn’t easy in a lot of cases. It takes time. In that light, you have to consider there are those out there that know people aren’t going to take that time and a certain percentage of people will always accept the information set given just at face value. This is a possible danger to you and your well-being.

Consider if you were this headline, Man kills his neighbor over milk bottles. But you didn’t do it. The headline has already convicted you. It said you did it. Suppose, though, there was a full story instead, that offered the 5 W’s, which showed that the when question, in your case, went to prove you couldn’t have done it because you were having dinner with a friend at the time of the crime. The headline would be much different, Man falsely accused of killing his neighbor over milk bottles. I know that is a loose example, but you get the point. The perceptions between the two headlines are vastly different.

Pickin’ an-a Grinnin’

It is easy to see that there is no way you can apply this concept to every news item that comes along. But you can pick and choose news items that are relevant to you and are likely to impact you. Then you can dig in and test the information sets against what you already know, what your experiences have been and what others are saying or writing about the sets.

This is what binds the religious belief systems into the mix. The method needed in many roads to a spiritual life is the same one needed in your mortal life. In this way, building a belief system for the onslaught of news seems worth a try in matters of your day to day life. One that tests the what ifs. One that tests for the sensibilities and then jettisoning what seems foolish and false?

The fact is that the news is coming at you. It isn’t perfect, be it designed that way, poorly written or just in error. It should never be accepted as a face value issue in areas that concern you. Scrutiny should be applied in every possible way, no matter the source it is coming from.

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