June 13, 2008

"Get Reaaaady! The Woooooorld Is Coming To An Eeeeend!" ***

Gregg Easterbrook notes a maddening paradox that has been much on my mind lately as I scan the intertoobs:

Democratic attacks on Mr. McCain and Republican attacks on Mr. Obama both seek to punish impermissibly positive thoughts. At a time when there exists a sense of crisis over the economy, fuel prices and many other issues, this reinforces the odd, two realities of life in the United States today: The way we are, and the way we think we are. The way we are could use some work, but overall, is pretty good. The way we think we are is terrible, horrible, awful. Possibly worse.

Actually, I believe the first I read of this phenomenon was in Peej O'Rourke's All The Trouble In The World from back in the mid-90's. But it certainly seems to be spiking pretty hard at the moment. Easterbrook lays a good bit of the blame at the feet of the pervasiveness of the media culture:

Increasing pessimism from the news media is surely a factor and the media grow ever-better at giving negative impressions. Now we don't just hear about threats or natural disasters, we see immediate live footage, creating the impression that threats and disasters are everywhere.

Whatever goes wrong in the country or around the world is telecast 24/7, making us think the world is falling to pieces even when most things are getting better for most people, even in developing nations. If a factory closes, that's news. If a factory opens, that's not a story. You've heard about the factories Ford and General Motors have closed in this decade. Have you heard about the factories Toyota, Honda and other automakers opened in the U.S. in the same period? The jobs there have solid, long-term prospects.

The relentlessly negative impressions of American life presented by the media, including the entertainment media, explain something otherwise puzzling that shows up in psychological data. When asked about the country's economy, schools, health care or community spirit, Americans tell pollsters the situation is dreadful. But when asked about their own jobs, schools, doctors and communities, people tell pollsters the situation is good. Our impressions of ourselves and our neighbors come from personal experience. Our impressions of the nation as a whole come from the media and from political blather, which both exaggerate the negative.

Which is why I tend either to ignore the media, or else to take its pronouncements cum an extremely large grano of salis.

Nonetheless, or perhaps because I treat the media Cassandras with such skepticism, I snarfed a fair bit of coffee when I clapped eyes on this poster filched from the Galley Slaves:


*** Spot the quote.

Posted by Robert at June 13, 2008 02:59 PM | TrackBack

The Get-Ready Man in Thurber's "The Car We Had to Push."

Posted by: Don at June 13, 2008 06:38 PM