By Ed Op
Read or watch the news and you would be forgiven for thinking the world outside your safe little living room bubble is a veritable blockbuster movie. Never mind convention, it says, I’m a genre-defying supermovie, I’m a fast paced, action packed, horror movie, tense terrorist adventure slash outbreak flick where the only romantic subplot comes pulled direct from a made-for-TV child abuse movie and involves a slimy grotesque sexual predator and your kid. This is the world as it is presented to us.
Is it any wonder people are less trusting now? But here’s the secret they don’t want you to know.
You will probably be okay.
Obviously not in the long run, in the long run you’re fucked just like the rest of us. But in the short term, the vast majority of people on this Earth are okay. Most people, for example, don’t die in fiery crashes or get shot tanning their knackers on holiday in Marmaris or have their children abducted by murderous serial paedos. No, for most people the dangers of travel are mostly related to mood and the cost of food at airports, train stations and service stops, the biggest problem knacker-tanner in Marmaris has is he falls asleep and ends up with a nutsack like crispy bacon and the single biggest danger to your kids is your overbearing need to coddle and protect them turning them to the path of avoidance of responsibility and resentment.
So why do they do it? Why does the news love to show our world to us as being so terrible? Sinister implications would suggest they are shaping our minds, like cognitive sculptors chiselling away at our synapses until we think like they do, until they are in control. But I will pose one simple question. Would you read a newspaper or article about how nothing happened? Would you read stories of everyday people who had gone about their day with little to no trouble? Do you really care what Mavis from the Bakery spent her Sunday evening doing, or do you want to hear about the guy who got his head cut off by some nasty men in a sandy hell hole?
You, like everyone else, are human. I hope. If you are another animal and you are reading this, get in touch, I’ll make us both richer than imagination. Humans are very good at human stuff, like sculpting statues of men with small penises, composing scores for people to vibrate strings, blow tubes of wood or metal or bang stuff to that somehow sounds nice, and who can forget just idly thinking about things – we like thinking about things. The problem is we are also animals. There are two feelings that can inspire a wandering ponderer to give up their idle philosophies and take note of the surroundings – Sex and danger.
It is to these two things that modern media appeals. The news does not want you to see their headlines and think everything is fine. If they give that impression, then you will not buy their paper and move on to idle philosophy again. You will change the channel and switch instead to something sexier. They cannot have that. They need to tease you with a headline that screams at you that this is dangerous and you need to know more. “Swarm of 6m Scrounging Bombers Coming for Us” is significantly more likely to get your attention, and thus your pounds and pennies, than “Overall, Migration is a Net Positive.”
When the man in the authoritative suit follows the martial music of the news, hearing him say “Sixteen people have been shot dead in a mass shooting in Los Angeles, police advise everyone to stay indoors.” Is a lot more likely to grab your attention and keep you watching than him saying “Event that impacts a statistically insignificant number of the population underway, the majority of humanity will be just fine.”
Then there’s the sex. Often, on quiet days when shootings, stranglings and violent attacks are at a low, you will often find the front pages plastered with saucy photos and sordid tales of the sultry and seductive with headlines like “Soap Actress Gives Blowjob to Ice Cream Man,” or hear the newsreader talk of “A politician’s shame as he is caught, dressed as Batman, having sex with his secretary who is a prostitute.” The only thing that can match human intrigue for danger and violence is if we can get to people’s naughty side and voyeuristically check out what they are up to in the name of moralism. Really, we’re just perverts.
So, don’t go expecting the news to change any time soon. In fact, I would suggest, expect it to get worse. Expect it to get more inflammatory, to oversimplify complex geopolitical narratives more, and to reduce highly involved projects and lives, those of actors, sportspersons and musicians for instance, to nothing but how attractive they are, or what their bodies look like. It is only going to get worse.
But that’s okay, because Terminal Context exists.