The Kidnapping of Our Happiness

 

by John Arnold

We live in an era of disruption. Everywhere we turn, businesses are changing, the way we interact changes, life is moving on at a rapid pace. Perhaps too rapid. Or worse: In a way that does not serve our sense of good, our belief of what is right, or experience of what is nourishing for our spirit.

What has imposed itself on us? Where has this underlying sense of stress come from? What has kidnapped our happiness?

It is the media. Not left or right media, which is the conventional argument, but rather the ubiquitous-ness of it. News comes at us 24/7/365 in every way – television, radio, smartphone, did-you-see conversation.

That would be alright if it weren’t for the facts that: a) news thrives on bad news; and b) news has gone from objectivity to editorial. News has fractured us and kidnapped our happiness. 

From movies to NFL games to the Olympics, rancor is being delivered via newscasts . Tweets? We are most often told about someone’s tweet via the news media not by being Twitter followers ourselves. So even people that don’t watch the Olympics or have a Twitter account learn that some athlete doesn’t like the President’s daughter. That on top of some actor tweeting something with profanity within 140 characters about the President himself.

Why should we care what an actor or athlete thinks about anything beyond their personal performance? We don’t. But the news media reports it to us, with breathless headlines, no less.

Why the over-top-ness of reporting tonality? Because with thousands of points of engagement, the news media needs to bang the drum as loudly as possible to get attention. And with such noise comes….stress. And worse: a sense that our society is itself fracturing. We watch the news, and then we worry that…..we hate each other.

Nothing could be further from the truth. How is that?

Next time you are in public – in a café or restaurant, walking on a big city sidewalk or attending a small town community event, look around. What do you see? People enjoying each other. Being respectful. Nodding hellos and smiling pleasantries. 

Further from what the media reports: Americans get along. Jews and Catholics, Protestants and Muslims talk to each other about real life issues. There’s interracial dating and no one bats an eye. Millions of people travel by air every day, and the media picks up one unsubstantiated incident of a flight attendant being rude and a major airline is labeled “racist” by a civil rights group in order to get a little notice in the news.

The news never puts things into statistical context. There are over 320 million Americans and we’re always going to have a few kooks. But in order to grab their sliver of audience, a news outlet will magnify the kook as being the representative of this or that part of America. The media never says the kook represents the cabal of kooks.

No, the cabal of kooks becomes the clan of Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, alt-this or alt-that but never the percentile rounding error below one tenth of one-hundredth of a percent. The kook is a mutant, but the press elevates the kook to being the breed.

One day soon, hopefully, we will turn on the media but pushing the turn-off button.

That turn-off button is the cheap ransom to pay for the kidnapping of our happiness.


John Arnold is president and creative director of Arnold Entertainment Partners, winner of every major film, advertising, and public relations award.


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