I believe that the news is toxic. That’s kind of a bold statement to make, and i’m feeling the urge to dial it back a little by saying “for the most part,” or “that’s kind of a bold statement to make,” but the truth is that i believe it.
Are we, by our very nature as human beings, so drawn to the scary, gory, tragic, and chaotic that we want to watch/listen to/read it in an endless loop? I can’t help wondering. And are we actually interested by nature, or are we socialized to crave the scary, gory, tragic, and chaotic by the stories we’ve seen/watched/read in the news all our lives? Either way, why don’t we push back against it?
Who needs to hear tales of devastation and destruction on a loop for hours or days on end? How does that help us to understand? To grow as a society? Or to change? And where are the stories about hope and possibility? Why are the heroes relegated to “human interest” instead of the front page?
I once heard a rabbi give a talk in which he mentioned that during the Jewish holiday of Purim, when we read the Book of Esther, we drown out the name of the villain in the story - we literally drown out his identity by shaking noisemakers whenever his name is read, adults and children alike. We refrain from giving him the honor of mention. And yet, in this country we recite the names of perpetrators of horrific acts over and over again, we research and retell the events of their lives as though they are the most interesting or important characters in the story. Have we lost sight of what is interesting and important?
Of course we need to be informed, and I believe that there is a way to inform, to share the news, without holding up the horrors of the world as though they are worthy of honor. I’d like to see us know what’s happening and then turn our attention to making change, to transformation and growth and hope and possibility and light and goodness because i believe these things exist in the world in equal parts - at least - with the darkness, and I’d like to see our energy and attention focused there. Wouldn’t you?