I just checked out Huffington Post to see the latest news. I think if anything Huffington Post is a good place just to check headlines as it is comprehensive, even if many of the articles themselves are not worth reading. The front page headline is about the European plane crash. 150 people died. While this is tragic and horrifying, and definitely sensational, one must keep in mind that 457 people have been killed in just the state of Texas on the highway this year. Maybe this is news, but it is not front page, top of the page news. If it is news, and I mean this in no way disrespectfully of those who might have lost loved ones in the crash, it is something that should be acknowledged for a brief amount of time and moved on from. I wish this accident hadn’t happened at all, but since it did, that it was the worst thing that we had to deal with. However, given the conflicts that are taking place around the globe, the environmental calamities that are threatening us, and the fact that so many people still exist in a constant state of poverty, let alone many other tragedies that are happening all around us on a regular basis, this is distorting our perception of the world.
Today’s morning Huffpo headline is Ghost Plane. It is at least the second day in a row where their main headline has been in reference to the plane that disappeared near Vietnam. My friends that have cable news have talked about how much this story is being covered. It’s a story and most definitely not news. I’m not saying it is not a tragedy for the people involved and their loved ones. One can imagine what those poor people are going through, especially when it is being blasted on television all the time! But it is not news that we need to contemplate for any length of time. Knowing about it doesn’t increase our knowledge of the world and something like this actually distorts it.
Roughly about 155,000 people die every day. That was a calculation I found for 2005. The number is probably higher now. In the US in 2011 roughly 89 people died every day in auto accidents. So why is our news media going batshit over a couple hundred people dying on the other side of the globe?
Airplane crashes are rare. They also have had trouble finding the wreckage which is rarer still. It’s sensational. However, I would argue that dying in and of itself is not news as people are leaving this world left and right on a daily basis. Also, because it is rare it is actually less newsworthy. It distorts our image of air travel. You have a much higher risk of being killed in an auto accident. However, when a plane crash is posted all over the news it breeds a sense of fear about air travel and makes it seem as if flying is more dangerous than it really is.
There are so many issues that confront us in this country on a daily basis, from large to small. The news should help us make decisions about large things like who we are going to vote for and what global issues we as citizens should be concerned about. It should also help us with small day to day choices concerning what we are going to do with our day such as what is going on in our community and how is the weather going to be. Celebrity stories and strange tragedies from the other side of the world don’t inform us in any way. If anything these kinds of stories actually make us dumber. You can imagine some hooplehead deciding that they are going to now drive instead of fly, which is again far more dangerous. If you turn on a news station and they are blanket covering something like this just turn it off. Hell, better to watch some kind of ridiculous fantasy show or something. It will at least make you happier and you won’t learn any less.