Thursday, March 01, 2007

The power of the news: more from Marr

On average, there are less people dying in wars than before; there is less inequality as more poor people are lifted out of poverty; and people are living longer than ever before. Nevertheless everyone tends to think that the world is going to hell in a hand basket (listen to AC Grayling discuss this with Andrew Marr and others on Radio 4's "Start the Week" here). Could it be that we just know more about all the crappy stuff that happens to other people in other places than before? It doesn't mean that this crappy stuff didn't happen in the past; it did and probably to a greater extent. It's just now we can watch.

That is the power of the media, and my second quote from Marr's "My Trade" sums this process up perfectly:

One story saying killer French bees are coming to get you might make you laugh. A dozen, over a few days, might make you scared. If you hear people have indeed died, and this is repeated, and similar stories recur the next spring, and the next, then you come to believe in killer French bees. Multiply that a thousand-fold to account for all the running stories in different papers and one begins to understand the power of the news. It takes a heroic, or insane, mind to stand outside it. (p.62)

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