No News Is Good News?
Updated: Mar 7, 2020
There are two ways of reading that sentence:
The first - no news is good news - a lack of any news being perceived as a good thing.
The second - no news is good news - an expression of the idea that it is impossible for news to be good.
Ultimately, I suppose both interpretations of the phrase arrive at similar outcomes - news is bad. And, judging by most major media outlets, it's not hard to disagree with that statement.
The birth of the internet as a mainstream medium for consuming news has undoubtedly changed the way we absorb it. In addition to allowing us to seek out increasingly partisan sources that fit with our own world view (which is causing problems of its own), the instant nature of both uploading and consuming media often makes it feel like the world is in an endless cycle of going to shit.
In the first two months of 2020 alone, we've already seen deadly drone strikes carried out by the United States government bring two nations to the brink of war, Australian bushfires wipe out scores of human and animal lives, an outbreak of Coronavirus in China, spreading to 27 different countries, and two consecutive devastating storms and floods in the UK. These are just some of the headlines, but of course, there's much more. Every week it seems there is a catastrophe - whether it's a political scandal, terrorist attack, natural disaster, climate warning or celebrity death - the headlines of all major news outlets are almost always bad news. And the reason for this? The sad truth is that bad news sells. Gets people into a frenzy. Our curiosity gets the better of us - we're desperate to know what is going on at all times, because the internet allows for instant transmission of information from halfway across the world. A part of me enjoys this "always connected" world that we are a part of, but another part of me wonders why the hell I actually need to know what is going on, all across the world, all the time.
We're living in strange times. We are emotional creatures, and hearing bad news constantly is getting us down. Local news stories and events that are genuinely going to affect us on a day-to-day basis are absolutely a necessity, and worth spending your time and effort on. Global news stories though - especially the endless hysteria-inducing scaremongering that plasters headlines, front pages and news feeds - are often just simply not worth worrying yourself about. It can feel like the world is in a sorry state at the moment, and in some ways it is. But, it's worth noting that it's never exactly been great; it's just that our predecessors on this planet weren't quite as well informed. I'm sure the Japanese weren't concerned when they heard that hundreds of thousands of European soldiers were making their way across the Middle East during the First Crusade. I'm sure that Brazilian farmers weren't worried whilst the Great Fire of London was spreading in 1666. I doubt that there was mass hysteria in Scotland during the reign of Ghengis Khan. You get the picture. The nature of communication was fundamentally different across the world until very recently in history, and I don't think we've fully mentally prepared ourselves for the impact it is having on us. We're actually living in the least violent period of human history to date, but you wouldn't know it.
I'm not saying that ignorance is bliss; I do think that a good general understanding of the world's current affairs can be useful. Instead, I'm suggesting that we need more balance in our news. Horrible things happen all the time, but so too do acts of great kindness and inspiration. Incredible breakthroughs in the fields of medicine, history, science and technology are made all the time. Terrorist plots are foiled. Disasters are averted. Endangered species are cultivated and protected, and begin to thrive again. But these small victories just aren't deemed as newsworthy somehow. For comparison, there have been eight terrorist attacks in London since 2005, but in just the past two years, over 22 major attacks were prevented. What's the best news here? The stories where people are being stabbed, bombed or shot? Or the stories where the culprits are caught and apprehended before they have chance to carry out their horrific acts? We should be celebrating and revelling in these victories.