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11/24/2015

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Jim

That's infotainment!

The "news" uses the techniques of story telling to grab attention, and therefore advertising dollars. Conflict is the essential element of any story, and a news show with zero conflict night after night would be a snoozefest, and no one at that show would get paid.

That said, I stopped watching the local news several years before I stopped watching national news. The reason was simply that it was a non-stop stream of child abductions, apartment shootings, and rapists. I kinda figure people suck and don't need to be reminded every day to that level.

"replacing optimism with fatalistic thinking"

That part in the Guardian article is BS. If the news was promoting fatalistic thinking, they'd end every segment with, "And they got away." That doesn't happen. Just like any good story, another essential element is conflict resolution. If the viewer doesn't get that resolution, then they change the channel, and that station gets fewer advertising dollars.

"This is the usual let's identify the Bad Guys in the never-ending human drama called "Good Guys versus Bad Guys"."

Right - that's another essential item to the story - the good guys (us) face the bad guys. The solution is implied in this case - we beat the bad guys. There is a ton of psychological manipulation on the mass level happening there, but in a very basic form, the "news" is just like any episode of CSI. Catch the viewer's attention, present the conflict, build the conflict, tell or imply the solution. Phew! Everything's okay, after all! We won, or we're going to win!

The formula doesn't work when the bad guys are us. There's no easy resolution there, and the viewer is left hanging and deeply uncomfortable. They change the channel.

As for scientists looking for things to be cheerful about, maybe they should contact Hans Rosling.

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