Little more than a month ago on national television, it took an astronomer to dismiss the claims of some of our fellow Earthlings, for whom unidentified flying balloons were supposedly the vehicles of choice for aliens. The astronomer poured cold water on the idea that aliens so technologically advanced to traverse light years to reach us would choose balloons for Earthly travel.
Perhaps media gatekeepers presented the non-story of alarm concerning "balloon-traveling aliens" tongue-in-cheek. But wait, these are the same media gatekeepers who allow us no escape from the delusions of hoodlums, thugs, and criminals in politics. Do media "infotainers" really believe that we, the listeners or readers, are uncritically addicted to "news" stories about violent threats to life, liberty, and happiness?
Frankly, some of us are looking for media probes that require accountability–most importantly, to stimulate more timely and effective use of the legal system. At least some of us also expect the media to track any positive proposals from politicians to improve this system, as well as our lives more broadly. Or, when no proposals are offered, to find ways to give access to voices demanding their development, and to hold politicians accountable for delivery on promised changes.
We all know that threats and violence on the media sell, of course. Followers of crime movies, for example, celebrate the early 1970s as spawning the most productions in this genre. Many more apparently than The Godfather in 1972 and Part II in 1974. Whether for entertainment or as exploration of the human psyche, or both, the characters in these productions and their doings have become part of our culture–right alongside the even larger trove of less artful exploitations of violence on television, the movie screen, and in video games.
We don't really need the last five decades of diligent research into broadcast violence to know that many people become addicted to violence, not only as voyeurs. Uncovering precisely how much broadcast violence stimulates violence in society, much less what it does to our culture is a challenge. Even considering ways to lower people's expression of violence by diminishing their exposure to violence is difficult, especially when the incidence of violence in the media shows little sign of declining.
But maybe some clever researchers can connect dots between the media's devotion to violence and the current crop of hoodlum politicians who have come into prominence more recently. The 1970s and later were the same decades that these bad actors refined their techniques of intimidation, bullying, and lying–which also apparently makes them appealing to the media.
Perhaps more simply, more journalists and interviewers can learn from the relatively few bright lights in the media who ask solid, follow-up questions–to probe these bad actors' inanities or worse. Too many folks in the media seem more focused on keeping conversation polite, or getting any answer from a public figure of supposed higher-social power. Interviewers should be directly asking the questions listeners want asked.
It's time to cut down the verbatim diatribes of the farcical public figures, who very much belong elsewhere than the public stage.