I can’t help noticing two things: The 24 hour news media , when not reporting on gratutiously stupid topics (Paris Hilton in the slammer), pick an event and salivate over it for weeks — a disappearance of this person, that child, etc. Consider the Aruba disappearance of Natalee Holloway. In this case, the mother, Beth Twitty had a motive for keeping the story alive, given the obfuscation of the Aruban authorities; however the coverage on this event exceeded any conceivable public interest in the story. It certainly generated more coverage than politics, money, sex or war. And this story is far from alone: a person watching US television news would quickly come to the conclusion that the United States is a haven for child molesters, murderers and worse.
Statistics play a role: More people — more to report. I have a hard time believing that things that occur in the modern world are any worse than what has occurred in the past. The Spanish Inquisition and Caligula come to mind. We just report them quicker and more globally. This gives rise to a belief that things are worse now. One example may be child abductions. In the past, abductions were a local matter and people living 100 miles away were never aware of the event. Now each and every one is a national matter. Are more children being abducted by strangers than before? probably not per capita; but the coverage makes it seem that way.
Which brings me to my second point: Virtually every person I have met in the last few years is on anti-anxiety medication (Prozac, Valium, Equanil, Ativan, Ataraz, Chlorazipam, etc. ) or anti-depressive medicine (Effexor, Cymbalta, Lexapro, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, ….) While this may be an exaggeration for me, it seems mostly true for men, and accurate to say this for women. Now it may be that I just hang around with the wrong type of people, but the sales figures of the various Pharmas seem to confirm this.
When the first thing a person does in the morning is to flip on the news, and get bombarded with the latest global nonsense and the completely idiotic Washington beat, one begins to wonder. Given a measure for the ‘intensity’ of the news reported and some measure of its negativity, I ask how that would correlate with anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drug sales. Likely the correlation coefficient would be quite high.
Blasted by the current 24/7 new cycle and neverending torrent of doom and crime, I fondly remember the Huntley-Brinkley report and CBS’s Walter Conkrite — an hour of news covering really important information. Just enough to get you interested in perusing your newspaper for in-depth coverage. Enough to start a conversation in the barber-shop; and enough to keep you informed on really important issues. Probably not enough to make a run to the nearest pharmacy.