Friday, August 28, 2015

Well Said: the news isn't all the news

[My mother] turned on the TV but muted the sound. People were looting an electronics store, taking TVs and stereos.

"There's something you need to understand, Jonah. For every person who's stealing and setting fires and turning over police cars, there are three or four others in the same neighborhood who want no part of it, who're more afraid of lawbreakers than they are of the law."

"Doesn't look that way."

"Because the TV only shows you the ones who're doing it. The news isn't all the news, Jonah. Not by a long shot. It's just what reporters want to tell you about. Riots come and go, wars come and go, but under the tumult, day after day, century after century, millions of people are doing nice things for one another, making sacrifices, mostly small things, but it's all those little kindnesses that hold civilization together, all those people who live quiet lives and never make the news."

On the silent TV, as the face of the anchorman replaced the riots, I said, "I don't know about that."

"Well I do."

The anchorman was replaced by a wind-whipped rain-lashed town over which towered a giant funnel cloud that tore a house apart in an instant and sucked the ruins off the face of the Earth.

"When weather's big news," my mother said, "it's a hurricane, a tornado, a tidal wave. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time, Mother Nature isn't destroying things, she's nurturing us, but that's not what gets ratings or sells papers."
Dean Koontz, The City
This book is set in the chaotic 1960s and does a good job of showing the uncertainty it brings to Americans' lives, especially if the narrator is a 9 year old black boy. The times we live in are no less chaotic and, if anything, more filled with the bad news people want to tell us about. Dean Koontz's words remind us of the reality beneath the chatter of ceaseless news.

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