Apocalypse Wow

For no discernible reason, news reporting has taken on an exaggerated tone this summer–more exaggerated than usual, I mean.  The potential for earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, one of the many Kardashian baby bumps, a Jenner’s transition from Bruce to Caitlyn, the Pluto fly-by, discovery of airplane wreckage in the sea off Reunion, volcanic eruptions here and there, and final filming of Downton Abbey are all discussed (and headlined) with a blare of trumpets and a rumble of kettle drums.  The Sky is Falling!  Obama is Invading Texas and the POWs will be Stashed at Walmart!!  Donald Trump is Running for President!!!

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Journalistic bombast affects not just the language used in reporting but the narrative structure of the story, and the choice of which stories to report and which to pass by.  I think the viewers or readers feed on it–certainly they internalize it, so that that they yearn for something spectacular in every story.  Nice isn’t enough.  Insanely nice is what we all want.  And if what we crave is negative, a single genteel murder is not magnetic enough, not awful in the sense of awesome.  What we want is serial killings, all of them lasciviously gruesome.

I suppose this craving for super-triumph and mega-disaster flows in both directions.  Post-holocaust science fiction and Vlad-the-Impaler-style fantasy can generate a desire for sensation in journalism and history.  Naive readers complain that news servers never tell pleasant tales about kindly innocent folks helping each other.  Actually, they do.  Sometimes they speak calmly of a medical breakthrough or a technological leap.  Occasionally they even report on change that is just change, neither breakthrough nor leap.  All too often, though, stories like that are swamped by others that supply boom and bang, and blood, lots of blood.

I’ve taken a bunch of history classes in my day and taught some.  Nothing is more depressing than to find students wanting yet another recap of the invasion of Normandy or the battle of Gettysburg.  As appalling as the First World War was, it was not one-sixteenth as important in human history as the domestication of corn.  We love to read about the fall of Rome.  The foundation of the first human village was a lot more noteworthy–but not spectacular.

I think I’m burning out on what makes the world dramatic.  If I do, I’ll have one heck of a time writing appealing fiction.

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3 Responses

  1. Yes, you are so right. We refer to the ABC treatment of news as boom-ba-boom-ba-boom-bada-boom. Every morning it’s the same thing–“breaking news overnight…” Even if it’s yesterday’s news.

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