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july 2020

On the media and addiction


by Hans Durrer
Next Left: The knowledge that I've got enough: Lavaux, Vaud, Switzerland, 21 June 2020 (photo by the author)

In our Corona times, one of the definitions of journalism that I've heard twenty years ago, while pursuing a Master's degree in Journalism Studies at the School of Journalism, Media and Culture at Cardiff University, Wales, UK, pops up again and again: No, not "critical inquiry" (that seems to belong to the wishful thinking-category) but: "Giving interested parties a platform." The reason is simple: media owners profit. It goes without saying that to profit is not only the goal of media owners, it is the defining feature of our money-driven times.

Nevertheless, the media provide lots of useful information during the present pandemic by giving scientists a platform. What a relief for once to hear such mostly sober voices. Unfortunately, platforms were also provided for people with exclusively self-serving agendas. This is unavoidable, one of the arguments goes, for journalists are neither judges nor censors.

  Well, of course they fit these roles for they decide to whom to give a voice. And there seems to be a worldwide consensus that elected officials need to be covered. Even more so when the official in question happens to be a notorious lier, for his lies need to be exposed. Really?
Next A lie repeated again and again makes it not less a lie, as common wisdom goes. Yet as true as this may be, to give lies an almost daily forum makes us getting used, and over time immune, to them.
  Given the fact that most of what we do we do unconsciously, it is questionable whether we are really in charge of our lives. Brain research, however, tells us that we are able to direct our attention. To a certain degree, that is. Yet what might be a force for the good is mostly a problem.
  Right: Ilanz, Grisons, Switzerland, 12 June 2020 (photo by the author)

The media tell us what to focus on; they have made the clearly deranged man in the White House the best known person on the planet. And while doing so, they have made us forget many of the truly relevant questions. However, to solely blame the media would be missing the point entirely, for surely politics distracts us likewise from what we should concern us with.

We are living in addicted times. More-more-more is the corner stone of our society, it is our unquestioned imperative. Such a lack of imagination is not only baffling, it is destructive. We know that of course but we don't care.

Next The media are not different from us. And neither are our governments. There is a "me first" in all of us yet an ego running riot is, in my view, the root cause of addiction. We all know that for addicts nothing is ever enough. A healthier attitude was expressed by Kurt Vonnegut in his poem for Joseph Heller:
       True story, Word of Honor:
     Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
     now dead,
     and I were at a party given by a billionaire
     on Shelter Island.

     I said, "Joe, how does it make you feel
     to know that our host only yesterday
     may have made more money
     than your novel 'Catch-22'
     has earned in its entire history?"
     And Joe said, "I've got something he can never have."
     And I said, "What on earth could that be, Joe?"
     And Joe said, "The knowledge that I've got enough."
     Not bad! Rest in peace!
  2020 © Hans Durrer / Soundscapes