The Curious Case of Crisis and Media Amnesia

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If you’re a diehard news junkie, you might want to stop for a second and think about the term “junkie.” Sure, you’re a great source of information about current events for friends and coworkers alike. But is your constantly having-to-be-updated knowledge about hard news worth that looming sense of doom that’s doggedly plaguing you and giving you a stomach ulcer? Always heading back to the news trough for more updates, are you?

Whatever crisis has you on edge this week will more than likely be replaced by a different crisis next week. Even the impact of big, paradigm shifting events, like 9/11, when everyone swore off the frivolity of meaningless pop culture and counter productive gossip (how long did that last?) fades over time.

Case in point: Remember the typhoon of 24-hour speculation, breaking news reports, national finger pointing (China, Malaysia, Thailand) and soul searching that went on for weeks after Malaysia Airlines jet MH370 disappeared six months ago? While the search for the missing plane is still ongoing, events in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere have trumped news on the search efforts — giving us something completely different to worry about instead.

But of course, the Chinese, who lost 153 citizens among the 227 passengers and 12 crew members traveling aboard flight MH370 are still beating the media drum in order to get to the bottom of this mystery, right? Nope. Not at all. According to recent reports, Chinese security agents have been breaking up MH370 prayer groups in Beijing, with some family members of missing passengers complaining about how they’re now being treated like malcontents by the authorities. Looks like the powers that be in China have even lost interest in the story.

If news is a drug and junkies are “addicted” to it, wouldn’t it be better to cut back significantly (or quit altogether) if it’s causing you too much distress? Yeah, a lot of bad stuff happens all of the time. Doesn’t mean you have to religiously follow every news item fed to you.

The media model often seems to rely on beating a story to the ground until people get bored of it — and then move on like it never happened. What was the point of that? Especially if governments, which the media is meant to police, follow the same model as well?

While our ever-shortening attention spans might contribute to the ease with which this news model survives, for the relatives of the missing MH370 passengers, or families torn apart by an assortment of conflicts we’d now rather forget, the struggle to find and tell the truth — or find some meaning in all the mess — lives on, no matter what the rest of us might be digesting at the crisis cafe.

Carl Pettit is a contributing journalist for TheBlotMagazine

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