After a year like 2016, it’s easy to fall into despair; it can seem like there’s more violence, division and hatred in the world than ever before. But I’m coming to realise that dwelling on the bad things is deeply unhelpful.
Last night, I watched the evening news for the first time in ages. As ever, it was all bleak, with a focus on terrorism and the war in Syria.
The phrases ‘Islamic terrorists’ and ‘Islamic State’ were mentioned multiple times. This was the BBC, which is supposed to be the most unbiased source of news in the UK, and yet they were subtly pushing the idea that terrorism happens because of Muslims. There was no mention of the fact that the behaviour exhibited by these terrorists completely goes against the teachings of the Quran and is denounced by the vast majority of Muslims. There was also no mention of the fact that most of the people killed by IS are also Muslims. The report seemed engineered to create divisions in our society.
As I was watching, I began to realise how manipulative even the most ‘unbiased’ of news outlets can be. By focusing on the negatives, they engender feelings of hopelessness, despair and powerlessness in their viewers. When people believe they can’t change anything, that this is just the way things are, the status quo is maintained.
What the news chooses to cover and the way it covers things are deeply political. Perhaps even more significant is what it chooses not to cover. There’s a reason happy news rarely makes the cut.
It’s important to realise that when we feel negative and despairing, other people pick up on it. Whether subconsciously or otherwise, our attitudes can have a huge impact on other people. Negativity has the power to paralyse us, to make us feel as if there’s no point in trying to improve anything. Surely that’s the last thing we want to transmit to others?
But it works both ways. If we believe there is hope and a capacity for change, we’re far more likely to try to create that change. We become empowered, and we project those feelings in a way that inspires other people to fight for change too.
Yesterday I read this fabulous article about the good things which happened in 2016 and went unreported by much of the mainstream media. It’s incredibly uplifting and I really recommend it. Perhaps then you’ll see what I mean – that things aren’t nearly as grim as they seem. And for a thoughtful and hilarious take on the news, I really recommend Russell Brand’s The Trews.
I really hope you all have a wonderful Christmas (if you celebrate it) and spend lots of time with your loved ones. Turn off the news and don’t let the media get you down. Peace.