Monday, June 22, 2015

It's not National. It's Local.

I was at lunch the other day, where a friend tied up a waiter while perusing the menu for life-threatening entrees. Does this one have gluten? Are there any artificial colors in that one? How much MSG is in that one? Does this have red dye? What about sugar? High-fructose corn syrup?  It went on and on until the waiter wisely determined his order wasn't going to be worth the tip.

I looked at my pal. He was a wreck. Totally consumed with issues that didn't really concern him, but were destroying his life anyway.  This is a well-educated guy who's a total media victim.  Completely helpless when it comes to discerning which news he should listen to and which he should ignore.  The stress of dealing with all the valueless news is making him ill.  He's not alone.

Take note of today's date, because years from now -- maybe even weeks from now -- much of what you read here will be forgotten, nudged out of the headlines by other stories. I, on the other hand, will likely be remembered for being insensitive, out of touch or just plain ruthless.

I don't care. This is too important to simply ignore. 

This is more important than the stories currently consuming the United States of America.  It's more dangerous and more harmful to you, your families and your physical and emotional welfare.

At this writing, the country is focused on the bizarre shooting and murders of nine church members in Charleston, South Carolina.  A sick, twisted kid stormed into a church and blasted away.  Around Dannemora, New York, two brutal murderers are still on the run after escaping from one of New York's most heavily secured prisons. After almost two weeks on the run, nobody knows where they are. And throughout the country, every single media outlet is updating and over-analyzing these stories as if they're vital to the country's -- and your own -- survival.

But they're not vital to your survival, because these are local stories happening in places where you don't live.  Without detracting from their sadness, danger and tragedy, the fact is that the shootings in Charleston affect a very tiny community and touch a few hundred lives at most.  It's their tragedy, but it's being treated as if it's a national issue. It's not.  And don't start with the old, "it's part of a larger issue" argument.  Just because a local story is reported by national media doesn't make it a national story.  It's simply a local story promoted for its sensationalism.  Every day, unfortunate people fall into threshers or off building ledges. Banks are robbed and cars are stolen. People get murdered as a matter of course, but we don't hear or read much about those because they happen in places to people we don't know.  They're local stories. 

National stories are issues that genuinely affect an entire nation. Who's running for president? What country is threatening us? Should we put a man on Mars? How should we change the Federal tax system? What's the solution to American poverty? Is the bird flu a real epidemic?  Should the internet be regulated?  Those are national issues, because they affect everyone, everywhere.

Back in the Neolithic Age, journalism reported the news by classification. Television, radio and print divided their stories into International, National, Regional, Local and Human Interest. No matter how sensational the item, it was placed in the proper context for more accurate reporting.  Today, that's no longer the case.  Like AYSO soccer, where every kid gets a trophy simply for showing up, every local story is now thrust into national prominence regardless of its relevance to the rest of the country.  The result is that people misconstrue local events as national in scope. They worry about it.  They stress over it, for no rational reason at all.

A crazed killer in one small city is not justification for unleashing fear and stress on an entire country.  Race-based police conflicts, hand-picked and broadcast 24/7 does not equate to an all out, national police-driven race war.  Two escaped convicts in New York won't be holding the country hostage any time soon.  But when reported as national news, these local stories might seem to do all that and more.

They're not national stories. They're local. And because they're local, each comes with its own causes and effects specific to its local community, so it would be a huge mistake to assume that simply applying the lessons of one local story to an entire nation would be helpful, let alone appropriate.  Yet that's exactly what's happening today.  Right at this moment, pundits and politicians and legions of Facebook quarterbacks are deciding their futures -- and possibly yours -- based on isolated events that have no bearing on where you or the rest of the country lives.

That's what happens when the media confuses nationally-reported local stories with legitimate national news.  Cancer doesn't happen to everyone. All cops aren't out to kill you. Live a little more. Fear a little less.

Screw the cholesterol. Order the steak.


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