Obviously there’s been a lot of talk recently about how the media has the power to push the message they want to push or distort a story based upon what “side” they cover. But the truth is, the mainstream media doesn’t have an “agenda.” Well, okay, Fox News and MSNBC do (at least to a point), but even they’re building broadcast material based upon the audience to which they’re pandering. Generally the “agenda” of the media is ratings and money – that’s about it.
That being said, negativity sells much more than positivity. While we all like heartwarming stories, we tire of those fairly quickly and they just don’t “sell” on as broad a spectrum as negativity.
For some reason people like being outraged, angry or offended. Hell, just look at the Internet. No matter which side of the political spectrum you’re on, the vast majority of the news you’re fed is someone telling you why you should or shouldn’t be “outraged” about something.
But what the media does – and what we do as a society – is often highlight the bad, while almost completely ignoring the good. When a group of people who are potentially risking their lives in the name of justice are all labeled as violent, hostile or criminal based on the deplorable actions of a few, that’s completely unfair.
But it’s what sells in the media; it’s why that’s mostly what we hear about.
The peaceful actions of these people and all the good that they do and stand for is not deemed a “ratings driver.” Showing people being kind to one another, helping one another – that’s not really going to drive the “clicks” on the ol’ website.
So, what do we end up with? A situation where the few suddenly represents the many. Where the shocking actions of the minority have somehow managed to represent the overwhelming majority – because that’s basically all we ever hear about.
The NFL is a great example of this. Suddenly the league has been labeled with a domestic violence problem because less than 1 percent of the players have been accused and/or charged with domestic violence. There are 1,728 players on active rosters in the NFL – do you know how many “guilty” cases of domestic violence the NFL has had between 2000-2014? 48. But because Ray Rice and Greg Hardy (the two most well-known offenders) were the ones who made headlines, suddenly many Americans think domestic violence is rampant in the NFL. The truth is, the players involved represent a fraction of a percentage of overall players in the league.
The “good” to come out of all of this is that domestic violence was thrust into areas of our society where it had mostly been ignored, and now the country has its most powerful sports league, a multibillion dollar business, putting a lot of money behind combating the very real problem of domestic violence in this country as a whole – not just in the NFL.
But while Ray Rice is basically a household name, I can guarantee you almost no one reading this heard about 2014 NFL Man of the Year winner Thomas Davis. The NFL Man of the Year is an award given to a player who dedicates a large part of his time to helping the community. And there were a hell of a lot more candidates up for this award than those accused of or charged with domestic violence.
Because the media has the power to make perception become reality, and because the domestic violence stories sell better than the Thomas Davis stories, the “reality” to many is that the NFL is overrun with domestic violence.
And that’s what we’re seeing now in Baltimore. The few bad apples representing the many good, decent human beings.
Now I know what some will say, “Well, the many need to be more vocal in calling out the few!” – and I completely agree. Sadly, the many far too often seem to try to justify the violence of the few. The bottom line is, illegal violence is never acceptable – period. There’s never any justification to act out illegally in such a way that causes harm to anyone or anything because someone “felt like it” or they were “angry.”
But the truth is, the media is the driving force behind a lot of this. If all the media decides to focus on are the “bad apples,” while ignoring the overwhelming majority who are behaving legally and in good faith, naturally the perception of that group of people is going to be “they’re all bad, they’re violent, they’re unlawful and out of control.”
Which is exactly what’s happened in this country…
When it comes to our police officers.
Those defending the rioters and looters in Baltimore blame the media for only reporting on the “bad apples” causing the violence. The problem is, that’s exactly what the media does to our nation’s police officers. The good ones rarely make the news; meanwhile, the bad ones dominate the headlines.
In the U.S. we have between 750,000-1.1 million officers (depending on the definition of “officer”), but because less than .5 percent of them make headlines for being bottom-feeding monsters, suddenly the perception by many is that “cops are all out of control and must be stopped.”
Just like the vast majority of those protesting in Baltimore are peaceful, out there standing for justice in the face of those who’ve been denied theirs by crooked police officers.
But just as the media does with bad police officers, they’re doing the same thing with these violent rioters. They’re letting the minority represent the majority, because that’s what sells headlines best.
When these situations happen, the good on both sides need to come together to oppose the rotten ones amongst them. Because when one side defends their criminals, while the other side defends theirs, nobody wins and the discussion we all need to have, which is how to fix these racial problems in this country, never evolves into anything productive.
The problem remains that we’re all too focused on gawking at the bad while mostly ignoring the good. Instead, we should be focusing on the good while acknowledging the bad and discussing realistic solutions to the problems that we have.
Until we start forcing that as the narrative instead of settling for what sells, nothing will change.