Popped open Yahoo at work this morning and was greeted with the news headline, "National Guard Kill 4 At Kent State." Jesus, I thought, again? Then I saw that this was a "news archive." Of course, it was listed at the top of today's news headlines, just a reminder that Cinco de Mayo is the anniversary not only of the invention of the margarita but of the Kent State killings (and if I got any of that history wrong, I am a product of the California public school system.)
It was also a reminder that our news media seems to feel its primary obligation is to keep us scared shitless. If a state of hysteria can be induced, maybe people will stop playing World of Warcraft and watching Youtube long enough to pay attention to the news. Fat chance, hysteria mongers. The news media, by going for ratings and competing with the entertainment industry, has lost the esteem in which it was once regarded and become just another channel to be flipped through. Yes, if I see a fire on the screen I will probably stop long enough to see where it is (unless basketball's on another channel, in which case I'll wait until local emergency banners are running across the bottom of the court,) but I won't believe the hyperbole that has been recently used regarding swine flu (let's use the worst case scenario as probability - that will get their attention) or had someone I knew convinced, from the television footage in London during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, that all of San Francisco was on fire.
Those who exaggerate peril both damage their own credibility and denigrate those to whom tragedy has occurred. People are selfish enough, we don't need to worry about ourselves when it's time to be concerned about others. And we need some form of news media that tells the truth and is delivered to a wide audience. The mainstream sources for news have done little over the years to prove themselves anything but gullible government lackeys, and it is only occasionally in a government's interests to reveal the truth. Guerilla news coverage historically has been done through independent newspapers with small circulations, could conceivably deliver their messages to the masses via the Internet but who will the mass Internet users trust?
Trust no one and carry an Uzi doesn't work against a government; they have more distrust and Uzis than you can imagine. And I'm a U.S. citizen. I'm not talking pogroms and layered graves. I just want information I can believe, and I don't know where to get it.