Last month, a man named Adolph Hitler Uunona was vigorously elected in a Namibian regional election. The result is not as bad as it might appear at a glance; Namibia was colonized by Germany early last century, the place had a German presence heavier than schnitzel, and his father “probably didn’t understand what Adolph Hitler stood for.” In a poignant bit of statesman oratory, the newly elected official soothed the world: “It doesn’t mean I’m striving for world domination.” Thanks to brave pioneers like this, the world may one day again be populated with Adolphs.
Have to admit, I enjoyed that bit of news. Because it was news. And because it’s, well, kind of funny. But why does most news these days leave us enraged?
Both ends of the political spectrum accuse the other’s media “side” of fake news. In politics, this sick sport is legendary and has grown like a vine that covers the world. Climate change/the environment have been dragged into it, and now COVID. The “news” has been debased; it is no longer news. Part of this is business, and part is partisanship that is hard to reverse. In the old days of news, real news, there were newspapers that reported on what happened, and there was value in that because citizens had no other way of learning about distant, real events.
We’ve seen this blow up with energy. Twenty years ago, tentative renewable energy projects started appearing, wonderful curiosities that indicated a hint of a future of clean energy. Since then, the media has stoked up a roaring fire around climate change, creating division, friction, and all-out war between camps that simply have different visions about when the world will transform to a different form of fuel than hydrocarbons (which run the whole place). Everyone in the oil industry knows that cheap oil won’t last forever and that we’ll be on to something else when there is something else that is as effective and as price competitive.
But the media has instead created a pit of mortal combat, egging each side on to generate headlines. This demented process has gotten even more repulsive with the arrival of Covid.
In Alberta (and truthfully in most places), a mini-war is raging about the government’s response to the pandemic.
“You’re not doing enough!”
“You’re doing too much!”
The media loves this, eagerly chasing down anything confrontational. It’s disgusting and unnecessary. All one has to do to see this is to put themselves in the position, the real position, of a decision-maker tasked with overseeing a challenge the likes of which the world has never seen, all while keeping the whole show going.
What if a news outlet, a real news outlet, was to examine the genesis of these two viewpoints. Are the viewpoints really pro-maskers vs. anti-maskers? Are there really two camps, one that wants to shut down the economy, and one that wants to ignore Covid?
We can’t get to any answers here via the media, because they’re in the middle of the profitable little war they’ve created. But let’s view it a bit more rationally, and maybe try to understand what might lie under each perspective.
There is a camp that says we are not taking COVID seriously enough. They are right, from their perspective. They are people that are facing the possibility of overwhelming numbers in hospitals, people that are tasked with administering school responses, people tasked with trying to figure out how to deal with a virus that no place on earth has been able to do successfully (except…China…media silence here is astonishing). If you were faced with making decisions that could impact a lot of lives in a lot of ways, wouldn’t you want more help from authorities?
Let’s go to the other camp. Are all those people rabidly against wearing masks, and utterly indifferent to human suffering COVID is causing? Or, are they maybe small business owners faced with losing everything? From this viewpoint, it’s infuriating to hear people calling for a complete shutdown of business when those people will still get a paycheque every week. Would people change camps if their pay was cut off during a lockdown? And not just their pay – what about their retirement? A government worker may get paid all through a lockdown, and retain that handsome pension somewhere down the road. A small business owner may lose his paycheque and his life savings, and, for the self-employed, any retirement beyond abject poverty is all up to you.
Of course, there are hard cases on either side that can’t understand anything else. But most people are not in those camps. Most people can recognize the incredible challenge of balancing the economy and the response, in an unprecedented pandemic. Extremists should not have been empowered and encouraged, because it has cost us a useful media world.
Media needs a reinvention. They need to report on things that actually did occur, and if they must pontificate about what it means, should have two articulate and rational viewpoints, given equal space, and without the media-inserted innuendo and biases.
Then maybe people would start caring about the news again.