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Fanning the flames

October 11th, 2008

In the 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine, musician Marilyn Manson shares his ideas about America’s culture with the film’s writer and director, Michael Moore. Manson believes that American society is based on “fear and consumption,” mentioning Colgate commercials that assure “if you have bad breath, people are not going to talk to you.”

The same fear tactics that advertisers use to sell toothpaste have been abused by news outlets to keep Americans glued to their TVs over the past few months. The media relies on exploiting audiences’ vulnerabilities for sales and ratings. This goes for anything from hygienic products to, most recently, the state of the U.S. economy. The relentless coverage of the collapses on Wall Street and the subsequent $700 billion bailout, and the media portrayal of the financial crisis are fueling the public’s panic.

What we should focus our fear on is that the news media is telling us how to feel. A recent Philly.com reader’s poll asks “How concerned are you about the economy, Wall Street?” The choices:

A) Concerned

B) Very Concerned

C) Over-the-top Concerned

Where’s the option for “Not Concerned?” It isn’t a choice because complacency doesn’t sell. By all historical accounts, the media will perpetuate our society’s “fear and consumption” with 24-hour news cycles on topics that promote anxiety. Just remember: even if it isn’t listed as an option on a reader’s poll, you do have the choice to stay calm.

Posted Under: Media & Journalism
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