In his book Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, came to a vision of the future in which there would be no reason to ban the reading of books. Why? Because no one would want to read them. Scary truth to that statement. But think of it a different way. What if there were no reason to report the truth anymore? Or in other words, no reason to report the news.
Bill Moyers did an episode of his show, The Journal, about such an issue. His guest was explaining that the media has three spheres of influence. In the outer ring, the one where journalists and news networks typically operate, is what is likely to happen. What is probable to happen. This is different, wildly different, from reporting what did or what is happening. In the age of constant and immediate media coverage we are increasingly relying on what a certain network is predicting to happen in the news. I believe this to be the absolute source of why there are media networks with such drastic takes on what is happening in the world. You see, it’s not because they have genuinely different opinions on what is happening, it is that they disagree with what they think is likely to happen. It is a breeding ground for firey opinion.
But there’s more. At the same time that this mode of operation is a breeding ground for opposing opinions, it is also grounds for stagnation. This may sound contradictory, but hear me out. The prevailing attitude of 20 somethings right now is one in which there is a lack of reflection and a general blase attitude. I am of this generation and was once a participant in this mindset. Summed up in one word – paralysis. I’ve thought about this a lot lately, and I think this is accurate. We have so much to keep us engaged now that we very rarely take the time to think about what now means.
I was just watching Lion for Lambs with my wife. It was an incredibly fascinating movie about the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, starring Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, and Robert Redford. Directed by Robert Redford. With a side performance form the new Spiderman (Andrew Garfield). Must have been a blockbuster right? WRONG! No one saw this movie. I bet you had never even heard of it. Think about that…This is the defining war of our time, and each and every movie that comes out on the subject has been a box office disaster. I don’t believe in coincidence. So what does it mean?
It’s a reflection of what I was just referring to. We, our elected officials included, are so obsessed with what is next, that it feels like we neglect to think about how it is we got here.
Scared of no one wanting to read a book? Talk about fear of a world in which a historian’s word falls on deaf ears. That is a world in which no one wants to live.