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Do You Think Everything's Turned To Shit. Here's Why!

I was astonished by one piece of news last week. Apparently, deaths following heart attacks in the UK have fallen by 50% in the past ten years. I was astonished for two reasons….firstly because that’s a massive improvement, and secondly because of how little coverage it got in the press.

Given that over 110,000 people suffer a heart attack each year, a 50% increase in survival rate must be saving tens of thousands of lives. And yet, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you missed the story altogether. Most of the newspapers seemed to have it buried away in a few column inches around page 25. I don’t think the evening news covered it at all.

Now compare that with the fuss over breast implants. You haven’t been able to switch on a TV or pick up a newspaper for weeks without reading yet another story about how one woman or another is scared that her chest is about to explode. If I see one more piece of footage of a doctor fondling something that looks like that gooey stuff toddlers play with, I think I’ll be sick. And yet as far as I know, hardly anyone has come to any serious harm from this. But it doesn’t stop the media wallowing in the possibility.

Looking at how these two stories were treated tells us an awful lot about how the media works, and how we are being systematically brainwashed into believing things are worse than they really are.  Take the economy as a further example.

If the FTSE falls by 200 points in a day it’s front page news. Reporters and analysts jump on the story and squeeze every last drop of angst and negativity out of it. We’re told how many billions have been wiped off the value of companies. Doom-obsessed ‘experts’ are wheeled out, and there will always be at least one who  will say that it’s the beginning of the end...that financial Armageddon is just around the corner.  Silly predictions are made about what would happen if the slide was to continue.

But what happens when  the FTSE rises by 200 points in a day. Does that story become front page news? No, in fact it’s unlikely to get much coverage at all, other than in the financial pages of the more serious newspapers and a  quick mention in the financial round-up on News At Ten.

And how about the property market? For the last 4 years, property prices have been either stagnant or falling in most areas of the UK. This is presented as a disaster by the mainstream media. But exactly who is this bad news for…the young  people hoping to get on the property ladder…the entrepreneurs looking to build up their portfolio as cheaply as possible…the people wanting to trade up to a bigger or better property? The answer is clearly, ‘none of the above’.  The truth is that falling prices are only bad news for people trading down or getting out of the market altogether, and these are far fewer in number than the benefiting groups. At the very least, falling property prices should be viewed as a balanced event….good for some, but not for others.  

But the media isn’t interested in balance; in fact it’s not really interested in good news at all. What it is interested in is attracting readers and viewers, and for reasons I can’t even begin to comprehend,  research shows that people tend to gravitate towards bad news. Is it any wonder then, that the news stories we’re presented with, are heavily slanted towards the negative? And as a consequence, is it any wonder we all end up feeling things are far worse than they really are?  Economic crises, unemployment,  war, famine, health scares, extreme weather, natural disasters, crime, violence, riots…they’re all events to be exploited by the media. Meanwhile the Nations psyche takes a hard and unnecessary beating.

The truth is that there is a huge amount of positive and exciting news that either goes unreported, or doesn’t get nearly the coverage it deserves. And there’s often a positive side to seemingly negative stories, which is simply ignored. The property market is an excellent example.  Even the worst possible news is good for someone, as any undertaker will testify!

I don't know whether you’ve noticed but we concentrate on positive news and stories here and will continue to do so. There's plenty of good stuff happening, particularly for people living in the west. Yes we’re in the midst of an economic downturn but we still have a better standard of living than any civilisation or generation in history. Our health is better, we're living longer and our living conditions are better. We have more labour saving devices, cars, electronic gizmos, entertainment choices and general ‘stuff’ than at any other time or in any other generation. We have more opportunities too. Yes there were times when it was simpler, but were there times where we had it better? Only in the realms of nostalgia.

Bear that in mind, next time you’re reading a newspaper or watching the news. If you believe what they say, you’ll act as though it’s true. And if you act as though it’s true, there’s a good chance it will become true - for you, at least.