Friday, March 20, 2020

Fox News

Last night I decided to watch MSNBC to hear the latest on this Rod Serling episode.  I was watching downstairs and this was a good thing since the news was so depressing and so repetitively discouraging that throwing myself out the window seemed like it might not be a bad idea.

I tried to find a movie to watch.  Flipped through the dozens of channels and could not engage in anything. 

Silvan Tomkins was a researcher who wrote about something he called Affect Theory.  It is a challenge to nutshell a theory that he described in two fat volumes, but essentially the theory suggests that we all, we humans, seek out a net positive affect.  That is we seek out experiences which will make us happier than sad.  I write about this some in describing why people like sports. Sports can provide excitement, entertainment, appreciation for others' prowess, and in general make us happy because of what it brings to our lives.  One can get a net positive affect and not have anything to do with sports.  It could be novels, pets, coins, whatever brings you joy to offset the sadnesses that we often experience.

Today in this episode of the Twilight Zone in which we live, there is precious little to bring us a net positive affect. No sports, no theatre, no good news, and most of all, the phrase of the day is social distancing. Robert Frost wrote "Something there is that doesn't love a wall."  True dat.  Social distancing might seem sweet if you've been hanging around with nogoodniks but eventually you seek out closeness.

This morning I woke and shook my head. Once again, I was reminded of our new world where there does not seem to be a light at the end of a dark tunnel and even when we get to the light, we are not quite sure what the land will look like when we emerge.  I flipped on the tv. I moved through some channels and I rested on a station I usually skip over as if I am barefoot and discovered that I am stepping where someone smashed glass.  I stopped on Fox News.

The interviewers were speaking about a drug that President Trump had referred to that had positive effects in dealing with the virus. Now last night I had watched a number of pundits ridicule this claim. It seemed that the drug had not been tested yet for this purpose and therefore could not be the balm the president implied it could be.

However, I found it comforting to listen to this fantasy.  It was a good story for a change. There would be a light at the end of the tunnel.  Of course, there was no truth to it. It was like a feel good episode of Father Knows Best.  We interrupt the Twilight Zone to bring you Robert Young in Father Knows Best.  Nevertheless, it felt good to hear this bogus story about a light at the end of the tunnel.

My dad had a great expression.  He would be arguing with my mother about something and he would bring up a fact to deflate her contention. She would wave him away.  He would say, "Oh don't confuse me with the facts, is that it?"  I think people watch their Fox "news" programs, and MSNBC can be guilty of this as well, because the narrative is comforting and they want to believe what they hear. They like that story better than the other side.

Of course, this is not the role of journalists. A journalist is supposed to be about a dispassionate presentation of truth.  In these times, though, that is not going to ratchet up the chances for positive affect.

No comments:

Post a Comment