Maybe there’s something in the water we’re drinking, but hyperbole and an exaggerated sense of urgency and importance is popping up everywhere. While at Irvine Spectrum this past weekend I couldn’t stop myself from snapping a picture of a sign, strategically placed so that everyone walking a particular pathway confronted the giant warning: “CAUTION NESTING BIRDS” and warning mall-walkers that nesting birds may fly nearby or in front of unsuspecting shoppers? I would have had a hard time explaining that warning to the girls!
It’s a challenge teaching children that exaggeration and false alarm (as in screaming wildly when something irritates) decreases the chance of being taken seriously at another more urgent time. So Nan occasionally brings out the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” For Sophia I need to clean the story up quite a little bit from the way I learned it as a child. She already has concerns about the coyotes that live in the country club golf course adjacent our house. I don’t think she could handle the idea the boy was eventually eaten by a wolf because no one believed his shouts of warning after repeatedly falsely crying, “WOLF!”
In some ways I feel a little bit like the townspeople in this little fable that grew tired of being tricked by the boys false alarms—I, too, don’t need to hear “be afraid” attached to almost any media report. Gavin De Becker, expert on the prediction and management of violence, says of media fear tactics that there is a code of “alarming newspeak” that needs to be broken. He suggests that we listen for key words in order to decode the fear messages. One of his examples is the word possible. He reminds us of what we know, but often forget. Anything is possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s happening right now. He gives the examples, “ ‘A possible connection between memory loss and the air you breathe…’ means there is no confirmed connection.” You can ignore that warning!
I’m kind of a news and information junkie, but I’m trying to let go of some of the sources that deliver the same old stuff! I’m tired of the decoding…critical thinking can be so exhausting, don’t you think? I’m currently enthusing and enjoying the a la carte smorgasbord of news and politics and science and business and yes, entertainment available in podcast form, thank you, I-tunes.
Consider listening to “The New York Times Front Page” or “The New Yorker: Out Loud.” The BBC World Services “Global News” is excellent, as is “Reuters: Breakingviews.” These are a tiny sample from hundreds to choose from, with categories ranging from political discussion to arts and entertainment. I recently found “The Thomas Jefferson Hour”—wildly entertaining as award-winning humanities scholar, Clay Jenkinson, features a weekly discussion in character as Jefferson, sharing views on a variety of topics. Now that’s a la carte information gathering.
I hope you’ll consider sampling some new listening pleasures. I’m sure you’ll find some new favorite broadcasts (podcasts) and in time, you’ll lose the need to decode “alarming newspeak.” I hope you’ll stay tuned for more suggestions, and I’d love to hear some of yours!
Offering further reading: