ain de Botton’s News: A User’s Manual
Why do news organizations focus so much on the darkness? Why so much grimness and so little hope? Perhaps they think that their audiences are by nature a little too innocent, sheltered and pleased with themselves and therefore very much in need of being taught some of the negative aspects of reality – in order to recalibrate their expectations of others and take safety measures where possible. The presumption is that without the dark realism of the news, the nation might lapse back into its dangerous tendency to gloss over its problems and feel foolishly content with itself. Putting aside the logic of this thesis for a moment, it at least offers up a suggestion of how news organizations should go about curating their content. Faced with an infinity of potential stories, they should pick ones that answer to what they think of as the prevailing national need. That which the nation most needs to hear at any given point – in order to compensate for its weaknesses – should determine the selection process behind the line-up of news items. This logic isn’t alien to news organizations of today. What is problematic is their judgment about what the national need actually is. Most countries, far from taking too rosy a view of their condition, far from trusting too much and feeling stupidly hopeful, do precisely the opposite. They are at risk for reasons other than the ones currently implicitly diagnosed by the media. They scupper their chances through excessive fear, anxiety and gloom. They are all too familiar with their litanies of problems, and yet they seem to feel debilitatingly small, unambitious and weak in the face of them. They can’t see a way past decline, broken relationships, out-of-control teenagers, status anxiety, physical vulnerability and economic ruin. There is a task for the news here: not only to remind us daily of society’s worst failings, but also – sometimes – to train and direct its capacities for pride, resilience and hope. National decline can be precipitated not only or principally by sentimental optimism, but also by a version of media-induced clinical depression.
Please help me analyze the thematic resemblances between the passage above and nonfiction writing.
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