Against positive news

Dear Hannah,

Westerners watch too many shows about serial killers, but there are way worse things to be obsessed about.  What we have to worry about isn't that people are sharing stories of people murdering people, but that people are sharing videos of people helping other people.

My reasoning on this one is simple.  Anyone who's bored enough to watch daytime reruns about serial killers can be accused of being tasteless -- but he expresses a craving for action, and it's an action that most usually results in justice.  In the end, if you want a good story about a hero you've got to have a monster.  But the person who craves positivity is starving for the little Christian kindnesses that everybody needs but many of us are missing.  Thus the solution to our missing goodness isn't to share stories about other people being kind.  It's to be kind to other people ourselves.  If we find ourselves watching horrible things it may only be because we've never had a chance to stop them.  If we find ourselves watching only beautiful acts it may be because we've never had the decency to do them.

In addition to this I've never agreed with people who stop watching the news because it makes them angry.  The whole point of watching the news is to make you angry.  And the reason the news is supposed to make you angry is because you want to learn about the horrible things that happen to other people so that you can keep them from happening to you and your family.

Those of us who pretend that we'll be happy by not hearing unhappy things will be unhappy by experiencing unhappy things.  Our ability to feel the sufferings of others on an emotional level keeps us from feeling the sufferings of others on a physical level.  The man who wants emotional security will never have physical security.  In the world of news, the man who shuns what's bad will only get what's worse.

So the news may be negative -- and may it always continue to be predominantly negative.  May our manliest men always walk around with grudges to settle and good causes to fight over.  May they be wary of crooks and zealots, fearful of politicians and wild-eyed utopians, aware of ulterior motives and suspicious of snake-oil salesmen.  May they fear that everything good can be lost and everything bad can prevail -- because many great people have lost everything, and lots of villains have been responsible for taking it.

The men who complain about a politics of fear are the same men who give you a reason to fear politics.  Life is a constant struggle against the possibility of suffering and an imminent death.  Whoever says otherwise is swindling either you or himself.  Never fear the news when the news is always fearful.  Always fear the news when the news is always cheerful.  



  1. As usual, dead on. My wife also watches and reads murder mysteries. I think part to try to guess the killer first but also because we LOVE seeing the good guys win. I watch little TV but what I do watch has good people who sometimes slip but ultimately triumph. NCIS and Blue Bloods have heroes who have seen the ugly and fight to defeat it.

    Keep telling her the truth and teach her how to fail. Its the best way to learn how to succeed!


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