Conflict: competitive or opposing action of incompatibles: antagonistic state or action.
Pornography: (3): the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.
What else could it be, other than conflict pornography, when a major media source unnecessarily frames a story in such a way as to concoct a “conflict” in order to arouse a quick intense emotion reaction in its readers? That’s exactly what Newsweek did this week with its cover story: Lincoln vs. Darwin: Who Matters More?
I can imagine what the Newsweek Editors were really thinking: Americans get easily bored unless there is conflict. Even concocted or unnecessary conflicts will do the trick. Let’s turn Lincoln against Darwin to sell more advertising. Just as we’ve turned every election into a horse race rather than a sober choice. Let’s conjure up conflicts everywhere so that Americans don’t get distracted and thus turn away to watch one of the dozens of sports contests playing at every hour of the day. Let’s frame all of our stories as conflicts so that Americans don’t run off and watch any of innumerable movies where violent conflict appears to be the plot itself, rather than a means to a higher end.
Americans can’t help themselves when there is a conflict to behold. The corporate media knows that Americans are war-mongers. They know that when we are troubled, we are always relieved to know that we can go to war. As we’ve repeatedly done in Latin America. After all, war is movement. War is doing something. Not going to war is nothing. War is conflict. All movement is progress. Therefore, War is progress. Peace is boring. Darwin is boring. Lincoln is boring. But Lincoln versus Darwin is a conflict and thus it is interesting. Just like attacking Iran is more interesting because it is laden with conflict rather than peaceful resolution based on compromise.
Therefore, let’s not have any more stories based on resolved conflict. Let’s not herald two great men. Let’s pit them against each other. Just like we’ve done with God versus Allah. Or gays versus straights. Or Blacks versus Whites. Or Liberals versus Conservatives.
Human animals are rigged to give immediate and sustained attention to conflict. We need to be more aware of our propensity because we are so easily manipulated by those who choose to frame their communications as conflict when, in reality, other frames are much more appropriate. Because we are so vulnerable to apparent conflict, manipulative news media can make irrelevant things look relevant and un-compelling things look compelling. The news media all too often feeds our base craving for stories full of conflict. For a lot of evidence, just check out your local TV news. Huge issues involving the survival of the American way of life (exhaustion of resources, overpopulation and white collar systemic fraud) are overlooked. Rather, we get massive doses of the local crime report and sports. A bit of conflict will make just about any story look compelling.
But our yearning for conflict is addictive, just like our yearning for sweets, fatty or sugary foods, drugs, physical possessions and (for some of us) indiscriminate sex. These cravings run deep in human animals. We need to be made more aware of them, so that we don’t pursue warped priorities. We could know more about them if we studied Darwin, even if we don’t worry about whether he was more important than Lincoln. If we take that time to know more about the biology of human animals, maybe we wouldn’t run around getting mesmerized by conflict pornography.
About the Author (Author Profile)Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.
Sites That Link to this Post
- What's more interesting? War or Peace? | Dangerous Intersection | April 8, 2010
- News report features what is wrong with news reports | Dangerous Intersection | April 27, 2010
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- Media sleeping | Dangerous Intersection | February 6, 2011
- Who cares about Egypt when we can talk about war? | Dangerous Intersection | March 3, 2011
- Joseph Stiglitz discusses conflicts and the media | Dangerous Intersection | April 13, 2011
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