On the day of the horrific Boston bombings there were many other atrocities around the world. Fifty people died in Iraq, children were killed in Syria, and thousands continued to die from starvation, disease and abuse around the world. But our televisions, computers and newspapers were filled with images from Boston. Newspaper pages and TV hours were crammed with this one story.
Being a first world country there were of course lots of images to broadcast. Also the American networks were pouring out reams of material that others could plug into. But I felt uneasy. I don’t want to decry the seriousness of the Boston event. It was awful and undeserved. However in the international scheme of things it was not the worst thing that happened in the world that day. Here in Australia the media would make it appear that it was.
There are so many questions and issues that arise out of this situation: What is news and who determines what we should be shown? Are western lives more valuable than others? What impact does this skewed reporting have on our sense of justice for all? What about the child dying in its mother’s arms in a forgotten village – shouldn’t she be noticed? What about the Christians who are dying and having their churches bombed in towns and villages in Asia and the Middle East? Sadly, the list is seemingly endless.
Another question which directly confronts us, is, are we simply watching the news to be entertained? Neil Postman confronted this attitude with his LIAR principle – Low Information to Action Ratio. His point, we gain so much information, but we do so little about it. Is the news just another ongoing sitcom or is it a means by which we can gain understanding of the needs in the whole of God’s world?
I understand that this a very complex area and I am only scratching the surface. Yet we can start with ourselves and critique what we see, and explore other sources of news, such as the news that comes from mission and aid organisations. This would broaden our input, remove some of the power of the big news organisations and would also have the effect of putting us, to some degree, in charge of our own news sourcing. We would also have a more complete perspective from which to pray and act. And acting afterall, rather than being curious voyeurs, is the heart of Christ at work.