A never-ending stream of news drives our public discourse, following a recurring pattern of concern, outrage, arguing pundits, and disinterest as another damned thing takes center stage.
“Life is just one damned thing after another.” Elbert Hubbard
The news cycle provides the frame for US public discourse. The recurring pattern looks like this:
- Some event captures the attention of the popular news, entertainment, and social media.
- Initially the focus is on what happened?
- Outrage proliferates, insisting something must be done!
- Various interests quickly attempt to change the discussion to someone (else) is to blame!
- Advocates then look for any angle that allows them to retell the events as a Just-so story supporting their standard answer to all problems, articulated as timeless principles. (I recommend following links to ad hoc, then to ad hoc fallacy, then to No True Scotsman, and then to epistemic commitment. We’re long practiced at this.)
- By this point some other Damned Thing has occurred. Rinse and repeat.
Social Media has amplified and accelerated this cycle, as did the cable news networks and Talk Radio in earlier times. Every report provides yet another opportunity to express our concern, then our outrage, to demand solutions, only to shift our attention elsewhere lest we have to set priorities, make choices, act, and accept the consequences.
Sadly breaking the cycle requires effort and sustained attention. Hard and boring homework for the easily distracted, producing the expected results.