O medo vende
Online Only: The virus we get from TV
Canandaigua, N.Y. —
We all have heard about how bedbugs are spreading, thanks to air travel. And last year, we were still worried that the H1N1 virus would veer our way. But if you want to know the most virulent virus infecting the world, I’ll tell you what it is.
There’s an epidemic of fear raging across the globe, and I’m afraid that the United States is its primary breeding ground.
Consider the fact that when I was in Australia a few months ago, I got to my hotel room and turned on the TV, and there was Jaycee Dugard. Yes, the young California woman who was kidnapped from her bus stop at age 11 about 20 years ago and escaped her captor-rapist 18 years later. The film clip was familiar to me because I’d seen it on American TV. You probably did, too. But why was this relevant news for folks half a world away?
Because fear sells. And the story of any child’s being kidnapped — especially a story like Dugard’s — is pure TV gold.
That’s the same reason we here in the states have heard the story of Maddie McCann, the 4-year-old Briton……………..
These stories are so precious to the media that they will import them from thousands of miles away, the same way early sailors risked everything for a shipment of saffron. The result? Night after night, we see kidnapped, raped, missing and murdered children on TV, and we quake in rage and fear — fear that is as crippling as it is unwarranted.
“As soon as we hear about a danger, however remote, we tend to see it as a personal threat,” says Marc Siegel, a doctor and professor at New York University School of Medicine, as well as the author of the book “False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear.”
He’s so right. When I ask parents whether they let their children wait at the bus stop alone, I usually hear “no,” and then they say why: “Look at what happened to Jaycee Dugard.” Or Etan Patz. Or another tragic child who didn’t come home. No matter how long ago it happened. No matter how far away............."
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