Monday, June 20, 2016

Thinking About World News

I could begin this writing by elaborating on technological advancement and how that has effected the media and the distribution of certain media, in this case, world news. But this all seems rather tired, going over the history of such advancement. Or maybe I'm just too tired to care? In any case, I have to start on the right foot somehow. Consider this my anti-intro before submerging into some personal observations about world news, particularly, world news that revolves around calamity.

Personally, I've never been intentional about staying up to date on world news. I can't dispel the criticism in and of itself that such a choice is ignorant, but are some things not worth ignoring? It is true that "...the eyes of man are never satisfied,” as Solomon wrote in the Psalms so very long ago, and with that, it's not surprising that the modern individual desires to watch the world as if occupying the head office of Bentham's Panopticon.

Now, perhaps the Panopticon analogy is too cynical. What if the viewer finds themselves responsible for bringing aid to the calamities they've taken into observation through the media? It feels wrong to overlook good intentions. The problem, however, is that when an individual attempts to engage with a calamity that is far removed from them, there will no doubt be a lack of understanding on behalf of the individual. Whether or not this problem can be overcome is an entirely different question.

Social media is perhaps the greatest offender for spreading news stories about world calamities and turning them into items of fashion. For instance, the buzz around Joseph Kony in 2012. The Kony 2012 video reached over 100 million views in a matter of six days (Kanczula, 2012). However, I recently visited the Invisible Children YouTube channel (the company that produced the video) in January and the popularity of their content has declined drastically. As of today, the Kony 2012 video has not reached 101 million views (though it is close). Their more recent videos have only garnered thousands of views. 

But why are people no longer talking about Joseph Kony when he is still alive and his heinous acts persist (Taylor, 2014)? Well, it's quite tautological really: there are more and more news stories being published every day and the consumer can't keep up with it all. Social media turns other peoples suffering into fashion statements. But not only is one not able of keeping up with news stories, as one is also susceptible of being deceived into thinking that they have god-like control over what they're observing through the filters of the media. With world news, everyone seems like our neighbor. But is this true? And to what extent must one involve themselves with calamities that are far removed from them?

When the Christ told the disciples to love their neighbor in the Gospels, it seems correct to assume that the neighbor was another who was in physical proximity to them; after all, the population was much smaller in those times. As well, ancient societies lacked satellite dishes and iPhones, so I would guess that their awareness was more attached to the here and now.

Again, do these doubts jeopardize a responsibility for the capable observer to help those far removed? I think not, though I trust that God can provide a more robust answer to a question like that. I have no desire to thwart the efforts of individuals or groups that bring justice to far removed situations (no idea how I'd accomplish that anyway, as I am an insignificant person - and that's not self-deprecating, it's just true). And really, this is all an aside from the focus, that is, world news. None the less, an important question remains: why do people care to take world news into observation? And is our access to and use of this excess quantity of information a failing attempt at attaining a god-complex, particularly, the attribute of omniscience?

Works Cited
Kanczula, A. (2012). Kony 2012 in numbers. Retrieved from The Guardian:
Taylor, A. (2014). Was #Kony2012 a failure? Retrieved from The Washington Post:


  1. We can only be accountable to what God has placed in our domain. I can't define what that is for you, since by definition that's between you and God. Humans have far less control over things removed from our reach (proximity) than we think.

    1. I'm interested in learning more about that perspective, particularly, Biblical passages that deal with that. I very much agree with your comment on control. Nobody should carry the burden of having to "change the world" per se, which is part of what I wanted to point to here. Reminds me of that article (which inspired me to write this, in part) you shared from Fr. Stephen Freeman - some of the best reading I've done this year.

      Also, thanks a lot for the mention in your last post! :)

  2. Man, your post reminded me of when I went to Germany (sadly more than a decade ago), and the buddy that I was visiting kept CNN on for most of the trip. It was the International CNN, though, and there was all this talk about all these conflicts in the Middle East, and Jordan in particular that seemed like very big deals. When I got back to America, I had a long layover in Memphis, and the airport had CNN on in my waiting area. I was there for six hours. The story the entire time was about a tiger that got free of its cage and had to be shot. This was the only story aired for six hours. There was no mention of any of the conflicts I saw on the TV while in Europe. It was as if those things weren't even occurring. This was a very strange feeling.
    I haven't been on Facebook, or any social media outside of my blogs for six years, so I can't speak to anything that's going on there. I do remember a rather irritating co-worker going on about how he was re-tweeting things about the "Arab Spring" and how everyone tweeting about the "Arab Spring" was somehow helping to fuel it and change the world. I thought what he said was absolutely ridiculous, and it's clear from the regressions in those nations that not only did twitter not make any difference, those actual "revolutions" have not made any difference.
    As far as what's going on in the world, and what our individual places are in it, I think God puts us where we are for his own specific purposes. I'm basing this belief on seeing how he moved in the lives of people mentioned in the Bible, and how he used each individual in unique ways. For instance, Rahab. She lived in a heathen city, and she had a shameful profession, but when the time came, and God put her in a position to make an important choice, she chose wisely, and we are told is an ancestor of Jesus.
    It's interesting that of anyone God could have chose in Jericho to achieve his purposes, he picked a prostitute.
    So where do we fit? The best I can gather, that old cliche about doing your best and God will do the rest has a bit of truth to it. I think if we are attempting to live rightly, God will put us in the position to do His will, as nebulous as a concept as that is. I also believe that if we are doing wrongly, God still might put us in a position to do his will.
    I feel like I just talked too much. Sorry, man.

    1. Lots of good thoughts here. In one of my classes this year, a sub-topic I learned about was American news and how it tends to focus on events pertaining to the country. Your anecdote really seems to support that, so that's interesting to consider.

      Yeah, social media activism is pretty meaningless. It's wild how a lot seemed to get caught up in the hype.

      I should really read the story of Rahab sometime soon. Thanks for mentioning that. Sounds like a writing that can point me in the right direction. I'm afraid my knowledge of Bible stuff (wow, that's a layman's term if I've ever seen one) is quite limited. I guess a collection of 66 books (for the Protestants, at least) is intrinsically difficult territory though, that is, in terms of breadth, and in the case of the Bible, certainly in terms of content.