You might have heard that there’s some stuff going on recently with our neighbours south of the border, politically speaking. In fact, you’d have to be completely ignoring any news, social media, and conversation to be unaware. It’s everywhere, dominating what we talk about in a way no political topic has in my memory. But let’s not talk about it right now. I want to talk about talking about it.
Of course the situation down there is dominating headlines: terrible people with giant personalities have gained the power to fundamentally alter, or even end, the lives of not just those in the United States, but people all over the world. That’s the hot topic to end all hot topics. Throw in the fact that there’s a new scandal, policy, or horrible comment every day or two to recoil at, and it’s the perfect media-feeding machine.
We’ve come to a point where it can be tough not to filter every thought through that lens. If you make a comment or produce some art, will people take it as commentary? If you don’t say anything, will it come off as complacency, maybe even support? And if you take that trip, will nuclear war erupt before you can come back home?
For those of us who aren’t on the front lines (and my hat is off to those who are, because it is clearly exhausting, endless, and completely necessary work), however, why is it that we find ourselves so entrenched, even if we live in another country?
Part of that blame has to go to traditional media, and part to social media. As members of the media, it is our responsibility to inform readers of the terrible things in the world, yes, and there is something particularly awful happening at the moment. However, the nature of how papers are sold, how 24-hour news keeps viewers transfixed, and how social media users craft a message for optimal retweets and likes means that sometimes news adjacent to that awfulness is highlighted more than it would be otherwise. Not every single stupid thing said by someone in the spotlight needs to be a news story. We formed our opinions long ago, so it adds nothing to the conversation beyond a talking point.
If we must keep using images of certain key people as clickbait, and their names to spark interest, we can at least make the most of that interest and use it to inform about other underreported issues. For example, why are we in Canada so quick to mock another country’s absurd and draconic ideas to stop unwanted (by the government) immigration, and criticize them for being so closed off, while largely ignoring the fact that, according to the CBC, over 6,000 Haitians “irregularly” crossed the border claiming refugee status during a nine month period last year, and while a final decision had only been made on 298 of them in November, just 29 were accepted into the country.
Sure, that story got some news coverage, but when was the last time a friend incredulously brought it up out of the blue as a conversation point? We can criticize another country’s immigration policies and call them xenophobic and closed off because it’s easy to accept the idea of Canada as a country that has solved its problems, or to yell from the bleachers about how other countries should govern. But when covering the mistakes of other countries, we should take the time to research and relate their ongoing issues with ours, which are not that much further beneath the surface.
Talk about the news, yes, but relate it back to your life, and those lives of the people you share a city, a country, or a planet with. Treat the news as news, not as entertainment.
Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr