Valdosta Daily Times

What We Think

February 23, 2013

A culture of fear

-- — A child is kidnapped in California, and parents from coast to coast panic to protect their children. A cruise ship loses power after an engine fire, and thousands cancel their cruise plans. From plane crashes to fires, vehicle accidents to shootings, what once were isolated incidents are now known instantly thanks to the use of social media and the Internet.

Are bad things only happening today? Absolutely not. But in years past, most incidents would make the pages of the local newspaper at best. No one beyond the immediate area would ever know.

But today, news is a 24 hour, national business. Television news shows and web-based news sites are always hungry for stories to share with their readers. They have a voracious appetite and no story is deemed too small or local to be shared with everyone.

Unfortunately, this obsession with news has also led to a national fear. If something bad can happen somewhere else, it can happen here. We’ve become a society obsessed with protecting ourselves from events which most likely will never occur. Events that we once would have never even known happened.

It’s essential to know your local news and to learn what’s going on in the world particularly for events that may somehow touch your life or that of a loved one. You need to know if there has been an increase in home burglaries or violent crimes in your community, or if an accident has closed down the Interstate. If a loved one is abroad, you need to know about conditions in their location. But to react to the news of a crime across the country as if it will happen to you is an over-reaction in most cases.

Today, we base laws on incidents that happen only once. We change policies, increase security, tighten regulations and more as though we are all in immediate danger.

Instant awareness has to be tempered with common sense and practicality. Not every horrific event is a cause for panic and fear.

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