It stalks you. Whether you like that or not, it’s here. Tainting your heart, burdened already by living, enduring the days. Cold creeping news stamping doom onto your soul like a black tattoo. Inescapable, relentless, draining. It names itself News, Info, Reportage—exactly what it is. The punk band Bad Religion nailed this for us all: The Biggest Killer in American History. Bad news. Morbid shit. Vicious disregard for sensitivity, decorum, or consideration of anyone who might—at the moment—be having a terrible day. At age 15, I might have been curious about seeing the facts of murder, suicide, anarchy, and political chaos. Trust me—I was. Until I found what such matters looked like in the so-called real world. Sure, we lucky suburban kids joked about it, how such things never could happen in America. As the cliche goes, we were young, fortunate, and oblivious. Something like that. Close enough. We weren’t privy to personal computers, thank God, because every one of us would have typed “Suicide images,” or “Sex,” or “Death” into some science-fictional search engine. Whatever keyword available before simple, concise, language degenerated into search terms. Between you and me and the cynical “writers” raking in one dollar for 500 words of “content,” I’d like to say that I’ve acquired a fresh recognition of the power of words, of image. Hilda Doolittle’s famous quote, “We are all haunted houses,” rings all too true. A poetic bumpersticker representing everything that’s wrong about our “Zeitgeist.” That rhymes with “poltergeist” to a chilling degree.
My point is simple. The world we inhabit is not so dangerous as daily news would have us believe. The late Michael Crichton wrote a shatteringly poignant novel, State of Fear (Avon Books, 2004), that so eerily prefigured current media manipulation, it’s hard to imagine he did so without some magical tool of prophecy. I read this fat paperback in utter fright—far beyond that of any horror novel, because he described what I was observing every day. Stacked statistics about crime, global warming, terrorism, industrial toxins in our food, and much more. What amounts to proving a truth by its blatant absence. No, the world doesn’t hate us. Nor does life. But if I gauge the chances of emotional well-being for future generations on media-feed, I might just have a really bad day.