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The Hidden Persuaders

Posted on by St John

After the tears, the victories, the disappointments and the spectacle of the London Olympics, I feel almost exhausted. Cynical as I was at the beginning of the event, it took me only a few days to get drawn into the theatre of the games. I wept with pride and sheer admiration that night Ennis and Farrah won their respective events, not to mention to unexpected long jump victory of Greg Rutherford.

Equally, I was delighted with the achievements of our cycling team and heartbroken with the rowers Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter who were so distraught at coming second and achieving a ‘disappointing’ silver medal!

After all of the emotion and British pride has died down, I am left with a distinct sense of loss. And that loss is one of ‘good news’. Let me explain.

Having become so accustomed to the regular flow of problems in Syria, Afghanistan, riots, bankers’ bonuses and bent businesses, the two week respite of uplifting Olympic news was like a breath of fresh air. It occurred to me; while news on the state of the economy or serious global developments is important, what is its cumulative emotional effect on one’s psyche and general view of the world? Does this unending diet of bad news skew our shared perception of the world around us?

I have to say that after two weeks of positive, uplifting and inspiring news, I felt more proactive, optimistic and upbeat about life in general. What interests me is the subtle, insidious and cumulative impact our gloomy news agenda has on all of our moods and perspectives of the world.

Granted, I realise that it’s usually ‘bad news’ that sells papers (as the old maxim goes), but does there come a point where the constant reiteration of man’s inhumanity, violence and cruelty to others has a perverse impact on all of our collective views of the world?

Years ago, the Glasgow Media Group became well known for its pioneering studies into print media and its influence on modern society. Perhaps now is a good time to revaluate the nature of news and its influence on all of us. I am not naïve enough to seriously suggest we need more news coverage of old ladies being helped crossing the street or cats rescued by firemen; I am merely making pondering whether our current news agenda is good for us.

Back in the fifties, Vance Packard wrote a ground-breaking book called the Hidden Persuaders about the unseen yet pernicious influence of advertising on American society. I’d love to find out more about the influence the new media has on all of us.

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