The Media’s Role in Depressing the World

May 1, 2001

In this issue:

Newsbrief: “Cultural Creatives” Discoverer Presenting at The Presidio Dialogues

Editorial: The Media’s Role in Depressing the World, by John Renesch

More Newsbriefs: “The Great Entrepreneurs” TV Series Airing Now



“Cultural Creatives” Discoverer to Present at Presidio Dialogues

Social researcher Paul Ray will be one of the guest presenters at the May 22 gathering of The Presidio Dialogues in San Francisco; he will share the podium with the co-author of his new book – Cultural Creatives (a holistic subculture he discovered in the U.S. that presently numbers over 50 million people) – psychologist Sherry Anderson; for information on the Dialogues go to, or call Elizabeth Bloom, Dialogues co-host, at 415-785-2604. Tell all your Bay Area friends to attend this event and learn more about all the other people who share our values and priorities. A MUST!



Do you care about yourself? And your well-being? Do you care about what you put into your body? Do you eat healthy? More or less? Do you exercise your body somewhat (even if it isn’t as much as you think you should)?

Do you care about your spirit? Do you maintain some sort of discipline that nurtures your spirit?

The odds are that if you are a subscriber to this newsletter, you probably care about yourself enough to be aware of what you’re eating (at least routinely, despite the occasional splurge into pizza or ice cream) and you probably have some regime that feeds your soul to some extent. But what about the stuff you put into your mind almost every day?

If you are like many of us, you pollute your mind every day by listening, watching or reading the news. Or “talk radio” or other media (such as movies and videos) which dwell on controversy, negativity, violence, conflict and blame.

It seems to me that the media has a unique role in our society. Having promoted itself into a “fourth estate” and using the First Amendment as its charter for publishing anything it wants to, the media has positioned itself as something “special” or unaccountable to anyone. And, is also owned by business interests which are becoming more and more driven by the Friedmanian thinking that profit is the sole purpose of their existence.

It seems to me that the media serves up news and violence much like drug dealers sell their assortment of chemicals to addicts. Using the maxim that they are only giving the public what they want, the media abdicate any responsibility in discerning whether or not “what the public wants” is healthy. They also fail to acknowledge their own culpability in having “sold” the public this particular line of “products” by steadily feeding us a stream of sensational headlines and gripping special effects that lead us to wanting more of the same, promoting widespread cynicism, violent visuals and obsession with the negative side of everything. Who’s to blame? Who’s at fault? Trials, murders, disasters of all sorts, and controversy of all types dominate the sound-bites of our newscasts and newsprint, and have become mainstays in our latest movies.

In many ways, much of our society has become addicted to the news, perhaps starting as early as when we were in elementary or high school when we were urged to keep up with “current affairs” and even graded on how well we “kept up” with the events taking place in the world. It isn’t too big a stretch to see ourselves as an “addictive” society – that is a society prone to be compulsive and obsessive. After all, we have become addicted to consuming, and we have a large percentage of our population addicted to substances of various sorts, and we are most certainly addicted to the romantic ideal, and to work….so why not the news? The same could be said for violence…have we also become addicted to it? Is it something we now expect (and condone) in the movies we watch?

Corporations use the media to convince us we need items that we don’t (but we “think” we do because of effective marketing), which promotes consumerism. After all, buying something often supplants the cynicism we feel after hearing all the negative news, at least temporarily. Buying “stuff” serves as a form of anti-depressant – a “Prozac” for the chronically cynical and those who’ve been officially diagnosed as “clinically depressed.” After all, we are a society that is consuming record amounts of drugs in order to “feel better” about our lives.

The national (even global) trend toward a cynical, litigious, consumptive society is also leading us toward becoming a community of righteous addicts who are obsessed with matters of celebrity, fame, blame and instant gratification. The media is more responsible for this trend than any other institution. Yet it hides behind the U.S. Constitution whenever anyone tries to take it to task – to ask it to accept it’s responsibility or objects to the way it panders to the public.

Most people probably agree with much of what I’m saying. But how do we stop “agreeing” about it (TALKing about it) and rectify the situation (DO something about it), reverse the trend, and create a more healthy way of sharing news with each other and entertaining ourselves?

We start with ourselves. This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who’s done any self-assessment work, learning about ourselves and why we do what we do. Personal responsibility lies at the core of all our social conditions – good and bad. This starts with taking a frank look at our own role in how we perpetuate a dysfunctional media. Taking a close examination of our lifestyles, our routines, our habits, should tell us how we are complicit in this trend that is depressing us so much.

It certainly is easier to blame others. After all, this is what we have become accustomed to – at cocktail parties and other sorts of social situations – finding fault with whomever is to blame for our depression – our thoughts and feelings about the various ills and social problems in our lives. But finger-pointing is only a ruse, a childlike attempt to transfer accountability for situations which we help to perpetuate. We are complicit in creating the reality in which we find ourselves, but refusing to own up to it.

This is not merely a New Age idea about “creating our reality” but an absolute fact. If we didn’t buy the newspapers, listen to the radios, and watch the TVs and movies, the media would not be able to continue until it served up “product” that we were willing to “purchase” – like balanced, uplifting news, inspiring movies, and deserving celebrities who actually accomplished something worth while.

What can we do as an alternative? We can support anyone who offers POSITIVE news, a more balanced newscast, movies that don’t rely on violence for their appeal. The Web offers many options (and is a growing trend) for “personalized news systems” whereby each of us with online access can arrange for our own private “newspaper” – selecting each and every type, theme, topic for our review. If we “consume” positive news, non-violent movies, and uplifting media in general, we can expect the suppliers of this mental toxicity to clean up their acts and start supplying us with healthier entertainment and news.

It starts with us, each and every one of us. When we stop buying crap (whether negative news, violent movies, unnecessary cars, or anything else superfluous) and start purchasing what we actually “need;” when we start discerning instead of unconsciously purchasing what may make us feel less depressed; and when we start insisting upon quality (excellent service, long-term reliability, sustainability and true aesthetics), we will be doing our part for rectifying the situation. After all, anyone who is selling anything (cars, TVs or news) needs people to “buy” their output. If we don’t “buy” what these “merchants of cynicism” are selling, they will change. It is the law of capitalism. But…it starts with you and me… and now.


POSTSCRIPT: The Presidio Dialogues will focus on the “constructive role” of the media in its June 26 meeting in San Francisco; panelists will include former television anchorwoman Susan Blake, newspaper journalist Gail Holland, former California Business magazine editor Umberto Tosi and Kim Weichel, co-founder of The Campaign for a Positive Media (where John serves on the Advisory Board).

RESOURCES: Two books by Andrew Bard Schmookler – Fool’s Gold and The Illusion of Choice



“The Great Entrepreneurs” TV Series Airing Now

The new television series “Great Entrepreneurs” that’s been produced by
PBS’s “Nightly Business Report” and is now running
nationwide. You can check where and when the series is airing in your
community by going to and clicking on “Great
Entrepreneurs” under “Work” in the left hand menu. Then you can enter your
zipcode and you’ll see when it is being broadcast. The segment John was
interviewed for features Anita Roddick and is expected to be broadcast
sometime this month.


About John Renesch

Better Future NEWS is prepared monthly by John E. Renesch, a San Francisco writer, futurist, and consultant/coach. John served as Editor-in-Chief of The New Leaders business newsletter from 1990 to 1997 and has created a dozen business anthologies on progressive business subjects, including consciousness, intuition and leadership. These books include New Traditions in Business, Learning Organizations and The New Bottom Line. His new book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing.

John is also an international keynote speaker, having addressed audiences in Tokyo, Seoul, London, Brussels, Budapest as well as many cities throughout the U.S. For a list of all the services John offers, go to Services.

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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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