I just realised what ‘The News’ is; it is not primarily a record of the day’s most important events but is actually a presentation of a point of view about a single subject. That subject is Death and the opinion you are invited to have is that it is a Bad Thing. Look at the grim faces of the newsreaders as they describe how many have perished and in what way. There is never the suggestion that death is part of life and that it might not even be worthy of mention. As we don’t know what happens after we die, to assume it is a bad thing is just as ignorant as assuming we all go to heaven and should all therefore be happy about it.
Why is it presented as such? Because as Alan Watts pointed out, people who are afraid of death are easy to rule. The constant grim and scaremongering coverage of the various deaths around the world shows people what might happen if they venture too far out of their comfort zone (the ending of the film ‘The Truman Show’ brilliantly satirises this). Fear of death creates the chains that bind us and we tune in every day for a fear top-up. This allows us to feel better about our petty and uncourageous lives – ‘look at all that death out there, better not step out of line in case I become one of its victims. I will postpone what I really want to do and do as I’m told to do as this seems to be the safer option’.
Why, especially on British TV, is death not shown in all its gory details? Let’s say yet another American bomb ‘accidentally’ hits a wedding party in Afghanistan- we are shown the debris and maybe some blood on the ground but never all the mutilated corpses. The issue is not really protecting the Americans, it would be the same if US soldiers had been killed. The programme makers do not want to show the full horror and thus risk arousing the righteous anger of the populace which might in turn, if unleashed sufficiently, lead to a change in the status quo. We are to fear death as a shadowy unknown, something constantly at our side, but which must never be turned and faced. If we did face it, we might discover a different countenance to our gaoler than the one we have long feared.