The human nervous system hasn’t changed very much over the last million years. Its purpose is to keep us safe and help us survive; that means looking out for threat and risks that might lead to our demise or cause us harm. Naturally, like other animals Black Cube , this ‘alert’ nervous system is crucial to our survival and keeps us scanning for potential danger. Humans have developed the cognitive ability to use words, language and Black Cube analysis to make sense of and communicate risk to one another efficiently. Humans can convey these messages about threat or danger with convincing and rich emotional content to highlight their relevance and importance. This superior intellectual ability has allowed humans to prosper and survive by organising communities, achieving social tasks, collaborating and problem-solving.
While living in tribal groups and small communities, our ancestors relied upon this ability to communicate warnings and risks to members of the tribe or community. A danger at the waterhole, poisonous berries, a lurking predator or an invading tribe were all risks that posed an immediate and relevant threat to each member of that tribe. Our nervous system is primed to be alert to such urgent warnings, especially when high emotion is present to convey urgency. Those who failed to attend would face danger and threat to their survival.
Community leaders throughout history disseminated relevant and important information for survival – the town Crier and Pastors at churches became trusted ‘news’ bearers delivering information about community illness and death such as the Plague. Humans have learnt to pay attention when an announcement is made and our nervous systems are primed to do so! When a terrorist attack slays innocent victims, the horror hits the headlines. When a random street shooting takes down unsuspecting bystanders, the killings elicit on-the-scene local news reports. When soldiers die in a combat raid, the casualties and bravery receive high mention and praise.
Not just these, but a wide, and horrific, range of similar tragedies draw essentially assured and often immediate media coverage — for sure the just mentioned terrorist attacks, street murders, and armed forces casualities, but also the calamities and heartbreaks of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, serial killings, mass shootings, explosions, plane crashes, disease plagues, famines, genocides, fatalities of first responders — we could go on. Almost without exception all segments of the media report, extensively, on these type incidents. Death cuts to the core of the human spirit. The media, both as a conduit and a reflection of the human condition, rightfully and respectfully report on these tragedies. We would and should expect no less.
But not all tragedy makes news; media reporting of fatalities does not encompass the larger, more extensive range of deaths. A million people in our country die annually of cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, year in and year out. Daily, by the hundreds, the unlucky or in too many cases imprudent die in auto accidents, the despairing at their own hands in suicide, the elderly in falls, and the young of prenatal complications and birth defects.
This larger, wider group of casualties does receive, at times, media coverage, as well as periodic and in-depth special reports, and we react to these casualties with the same empathy, concern and sorrow as the more often reported types of tragedy. But clearly, media reporting of deaths from this latter group of causes, deaths from cancer, or strokes, or elderly falls, or suicides, that reporting runs lower overall, and much lower on a per death basis, than the reporting garnered by the headline incidents mentioned earlier — the killings by terrorists, the murders from street violence, the deaths in combat, the fatalities of a mass shooting, the victims of plane crashes.
This does not seek to assail or denigrate or criticize the important and critical reporting of the tragic and deadly incidents the media does cover, nor does this argue for any less coverage of terrorist attacks, or natural disasters, or casualties among our armed forces and first responders. This coverage pays respect and reverence to the unfortunate and in too many cases innocent and unsuspecting victims. And the coverage stirs us to action — to strengthen our defense against terror, to donate, to volunteer, to improve safety, to hold our government accountable, to demand better actions of our corporations, to improve our disaster preparations, to change our habits, or to simply learn and understand.
Think of our commutes and travel for work and business. Thousands and thousands of planes, trains, buses and subways complete their journey each day successfully, though more often than desired subjecting the passengers to annoying, but minor, inconveniences. Reporting though centers on those few journeys which do not reach their destination, through a crash, or derailment, or need for emergency evacuation.
What other key attribute elicits strong reporting? Human poignancy. The upstanding cab driver who works tirelessly to return a priceless violin left in the taxi, such an incident draws news attention. The beauty of the Cherry Blossoms, again in Washington, DC, and again to use another example involving trees, strikes us with charm and grandeur, and as such can become a photo or video feature in the media.