The good news about bad news is that there is not nearly as much of it as you might think. The bad news about good news is that good news doesn’t tend to sell. Dr. Bradley Wright explains this paradox in Upside: Surprising Good News about the State of our World
The media sells negative worldviews. It’s not that reporters, writers, and editors are pessimistic people; rather, they have a strong incentive to tell us about the fearful, scary, and dangerous happenings in our world. The media is a business, and it succeeds by attracting viewers and readers. With hundreds of television channels and even more online news sources, how can they do this? One way is to offer something that is truly frightening. If watching a story can save us from some imminent danger, then maybe we’ll stop channel surfing long enough to watch it. If reading a report can protect us from a health scare, maybe we’ll pick the magazine off the rack. Sensationalism and fear sells—this is a fact of life that won’t change anytime soon (36).
Wright proceeds to highlight how this also motivates the media to find bad news even in the good news:
If life expectancy decreases, people are dying younger. If it increases, it strains the social security system. An unpreventable disease harms people; a preventable disease means disparities in access to medical treatment. High birthrates cause overcrowding; low birthrates cause school closings and lowered future tax revenues (38).
Many activist and advocacy groups like Greenpeace also have a vested interest in selecting and emphasizing the negative. If the world is not getting worse, who’s going to volunteer or donate to make it better?
But in many ways our world is getting better.
- People living in the middle class in the U.S. live better than 99.4% of all human beings who have ever existed
- Americans are healthier and live longer than ever before
- Literacy rates are up and crime is down
- Family income is up and the cost of living is down
- Air and water quality is up and deforestation is slowing down (201, 204-5).
But what about the rest of the world? It’s a basket case, isn’t it? Not at all.
The United Nation’s Human Development Index is based on three measures: life expectancy, education, and income….The United Nations has collected data on 115 countries from 1990 to 2007, and would you like to guess how many of them had improved over this time period? If you guessed 109, you are absolutely right (207-8)
Wright assembles hundreds of facts and statistics to support his persuasive thesis that although there are still a few significant areas where things are getting worse rather than better, that’s the exception rather than the rule, and concludes:
Two thousand years ago, a book whose core was euaggelion—good news—began to be widely read. We of all people should be able to recognize and celebrate and express gratitude wherever we find it. For all good news is God’s good news, and to ignore it, hide it, minimize it, or distort it is neither mentally healthy nor spiritually sound.
Buy Upside and start to implement Philippians 4:8.