How to Turn One Sad Story into an Epidemic

Readers — Canada’s “Contrarian” explains how the media work (and even how upset parents sometimes behave). Read the whole piece here.-  L

Fear-mongering as news: turning sad stories into bogus trends

(1)  A teenage girl becomes involved in sexual activity that most grownups, regardless of their own sexual behaviour as teens, find shocking and horrific.

(2)  The girl’s parent or parents learn of the activity and are utterly devastated.

(3)  A family crisis ensues, with outcomes that can range from good to horrendous.

(4)  In their struggle to process shocking new information about the child they love, the distraught parent or parents construct a frame to explain and cope with this cognitive dissonance.

(5)  The frame invariably posits the existence of a large but hitherto unacknowledged social problem that explains how a good child falls into bad situations.

(6)  The parent seeks a journalist’s help in exposing this putative social problem.

(7)  To justify publicizing salacious details of a private family tragedy, the journalist adopts the frame. The girl’s story is not simply her story, but an exemplar of an unrecognized social problem of broad and increasing scope—a sinister trend, usually one in which digital media are implicated.


Lenore here: I was just fascinated by this idea of a path from personal humiliation/sadness/fury  to paranoia to policy. – L

Read all about it! (Whether "it" is the actual problem or not.)

Read all about it! (Whether “it” is a widespread problem or not.)

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