Big, but Undetected by Most

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

John Stossel notes a general lack of reporting about important events that occur slowly:

[Reporters] do a bad job telling you about what's really changing in the world, because we miss the stories that happen slowly. These are usually the more important stories.
There is a broad range of such stories, and Stossel is on the right track when he considers why most reporters would have difficulty covering them. But it is also instructive to consider why such stories unfold gradually. Be the (often-missed) news of greater prosperity or a shift in common attitudes, the common denominator is that a new idea is being adopted or applied (as in the case of scientific or technological advances) one individual at a time across a society. This reminds me of Ayn Rand's theory about how philosphy guides history:
Contrary to the prevalent views of today's alleged scholars, history is not an unintelligible chaos ruled by chance and whim--historical trends can be predicted, and changed--men are not helpless, blind, doomed creatures carried to destruction by incomprehensible forces beyond their control.

There is only one power that determines the course of history, just as it determines the course of every individual life: the power of man's rational faculty--the power of ideas. If you know a man's convictions, you can predict his actions. If you understand the dominant philosophy of a society, you can predict its course. But convictions and philosophy are matters open to man's choice.

There is no fatalistic, predetermined historical necessity. Atlas Shrugged is not a prophecy of our unavoidable destruction, but a manifesto of our power to avoid it, if we choose to change our course.
I have noted a couple of such "slow stories" of cultural change myself here, but Stossel provides others, including this:
Early last century, wife beating was routine. A North Carolina newspaper from 1913 carried a front-page story titled, "For and Against Wife Beating." Most "expert" commentary was in favor of it. One doctor argued, "Beat her, she needs it," and a female advice columnist declared, "It's well known that women love most the men who are cruel."

Today, no newspaper would do a feature story on "whether to beat your wife." Attitudes changed dramatically. But how would a reporter cover that? I suppose one might say, "Today in Pittsburgh, six people changed their opinion about wife beating." But no reporter would write that. He wouldn't know who those people were. Even if he did, such gradual change is not what people consider news.
So if you find today's headlines discouraging, remember that you have much more power to change things than is apparent at first glance.

-- CAV

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