The Doom & Gloom Articles Have Got to Stop
Predatory fear mongering only exacerbates poor mental health
One of the most harrowing scenes to come out of the movie Saving Private Ryan happens toward the end. Having located Private Ryan, the troops led by Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) find themselves under attack in a small village against a German occupying force. During the fighting, one of Miller’s men and a German SS soldier end up in a knife fight. The German soldier overpowers the other man by slowly plunging the dagger into his chest as he begs for help.
The worst part of in the scene is that another American soldier sits just outside the door on the stairs, too paralyzed by fear to help his brother-in-arms. Instead, he cries helplessly while his friend dies.
Even after some twenty years removed from the release of the film, audiences find this scene haunting. It showcases the horrors of combat while also enraging audience members as to why the other soldier didn’t help. Having been in combat myself, I’ll be the first to tell you some men piss themselves, others cower, and some have the fear paralyze them. I’d know, as the day I was wounded in combat, I too froze when my best friend took shrapnel and was bleeding out. But I realized I had two choices: let the fear take me or save my friend (I eventually chose the latter).
I start with this anecdote because I recognize just how powerful fear can be. It can paralyze or make us give up. It’s why we stay stuck in toxic relationships, don’t quit jobs we hate, and also why there’s been a sharp decline in mental health (especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic). Many people are afraid, given the state of the world, wars, pandemics, politics, and legislation.
However, a recent trend I’ve seen played out over and over is to capitalize on current events, claim the sky is falling, wash, rinse, and repeat. The majority of platforms—Medium included—have been guilty of allowing their algorithm to put these articles front and center because of their popularity. And popular they become because, as human beings, we can’t seem to turn away from car wrecks. We gawk, speculate, and fear. Naturally, we know social media and media conglomerates are most guilty by creating paranoia within the populace. But many writers…