We’ve reached another predictable stage in the coverage of a terrorist attacks: the “how to talk to your kids about Paris” articles are starting to populate the InterTubes.
Here’s an idea: Don’t bother.
Steve Almond, a podcast host at WBUR, Boston’s public radio, doesn’t have a TV and doesn’t pay much attention to the news, he acknowledges in a post today on the Cognoscenti blog.
He has three kids — 9,7, and 2 — and he isn’t going to tell them anything.
Why? Because, to be completely blunt, the attacks on Paris have very little to do with their lives. They themselves are not at risk. They don’t know anyone who was killed. They don’t even know exactly where Paris is.
I’m sure this will be interpreted by some readers as callous. But the fact is that thousands upon thousands of innocent people are dying every single day, of illness and malnutrition and civil violence. We don’t hear about most of these deaths, because they aren’t part of a coordinated attack whose central purpose is to terrorize.
Almond speaks another truth: Terrorism is good for the news business. But the news business isn’t good for rational public policy.
But they do tend to see large-scale catastrophes as occasions for sadness and empathy, rather than pervasive fear and anger. I attribute this not to our brilliant parenting — we’re frankly as clueless as everyone else — but to the fact that we don’t expose them to television news.
To put it simply: We don’t have to undo the histrionic panic sowed by mass media. Which leaves our kids free to respond to tragedy as their own conscience and compassion bids them.
This is nothing new, of course. Just a year ago, elections swung on the fear whipped up over Ebola.
Fear is an effective tool for terrorists and politicians.