Jeremiah Journalism

Is it that bad?

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Rabbi Berel Wein,

Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein

I recently read an article published in Commentary magazine about what was dubbed “Jeremiah journalism.” Though I feel that this title and description was eminently unfair to one of the great prophets of Israel, it has become accepted in the general world. Jeremiah foretold the coming destruction of the First Temple and of the kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem, and somehow he has become the template for pessimistic and depressing news and predictions.

We are all certainly aware that in our current media crazed world it is bad news, tawdry events and dire predictions that sell newspapers and journals. One can read through any of the daily newspapers here in Israel and scarcely find any encouraging word.

They are filled with vituperative if not even vicious criticism of everything and everyone that is a public figure here in our lovely little country. I am reminded of Menachem Begin’s quip that the last government in Israel that Haaretz had a good word to say about it was the British Mandate.

The tendency to always see the glass as being half empty is a staple of current journalism. There apparently is no end to books and articles written by experts and savants predicting the decline of the West, the impending economic implosion, the destruction of our very planet because of climate change - in short, according to them, we are entering an apocalypse of unprecedented proportions.

In reviewing the newspapers and magazines as well as the books of learned experts published between 1950 and 1980 it is obvious that the Soviet Union would triumph in the Cold War and that we should adjust ourselves to living in that brave new world of Marxist paradise. But the experts were wrong, as they oftentimes are.

The glass then was half full and not half empty but the media found that viewpoint too bland and naïve to be worthy of publicity or acceptance. Bad news is news; good news and optimism is not worthy of concentrated journalistic attention. We read about dysfunctional families, deranged people, the families of terrorists and the trauma that they suffer. 

But, almost nary a word is devoted to the stable family, the volunteer helpers, the honest and hard-working civil servants, the true religious leaders, and to hopes for a brighter future for all of us.