Why Some Publics Are Tired of Various Crises (and Leaks)

When Vladimir Putin launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea on February 24, 2022, images of the war shocked viewers around the world. Far from the event, many of us became aware of this gratuitous aggression by reading articles online or watching TV. We detected explosions and people fleeing from danger and crammed into underground bunkers.

Six months later, the violence continued. But for those who were not directly affected by the events, this ongoing war and its victims are no longer the focus of many people’s attention.

This conversion is logical.

Caring about facts like war is often painful, and people don’t have the proper tools to stay focused on current or traumatic events.

Moreover, since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, many other events have appeared and attracted world attention. These include droughts, wildfires, storms associated with global warming, fire accidents and the reversal of the Roe v. valley.

As the philosopher psychologist William James asked, “Does not every sudden shock, the appearance of something new or a change of sensation, bring about a real break?”

Ongoing tragic events, such as the attack on Ukraine, can cause people to ignore the news as many may feel overwhelmed, helpless or drawn to other pressing issues. This phenomenon is called Crisis fatigueor fatigue from the crisis.

The McKinney fire destroyed more than 60,000 acres of northern California this summer, killing four people and taking over 90 homes. The drought allowed the fire to spread quickly. AP Photo / Noah Berger, CC BY

Causes of crisis fatigue

Malevolent actors and authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin are aware of public fatigue and use it to their advantage. “The fatigue of the war is beginning to be felt,” said Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. “Russia is playing on the fact that we are tired. We must not fall into the trap.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a speech to marketing professionals in Cannes, France, asked to draw the world’s attention to his country’s plight. And he appealed: “I will be honest with you: the end of this war and its circumstances depends on the world’s attention…”. “Don’t let him move!”

Unfortunately, many of us have already changed channels. Tragedy has become commonplace.

I became interested in this phenomenon of laxity after my undergraduate research on moral concern. This idea was formulated by Simone Weil, French philosopher and social activist in XXe century.

according to mI Will, moral concern is the ability to open up fully, intellectually, emotionally, and even physically, to the facts we encounter. She describes this awakening as awakening, a suspension of our ego-driven self-reflections and desires in favor of a Buddhist-like mental void.

This state of mind receives, in a raw and unfiltered way, whatever presents itself, without avoiding or projecting.

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French philosopher Simon Weil joined Durruti’s Column in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. His academic work in social justice has focused on the oppressed and marginalized in society. Apic/Hulton Archives via Getty Images, CC BY

It is not surprising that M.I Weil found that caring is inseparable from empathy or “suffering” with the other. It is impossible to avoid pain and anguish when caring for those who suffer; That is why she wrote that “a thought flies from affliction as swiftly and irresistibly as an animal flies from death.”

The sensitivity involved in dealing with crises can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, attention can make the lives of others visible, so that people affected by a crisis are truly seen and heard. On the other hand, this openness can confuse many of us through indirect trauma, as psychologists Lisa McCann and Laurie Perlman have noted.

However, the difficulty of maintaining focus on events such as war is not solely due to the inherent fragility of moral concern. As cultural critics such as Neil Postman, James Williams and Maggie Jackson have noted, the 24/7 news cycle is one of the many stresses that call for our attention. Our smartphones and other technologies of constant communication, from the trivial to the apocalypse, create environments that keep us perpetually distracted and distracted.

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The protests are a visual reminder of the ongoing devastating war in Ukraine. Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona for Unsplash, CC BY

Why is the audience withdrawing?

In addition to the threats we face from technology distraction and information overload, there is also the fact that crisis fatigue is driving readers to consume less news.

An analysis by the Reuters Institute this year showed that interest in news has fallen sharply across all markets, from 63% in 2017 to 51% in 2022, while 15% of Americans are cut out of coverage altogether.

According to the Reuters report, the reasons for this phenomenon differ in part according to political affiliation. Conservative voters tend to avoid news because they consider it untrustworthy or biased, while liberal voters avoid news because of feelings of helplessness and exhaustion. Online news, with its obsession with the number of eyes glued to screens, inadvertently undermines its own purposes: providing information and keeping the public informed.

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The sheer volume of news and information on the Internet has an unexpected side effect: the audience is leaking. ThisisEngineering RAEng for Unsplash, CC BY

Choose a new strategy

How can we regain serious interest and responsiveness in the midst of harsh, distracting and breaking news? Specialists made various recommendations, usually focused on reducing the use of digital devices. Moreover, readers and reporters can consider the following ideas:

  1. Reducing consumption of daily news can help people pay more attention to certain topics that interest them without feeling overwhelmed. The cultural theorist Yves Seton, in his book Attention environment, invites readers to “extricate themselves” “from the grip of the media preparedness system”. According to him, the current media creates a state of “permanent vigilance” through “crisis rhetoric, disaster images, political scandals and violent news.” At the same time, reading long articles and articles can be an exercise that helps attract attention.
  2. Journalists can include more stories that talk about solutions and highlight the potential for change. Courses of action can be suggested for readers to confront paralysis in the face of tragedy. Amanda Ripley, former magazine reporter timenotes that “stories offering hope, agency, and dignity seem like untold news right now because we’re so overwhelmed by the opposite.”

MI Will, who was attached to the responsibility of moral care, but did not romanticize the tragedy, wrote: “Nothing beautiful and wondrous, nothing constantly new and surprising, full of sweet and lasting ecstasy, only good.”


This article has been republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Find the original article here.

Photo by Daniel Tausis on Unsplash.

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