09/14/2010 04:36 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

I'm Rooting for Doom

I'm rooting for perpetual crisis. I love it when our media and political leaders go ape over some nut burning (or not burning or almost burning) a Quran or some such. I love those militia stories too! Best of all is loony violence from wing nuts in whatever cause. I find the "Tea Party" virtually orgasmic!

So here is a news story that I want to ignore, as will any commentator worth his or her hysteria.

Some of the biggest names in business said Monday that they see a bright future for the economy, with famed investor Warren Buffett declaring the country and world will not fall back into the grips of the recession.

"I am a huge bull on this country. We are not going to have a double-dip recession at all," said Buffett, chairman of Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. "I see our businesses coming back across the board."

Horrible! Will someone please shut him up!

See, I'm a writer so I need crisis the way doctors need illness: doctors may want to cure patients, but let's face it, they depend on dire misfortune for their paychecks.

But doctors find it easier to earn a living than writers do. Almost everyone will get cancer eventually, but no one has to buy a book, no matter what their prostate is doing!

The media gatekeepers who give me access to potential readers aren't interested in my books, let alone actual constructive ideas (who reads these days?) but in selling advertising. So in order to let people know about my books I find ways to ride the media's self-serving (ever-briefer) "news" cycles.

In other words, I react to news like playing a video game, which is the way the news outlets react themselves. For instance, a while back I wrote a book about growing up in a bizarre religious household. So whenever I saw a headline about religion-related news Bingo! I'd crash out an op-ed or blog. And then before that I had a bestseller on what it's like to be a Marine's dad in time of war. Hello! War is the one thing we never run out of in America. And our wars never end.

If I'm lucky with the choice of my subjects (call them "Outrages Of The Moment" when I'm on cable news and "Grave Concerns" when I'm on NPR) within a day or so of a blog or op-ed going "viral" I'll be on a cable news shows or self-satisfied radio shows spouting off and the shows' directors will cut to a shot of (or make mention of) my book as if it has something to do with the story at hand.

Of course it mostly doesn't. But they need guests to hype their hype and I need them to sell my books. Exposure: it's the way I get paid for giving my opinion and thus filling a few moments of otherwise dead air for whomever for free.

I pretend that the news show I'm on is more interested in news than in selling advertising and they pretend that I'm an "expert" more interested in their story-of-the-moment than in selling my book. Of course we're fooling no one. But the great thing is that I give good outrage (and/or "concern") and so they get lots of email and my Amazon numbers go up too!


These days panic and hysteria are what sell the "news" that sells the advertising that pays for the media platforms I use to sell my books.

Here's the basic rule of playing the hysteria game: we commentators claim that everything is worse than it is and that if you listen to us we'll help you save our country, economy, religious freedom, children, women's rights -- whatever.

We make a big deal out of nothing much again and again and again by pushing doom at fever pitch packaged as a news, commentary, op-ed or blog. But here's the actual truth we commentators (of the left or right, center or fringe) -- let alone the news business itself -- won't often let slip: America is not in need of saving from anything but hysteria and crisis-driven news!

Nor will we ever say that America is in great shape (compared to just about everywhere else.) And you'll never hear us say these things either, for instance that:

  • When your average Republicans, Democrats and Independent voters (who supposedly hate each other) sit down together and talk about what really matters to most people -- which is not what MSNBC or FOX News says but our spouses, partners, children and grandchildren -- we "divided" "hate-filled" "culture warrior" "left" "right" Americans mostly agree that love is more important than politics.
  • We all get on remarkably well.
  • Few nations have ever been better protected or safer than America is today.
  • The economy is going to be fine sooner than later.
  • Terrorism isn't what it's cracked up to be.
  • Even 9/11 was minor compared to the casualties in most wars -- say the flattening of whole cities in World War II by all sides.
  • We are incredibly rich.
  • Given what was on the president's desk on Day One, the Obama presidency is going well and will be seen as historically successful.
  • America is not in decline, rather muddling along into an unknown future just like everyone else.

We commentators know that the people we're "informing" by selling "crisis" to also know that we know that they know that what we're actually doing is what they're actually doing: making a living. And that's not too terrible a thing to do, so long as we professional talkers don't take ourselves too seriously, let alone confuse our relentless self-promotion and selling of advertising (mislabeled as "news" and "opinion") with telling the truth.

Come to think of it maybe this Hyping-Of-The-News-Is-A-Crisis crisis can be turned into The Next Crisis to be hyped! It's time to wax historical about being hysterical! I might even write my next sky-is-falling book on that!

Frank Schaeffer is a writer with no new book to sell.... (today).