Hyperbole. A dictionary defines hyperbole as exaggerated statements, not meant to be taken literally. When I was in school, hyperbole meant we understood that the stories in the bible were to show the awesomeness of God. We read books like Werner Keller’s book, The Bible As History, an academic study, not a quick read, but interesting. So, did the Red Sea really part for the fleeing Israelites? Probably not. More likely the water level was very low, the Israelites were able to ford the sea and the Egyptian charioteers’ wheels stuck in the muddy sea floor. A bit of hyperbole to get across the point of God saving the people of Israel, history written in supposedly simple stories.
Today, the news is being written large, in a 24/7, five-hundred channel world, where the rush to name events comes in at the penultimate level. The news channels create logos for each of the big events that catalyze us with a common bond, a bond that lasts as long as the headline remains the top story. Did this start with September 11, 2001? Has this evolved as the way to deal with events in the twenty-first century? You have to wonder at the low-key ‘Troubles’ in Ireland, Na Trioblóidí, in Irish, certainly a violent conflict. Now, ‘Troubles’ seems so calm.
We have been jolted, pierced and bombarded with news. It’s almost too much to bear. And there seems to be no end to it. It’s still news, but we treat it like history. I wonder if there will ever be a book, The Media as History? A book about events labeled at their most extreme; it is a crisis, a tragedy, a catastrophe, a calamity. And we precede those labels with adjectives; worst, appalling, horrid, ramping up the tension and the stress. Does this create something in the brain, blindsiding us from a sober look at the events, inhibiting an intelligent discussion of the causes and the effects, limiting our reasoning ability?
“Memory is tyrannical,” is a quote by Professor Rosenstock-Huessy. My BA thesis was on Jacob Christoph Burckhardt, a Swiss Professor of History, lousy historian, great philosopher of history and I came across the Rosenstock-Huessy quote in my research. If you study history, you know you get history after memory, when we’ve moved past the personally known, past the individual point of view. Yes, memory is tyrannical, but so is the media today.