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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Do frogs cook?

Daniel Petrucci
Assistant city editor Daniel Petrucci

The OC Voice is a portion of the OC Report newsletter where local residents may have a platform to talk about local issues they care about.

Daniel Petrucci is the assistant editor for the DTH City & State desk.

There’s an old parable about boiling frogs that I’m sure you’re familiar with. They say if you drop a frog in boiling water, it will recognize the danger and jump out. If you put a frog in a pot of cool water, however, and gradually increase the temperature, it will cook.

This analogy is often used to refer to Europe during World War II and the rise of fascism and right-wing authoritarian regimes. While the rise of Naziism can be attributed to a variety of factors, I would argue the gradual acceptance of xenophobic, hateful rhetoric and actions allowed for its proliferation. Many argue the frogs cooked.

I am by no means arguing we live in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy or Soviet Russia, but there are similarities one can draw between the dictatorial states that once terrorized Europe not a century ago and many governments today. Most prominent to me as someone who considers themselves a journalist is the constant antagonization of the media. 

"Lügenpresse," or lying press, can be traced to 19th century German politics, but the Third Reich made it well known. Lügenpresse resonates with a phrase we’ve grown accustomed to hear from our leaders today: fake news.

A free and independent media is one of the foundations of democracy that I think we take for granted. As The Washington Post steadfastly adopted as its slogan two years ago, “democracy dies in darkness.” The importance of this institution in our society can’t be understated or forgotten.

While millions have mobilized to counter this seemingly growing, undemocratic trend to attack the media, we’ve become desensitized to attacks on this core value of our democracy and, I would argue, begun to give weight to these claims that the media is lying.

Take playing violent video games for example. A longitudinal study published in the Journal of Media Psychology in 2016 demonstrated the serious neurocognitive effects of recurrent exposure to violence, decreasing one’s ability to feel guilt, or desensitizing them.

I believe this exposure effect goes beyond simply desensitization and may in fact cause internalization of messages. 

The implications of repeated exposure to violent images and language — whether it be killing people while playing Call of Duty or promoting attacks on reporters — have profound effects.

Even if these messages don’t become internalized and we don’t accept them as true or morally OK, the delegitimization and vilification of the media inherently undermines the truth and transparency our society stands on.

I’m not arguing we accept all reporting as true. Seeking honest, unbiased and fact-based information is part of the freedom we are granted in a liberal democracy.

I simply implore you to speak truth to power, call attention to injustice and pay attention to the water temperature around you. Please, don’t cook.

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