6" x 6"


collage, acrylic paint, India ink, charcoal

vile, shameful, or base character; depravity.
a vile or depraved act.

This piece is about availability bias (definition below). On the day I painted this I did a Google search for “news headlines”. Those headlines below were the first 3 U.S. specific articles that came up (after removing one about a political race). The three operative words in those headlines are what I used in the speech bubble: KILLED SLAIN SHOT.

Google News Headlines on 8/8/16:

  1. 1 of 2 Skydivers Killed in California Was First-Time Jumper
  2. Mother of Slain Jogger Promises That ‘Justice Will Be Served’
  3. Girl, 2, Who Received Heart Transplant When She Was Born Is Shot and Killed in Apparent Family Murder-Suicide

So uplifting, right? News media has a major problem with sensationalism. All of these things are tragedies, but do they impact you personally, or is there anything you can do to change these situations? Probably not, so the only thing these headlines do is make you despair of humanity, and maybe cancel that skydiving trip and quit jogging. This constant negativity is the reason why I have never watched the news (actually TV in general). I wanted to push back against this idea, so the subtle, hidden stories that aren’t reported are what’s written in binary code.

Background Binary “Headlines”:
  1. Tank Gonzales takes his abuela on an all expense paid trip: “Grandma, I’ll take you anywhere in the world.” (Instagram, @tankstravels)
  2. Man quits job as local business struggles and says: “don’t cut salaries for remaining employees.” (personal conversation with a friend about someone his brother worked with)
  3. Local couple pays for bicycling mother and son to ride miniature train: (personal story: my son and and I, the day before this painting. We rode the bike to the mini train so all I had was a credit card. It’s cash only, we were way too far from the car to ride back again, and a very nice dude in line with us paid for our tickets).

These “stories” that aren’t actually stories are never going to get reported and most people will never know they happened. But they did, and there’s a lot more like them. You’ll also notice they’re much more personal. I found that incredible, everyday Instagram story through someone I follow, and the others were things that actually happened to me. Focusing on the positive and keeping it local. We need more focus on that–on the small things nearby people do every day, not the awful things hurt people do to hurt others. I’m not advocating turning a blind eye to problems in the world, but there’s a very big difference between knowing about human rights issues vs. just unthinkingly absorbing negative news stories.

availability bias: The human tendency to think that examples of things that come readily to mind are more representative than is actually the case. The psychological phenomenon is just one of a number of cognitive biases that hamper critical thinking and, as a result, the validity of our decisions.

…people remember vivid events like plane crashes and lottery wins, leading some of us to overestimate the likelihood that our plane will crash or, more optimistically — but equally erroneously — that we will win the lottery. In these cases, the availability bias leads some people to avoid flying at all costs and leads others to rely on a big lottery win as a retirement plan.

Turpitude mixed media haiku painting by Sarah M. Schumacher