Television is similar to the movies in presenting to us something that we can easily believe is how the world at large lives—how people talk and dress, whether or not they smoke, whether and how they use alcohol, how they kiss, and on and on.
However, television news also purports to keep us informed about literal reality. In the course of this endeavor, it can actually disorient us profoundly, by plunging us even deeper into virtual reality. An example:
Several years ago, the television networks imposed major budget cuts on their news departments. With fewer resources to expend researching deeper stories, television news executives took the businesslike step of finding public sensation where it could be had the cheapest: they began deriving an increasing amount of their stories from police blotters. The amount of media time devoted to crime quickly doubled, and kept on growing.
Concurrently, the American people came to regard crime as an increasingly serious problem. The next thing anyone knew, politicians were talking up the need to do something about crime; and in the blink of an eye, Congress had handed down a major new crime bill.
All of this took place in a period when according to the most reliable law enforcement statistics, crime was actually undergoing a slight decrease.
Today, we are beginning to feel the cost of warehousing repeat offenders for life under the various new "three strikes, you’re out" laws passed during the TV news’ virtual-reality crime wave. Some prisons and jails are becoming so overcrowded that they are forced to release non-three strikes offenders who have served a third or less of their sentences. Other states and cities will be severely financially strapped trying to build enough jail and prison space to hold all their offenders.
These results are a bit bizarre, but they are really no more than what we should expect when social policy is based on virtual reality.