Disproving once again the adage that there are no second acts in American life, disgraced preacher Jim Bakker has re-emerged. This time, sans toupee, he is on television peddling his own special brand of religion along with freeze-dried, emergency gourmet foods that will help you survive the imminent Armageddon.
Truth be told, though, you didn't need to be one of those end-of-world wackos to want to load up on powdered food and gunpowder and crawl into a hole.
All you had to do was read the newspaper last week.
Good lawd, there was a lot of bad news. How bad was it? So bad that the shooting of three people in a Raleigh grocery store wasn't even the most read or commented-upon online story the day we reported it. That distinction went to the murder trial of Laurence Lovette, a man accused in the kidnapping and murder of Eve Carson.
Then there was the story of Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline and her battles with District Court Judge Orlando Hudson. Cline contends the judge has it in for her, while defense lawyers and defendants claim her office has a "by any means necessary" philosophy when it comes to securing convictions.
And don't forget - as if we could, even when we try - the return to the news of Michael Peterson, who is seeking to have his 2003 murder conviction overturned because of the alleged incompetence and pro-prosecution bias of SBI investigator Duane Deaver.
Oy. After all that, who wouldn't conclude that it's a mean world out there?
There's an app - OK, a syndrome - for that. Rhonda Gibson, associate professor in the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism, told me about a decades-long research project, begun in the late 1960s at the University of Pennsylvania, that identified something called "the mean world syndrome."
"If you're inundated on a daily basis with negative news," Gibson said, "you cultivate this view of the world that it's a more dangerous place than it is."
Thinking it's a mean world makes it one, she said. "People who imagine sinister motives in everything are less trustful and more likely to respond to situations with violence and are more likely to become desensitized. ... When you feel overwhelmed by negative news, it gives you license to throw your hands up" and not get involved, she said.
"Women," she said, "tend to avoid negative news more than men" as a means of "mood management" and "to feel safe."
That's understandable, ladies, but trust me: Y'all need to know that there are armed misanthropes out there who'd allegedly shoot an innocent young woman down in the middle of the street - and then get caught on camera trying to use her ATM card.
It was in all the papers and on TV, too.
"I become very distressed when I hear that people are not keeping up with the news," Gibson said. "Just because you're not reading about bad things doesn't mean they're not happening."
Now, that's a headline to remember.
Tell Barry what you think at 919-836-2811 or at email@example.com.