« Late style | Main | »

February 05, 2014



I live with someone who loves the news. Years ago I came to the same conclusion you describe here, and stepped pretty far back. I don't like participating in a cultural addiction that simply preys on our anxieties and ratchets up our sense of powerlessness. I read the headlines in the Times and Guardian, and follow a few stories from time to time, but feel my limited energy and good spirits are far better spent on other things where I can stay sane and maybe even do something positive. So -- good for you for naming the problem!


Beth: I just watched a segment of the Rachel Maddow show where she raises the alarm about possible attacks on power plants and investigates an attack that happened last April in California with the implied threat that more, and worse, is coming. A perfect example of a worrying situation that I can do nothing about.


"...only the powerful have any control over what is happening, and really the only ones who need to know about these matters are the ones who have any chance of altering them for the better."

That's pretty fatalistic. And there've been spectacular cases of the powerful failing at their goals, of being confounded by the seemingly powerless (look at the Middle East). This year I'm trying to declutter not just physically but mentally. I'm tuning out all this stuff about Chris Christie, for instance. But I follow some news even if it happens thousands of miles away.


We consume news about certain celebrities because they are available to us in intimate roles and interviews and we think we know them. We only see what they want us to see, and that persona created is sometimes very likeable and not boringly human.

Ole Phat Stu

But there are good news of worrying situations. Example the Edward Snowdon disclosures, which the gummint would have preferred swept under the carpet.
And that was important that everyone got to hear about them. The outcry is having some effect and will continue to do so.

So it's not all bad news...

R. J.

I like to separate the issues of celebrity stories, world events and government in my consumption of news. I'm not interested in celebrity stories of self-destruction. How sad, but not my problem.

I too dislike watching depressing news that make me feel powerless about world events or our own government. However, I have not yet reached that point in life that I just can't cope with it. I might spend a few minutes daily keeping informed, but I don't obsess about the news. I have plenty of time to focus on positive stuff too. I suppose it is in my nature to feel it is my responsibility to suffer through the democracy(?)that I am privileged (?)to experience. I think about all those people in our history who so passionately fought for what we now have--imperfect as it is. No, I can't do anything most of the time about much of the awful stuff in the news, but the very fact that we can shine a spotlight on questionable activities of others means that the power hungry, or bullies, or criminals even haven't necessarily gotten away with whatever they are doing. If we just look the other way and let them assume that they, the folks in power, can do whatever they want and nobody is watching, it might be even worse.I thought that was the whole purpose of a "free press". Don't we need to hold people accountable? How do we do that when we bury our heads in the sand and hope someone is minding the shop and looking out for our best interests? We can't just put people in power and hope their motives are to take really, really good care of us. Are we children that we need a big daddy to make it all right? I suppose I believe that "people deserve the government they permit." The media can be a very effective tool of control in ways too numerous to name here.


R.J. I would argue that the seemingly sensationalist stories can be important. Take the scandals at Penn State for example.

Kay Dennison

I loved Hoffman!!!

My old blog was stolen/hijacked/whatever and I'm now at http://kaydennisonskelly.com/


Mr. Hoffman was a good actor and I enjoyed his work. It is really sad that he was doing such a dangerous drug while having small children around. I find it very disingenuous that the police are now kicking in doors looking for the dealers that sold him the heroin. There were dozens of people killed by heroin in the last month, why are the police not going after those dealers? Why is this guy more important because he was good at pretending to be somebody else?

As for the news, I pay quite a bit of attention to world and political news but not much to celebrity news. I know a few people that know nothing about what is going on in the world and sometimes I think that maybe I should be more like them. Just put my head in the sand and not care what is going on outside my own little sphere of being. But I cannot do that.


I think this a real dilemma we face, and I believe de Botton can help us deal with it. He is offering a technique for dealing with the news that can make us more effective and happier consumers of the flood of information we must deal with. And of course we must deal with it. It's inescapable. I have pre-ordered his book on my Kindle: The News: a User's Manual. I am already applying what I have been able to learn so far about this approach. And I feel so much better! It's amazing!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Cat trump
My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad