Giving up on the News

Why read the newspaper? Why read news blogs? Why listen to NPR? Why stay informed?

I thought it was because knowing stuff can help change stuff; but can it? I thought I was supposed to; but does it matter?

The forever outspoken Brendan Skwire and his recent post about the news is what inspired my re-evaluation:

I have felt GREAT since I imposed a news blackout on myself. It’s been freeing. …

I never thought I’d say this, but Barbara Bush was right: “Oh, I mean, it’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?”

There’s nothing you can do to change anything, so you might as well enjoy yourself as much as you can.

When I first read those words — there’s nothing you can do to change anything — my voting, BA-holding brain sent a signal telling my face muscles to cringe. How defeatist! Do we really want to advocate ignorance? Sure, it ain’t pretty, but to unplug altogether? Is he really quoting Barbara Bush? Doesn’t that discredit his argument by itself?

But the more I got to thinking and analyzing my behaviors throughout the day, I realized that I probably should cut down on my news consumption at least a little bit. I used to spend two-to-three hours a day listening to NPR/WHYY podcasts, checking in on the Huffpo, my Google Reader feed… and for what? I like to think I’m better off for knowing that the natural gas industry is making millions off the state of Pennsylvania with relatively little taxation and even less regulation and oversight, but what can I really do about it? If being informed means confronting your helplessness, isn’t it better to be uninformed about your helplessness?

It’s easy to get caught up in blogland learning about stuff that isn’t even interesting or relevant, just because it’s there. Who cares if Joe Lieberman runs for reëlection?

For now, I’ve decided to cut back and be a bit more picky about the news I read and the podcasts I listen to. I’m not going off the news grid completely, but it is tempting… What do you think?

Chris Hedges is a Buzz Kill

But it’s a buzz that badly needs killing.

Hedges, in his weekly Truthdig column, consistently unpacks the blind optimism that our media imbues upon issues like global warming, labor exploitation, war, healthcare and our politician’s (lack of) ability to do anything about them.

Mr. Hedges tells me what the darker side of my conscious knows: we are screwed. The part I love and hate about his telling-it-like-it-is-ness is how he relunctantly reminds us there’s nothing we can do about it. We’re haplessly trolling around, buying this and buying that, and nobody cares. We can buy all the organic produce we want, but China’s still going to “double their carbon emissions by 2030, from a little over 5 billion metric tons to just under 12 billion.”

Part of me wishes we would be more serious; the other part wants to sit back and make the most of it. We humans can’t deal with too much bad news, but we’ve been conditioned into thinking there’s “something YOU can do” for so long that our sense of reality is dangerously out of whack. I think Chris Hedges’ columns are demoralizing, but if the shoes fit, lace ’em up.

{Inspired by this week’s column: Calling All Future Eaters}