Alert the media; tell them I will no longer be watching them. I know I’ve talked about taking sabbaticals from the news before, but yesterday in the car, it suddenly became very clear: I no longer have to listen or watch any “news” ever again. I mean, really, never.
And the relief was so pure, so weightlessly effervescent, that it was a little like being drunk.
Does this make me sound like one of those lefty braggarts who claim they “don’t even own a television”? Perhaps, but this revelation allows me to watch more good TV than ever – in fact, it allows me to do more great everything ever.
No more CNN, no more MSNBC, no more local news, and yes, no more “All Things Considered” on the radio. I can’t stand any of it anymore. “Why?” you may ask… in fact, it doesn’t even matter if you asked or not. I’m going to tell you anyway.
1. It’s a Contentment Killer. Studies of the amygdala – the part of our brain responsible for our emotions – show that much of the news brings on a semi-permanent state of chronic low-level PTSD. When my doctor told me to erase my bookmarks after 9/11, he unwittingly carved a path for me back to sanity. Essentially, everything we did after 9/11 was wrong for our collective amygdalae (watching constant repetition of the planes hitting the towers), and it has been the media’s unicorn blood ever since.
2. People Are So Fucking Stupid. Obviously this relates to #1, but I just can’t watch Republicans do things anymore. Their behavior is so sick and reprehensible that I wouldn’t be able to explain it to a 2nd grade class without unwittingly introducing them to existential shock. And they’re on the news all the time, inevitably sending me into a rage coma.
3. There Actually Isn’t Any News. At least not past the first 3-4 minutes. The rest is spectacle, sadness, schadenfreude and cultural death-jacking. Sure, there are occasional Arab Springs and rare moments of living History™, but like porn films of the 1970s, you’d have to sit through hours of garbage just to get there.
4. It Is Inherently an Unnatural Act. With nuclear weaponry, our species evolved technologically before our tribal animal bullshit could catch up, putting us in constant danger. The same could be said for us watching horrors unfold in other parts of the world while we sit on the couch. There are just some things our brain-meat was never meant to see.
In our primate hearts, we are meant only to understand and protect our immediate environment – “act locally”, if you will. But seeing so many unfathomably awful things happening 10,000 miles away, every day, every hour – we’re just not meant for it. I believe it inherently drives our loneliness and sense of despondency, and even keeps us from acting locally.
To clarify, I will still read the paper, as it is a controlled substance and flush with the brilliance of folks like Ron Lieber and Jodi Kantor and Hilary Howard and Thanassis Cambanis.
But my soul is exhausted by deafening drum circle of broadcast news, and I’m done with it. These days you can stay well-informed just by incidental contact, whether it’s something on Facebook or even just floating in vague ether. There’s also “The Daily Show” to give you a curated meal of the goings-on with a sugar-dose of humor. And for those who think I might suffer from a lack of perspective or that I’m preparing myself for Vacant-Eyed Dumdumville, well, that’s a calculated risk.
Besides, I sat through Carter, the Iran Hostage Crisis, Jonestown, 2 shuttle explosions, Chernobyl, gun massacres, fucking Ronald Reagan, 2001, and decades of conservative cruelty. Hell, I even sat through Watergate because my mom stuck us in front of the TV while we were at the Ramada Inn in Waterloo, Iowa. Don’t worry about me; I’ve already forgotten more than most of you right-wing dipshits will ever know.
cloistered in hotel, Waterloo, IA, August 1974