Skip to comments.Unplugged, but not Uninformed. Pondering How to Stay informed when so much of Media is poisonous.
Posted on 07/17/2013 3:36:39 AM PDT by markomalley
Back during Lent I turned off the Radio, which for me consisted mainly of News and talk radio. I also switched off cable TV news. It was the aftermath of the last election cycle, and all the franticness and severe partisan debate that talk radio and 24/7 news channels love to generate and I was exhausted, had felt ill-served and uniformed. Most of the talking heads I listened to had been dead wrong about the election and the mood of the American people.
As a kind of news junkie I new it would be hard. But I also knew that the all-too steady diet of that stuff was ruining my peace. Since Ash Wednesday, I havent gone back. When I have the radio on now, I listen to Catholic Radio. I also listen to podcasts more.
Frankly the news and talk radio world thrive on generating a sense of crisis, conflict and consternation. I gave up on them for the same reason I stopped reading newspapers ten years ago, I felt like I was being played. There seemed to be a desire to stir me up, get me angry, or manipulate my thinking and views more than to inform me. I am not sure I need to be told what to think. But it does help to know what is going on. But I wasnt getting even that.
I was also being pelted with lots of dumb information that was not only useless but was quite annoying, such as what certain Hollywood people were doing, thinking, who they were dating, divorcing, or what strange things they were naming their kids or causes they supported, etc. This is not news, it is infotainment. And all the giggling on morning news shows but on TV and radio really annoys after awhile.
The news does not really seem to be the news. Either it is advocacy journalism, or it is simply trying to peddle crisis and controversy or just showing how shallow and debased our culture has become. The result for me was too much anger, anxiety, and even a sort of bitterness for them i.e. the people on the other side.
Yes, I was being played. And I didnt like it. And most of the people who were trying to play me and sell increasingly insulting news do not share my faith and even feel free to ridicule what I find sacred, holy and valuable.
Dale Ahlquist in his book Common Sense 101 has some interesting insights that resonate with me. He himself is also reflecting on G.K Chesterton. Here are a few quotes along with some additional comments by me in red:
Modern man is staggering and losing his balance because he is being pelted with little pieces of alleged fact . . . which are native to the newspapers; Chesterton says that journalism consists of saying Lord Jones is Dead to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive. The news is either irrelevant or irreverent . ..it is an insult to the common man to say that he is as vulgar and silly as most of the newspapers are.
Yes, at some point too much information is no information. We are simply overwhelmed with distractions and have trouble sorting it all out and prioritizing. And so much of what the news focuses on is banal, trivial and exotic. And all the infotainment stuff really is an insult.
The great weakness of the news industry is that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions. The newspapers, says Chesterton, cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all. They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not dissolved, all the murders that are not committed. And so they do not give a normal picture of life at all. They can only represent what is unusual.
Exactly. The news is not really the news, it is the bad news, the strange news, the starling, odd, and exotic news. The news is biased, not only because it is left or right but because it leaves out the most important news of the day: that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and is at the Fathers right hand interceding for us, and that we must prepare for his great second coming.
[And there is] the great fallacy that the press is somehow neutral. [This] has in turn fed the idea that neutrality itself is a great desirable quality, that not taking a stand is somehow admirable, that tolerance is the supreme virtue.
Of course we all know that that the idea of an unbiased press is and always has been a lie. Frankly most of it is left, and even those on the right, like to call themselves Fair and Balanced. Why not just come out and state what everyone really knows: The Washington Post: News from the left. MSNBC, news from the far left. Fox News: News from the right. Just say it!
And as Ahlquist points out, why is neutrality so prized anyway. We in the Church surely need to rediscover that to speak the truth is to stake out a position and to declare that the opposite of what we teach is false. We need to stop all this pretending that were just neutral and stand firmly for our sacred teachings without lots of bows to a supposed neutrality, which doesnt exist anyway.
We live in an age of journalese. The very language that we are forced to use attacks our traditions, our morals, and our faith. Things that are degenerate and sinful are called progressive and liberating. Good words that were once pure and noble, like choice and gay, now have reprehensible meanings. Traditional religion, which has given light to millions across the world and across the centuries, is called dull and narrow.
It is amazing the power that wordsmithing has. The Times and Post have far too much power in this regard. The cultural left has this tactic down cold. We in the Church are real rookies when it comes to this.
We might be able to take the newspapers more seriously if they would not take themselves so seriously. Honesty always laughs, because things are so laughable. the only reason to read the newspaper is to find out what the enemy is up to. Hah!
All quotes are from Chapter 5: The Daily Truth
I realize that there is a danger in trying to stay away from the manipulation of the media. I do need to stay informed and have some idea what many of my parishioners are (sadly) being exposed to and listening to. Currently I depend a lot on others to throw items over my transom. I also hear some news on Catholic Radio, and over at sites like New Advent. But I do feel less aware about the buzz of modern culture. And that is good, but has drawbacks.
Heres my question: do any of you know some good news sources that help one to stay informed but without all the deleterious, poisonous and trivial stuff mentioned above? Perhaps there are some good sources, Catholic and otherwise that can keep us informed but without all the poison. I tend to watch little T.V. and am more rooted in Catholic Radio and Internet.
At the end of the day, I want to stay more focused on God and be more immersed in my faith. The pull of culture has become so poisonous and troubling. But, as most of you know I am will and ready to make use of good things in culture and to comment on things that come to my attention. But too much raw exposure to it is not good for my soul. Yet I want and need to know the basics of what is being said and done in our all-too-distressing world. Any suggestions are appreciated and I suspect that we can also help each other find alternative sources for news.
“so much of Media is poisonous.”
Very well put.
I used to think that the world hadn’t changed that much to have there be a “New Normal” like this but it’s looking like the world has indeed changed but it’s nowhere near normal.
Telling it just like it is.
“...I felt like I was being played.”
The very reason I stopped watching all the news services - the reason why I do not read the newspapers or visit their sites - but because i do my own research and follow other sources of information and confirm those sources - I am more informed than the average citizen who DEPENDS on the news o tell them what is going on...sure it take effort - but I was done with being used and thought of as a mindless freak...and every US news service thinks that of its viewers!
Good thread....I have came to these same conceptsor conclusions...Look forward to reading the posts.
Its actually easy to do if people raise smart thinking kids.
I was cleaning a closet which was lined with newspaper from 1955. There were rapes, murders, car chases; it read like today’s newspaper. I realized that only the names change. Unless I’m related to a victim or perpetrator, this information means nothing. It’s just a tally of what happened yesterday in a city of 8 million. It isn’t even an accurate tally, having been cherry picked for gruesome Technicolor details. I stopped reading the news, as it was all the same.
During the OJ trial I threw away the TV.
I get my news from Free Republic. I glance down the headlines and it contains more bandwidth than any 10 newspapers. Mostly, I read the comments, as they have rendered the articles into consumable bites. I find I am better informed than almost anyone I speak to, especially of the liberal persuasion.
Lastly, if something is important; say, did Allan West vote for such and such, then, I hit the search engines and try to establish if he did or didn’t as I’d like to support him.
When people ask questions like; “I wonder what percentage of blacks are killed by blacks?” I find a link quoting statistics and post it for them. That’s my contribution. (93%)
Ya gotta love GK!
About three years ago, I came to the conclusion that Paul Harvey’s simple ten minute round-up....was all that I ever needed in life. Sadly, Paul had passed on. And there isn’t anyone who can get to the simplicity of a story and give you just enough details to make sense.
I would agree....local news has gotten bad....with at least five minutes of local news really devoted to national news....which I don’t care to waste my time on. The newspapers? They are mostly unable to tell a complete story anymore. News isn’t entertainment.....and I think this really needs to be said on a regular basis.
Good piece. I got confused at the end with the red type. Are those your comments, Mark?
I use BBC. XM satellite radio channel 118. Our local npr carries BBC for a couple hours in the morning and again at 9 in the evening.
A seminal work on television new is Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death.”
bump for later
The red type was in the original. I think that was his fisking of the Ahlquest quotes.
I remember going cold turkey on news, that was until 9/11.
Then I became engrossed, to HELP MY COUNTRY.
I am at the point where I realize it doesn’t matter what I do, they will do what they do. This past election showed me that more than ever.
I am reaching the tuning out thing again. Not because I don’t care, but because it doesn’t seem to matter.
Great article and just what I needed today.
Live right now: Question time in House of Commons
Msgr. Pope asks for suggestions for good alternative news sources. I look forward to hearing what people have to share as I’m always on the look-out for alternatives. This article has inspired me and I am determined to purge myself of all media that does nothing more than steal my joy and darken my outlook on life.
I have never relied on TV news for anything. Sometimes, in the case ofa dramatic or enormous event (such as 9/11) that is hard to comprehend unless you see it, TV can be useful. But certainly not for anything not inherently visual, and most definitely not for commentary and explanation: the “commentators” who appear onTV are people with no expertise or background, whose only qualification is to have moderately intelligible voices and good hair and teeth.
I read the Wall Street Journal for basic news and I also read my local paper to find out what the city council is doing, etc., since these are things that affect me. However, if I’m curious about a particular issue, I try to get more information on it from a variety of sources and I don’t rely only on one source.
I skim FR but it has its ups and downs. Once the news sources prohibited posting, we ended up with huge numbers of people’s opinion blogs being “posted” as news sources, which they certainly are not.
In addition, FR goes through spells where people get an obsession and seem to be unable to discuss anything without steering it off topic so it goes back to their obsession: at the moment, it’s immigration, but there was a time when it was hatred of GWB, hatred of some other GOP candidate or politician, etc. And the quality of their commentary is not very high, shall we say. It’s spittle-flecked name calling, in most cases. I find it disturbing and depressing and it surely doesn’t contribute to one’s understanding.
This is in addition to the fact that many posters never read the actual article, but are just flying off the handle based on their misunderstanding of the headline...
I feel the same way about most talk radio, particularly Rush Limbaugh, who spends an enormous amount of time just bloviating and sometimes really isn’t very informed on the most recent developments on an issue.
On the other hand, reading Mark Steyn or certain other commentators can be very helpful to one’s understanding, so I guess it’s just a matter of being selective.
In short, I don’t think there’s any easy solution. One has to be aware of what’s going on, and both for self-defense and in order to be a responsible citizen and Christian member of society. But maybe the best solution is to limit the general information to a couple of sources and then carefully find out more if a particular issue is personally important.