Reading the News? 3 Reasons to Stop

Oh, my sisters and brothers in this life and in this death I confess to you that I have … stopped reading the news!

Like you I greedily consumed pages and paragraphs and sentences and even words of the Washington Post and the Times and occasionally the Journal, The New Yorker, Atlantic, The Economist, etc. But my addiction to the news made me unhappy.

Thus, the first reason: a selfish concern for mental health

Reading these sources made me first righteously angry or tremendously sad and then sad or angry (respectively) and then these sources of anger/sadness simply festered in my memory to be expressed in everyday emotional exhaustion and anxiety.

To be clear, my unhappiness didn’t commence when a certain semi-literate idiot man-child assumed the mantle of President.

Sandy Hook cannot be blamed on him. It cannot be blamed on any one person.

But following the news coverage of this and other events—and many more recently of an overtly political nature—has not made me any happier.

More importantly, neither my own knowledge nor that of my fellow citizens has changed anything.

The second reason: I was not edified

Not a single meaningful piece of legislation or simple yet meaningful public recognition has materialized since Sandy Hook. Equally, all of the crises of the present White House have not resulted in any meaningful political movements. It’s unlikely this buffoon will even be impeached.

Old timey picture of people sitting on the  park bench reading newspapers
Back in the old days, when people could sit idly in public places, reading the news

If anything, only a certain emotional weight, increasing through its inability to provoke any meaningful response, has been the result of following these events’ coverage.

The power that I have as an informed citizen—one of the greatest reasons for keeping oneself informed—enabled my choices at the ballot and sometimes my participation in forms of demonstration. But nothing has changed in the public sphere, except that teachers are being encouraged to carry concealed weapons—a short-sighted, childish response sure to cost of the lives of more than those lost at Sandy Hook.

The third reason: my political power was not increased

Therefore, join me and stop reading the news. We read about horrible things, and nothing happens. Except that our daily lives are made more miserable because we have to shrug at our work colleagues at the question how many lives will be lost because of the WH’s latest geopolitical mistake.

Let’s act for our happiness and out of the love for those around us and stop reading the news.

Instead, read the New York Review of Books. It’s fucking great.

Corollaries/Addendums (possibly more important than everything preceding):
  • Don’t watch the news. That’s much worse than reading the news. You lose both time and are mesmerized by meaningless images (while being sold products you don’t need!).
  • This is not a critique of journalism, which is vitally needed as a historical record and form of social reflection.
  • Maybe we should read the news months after things have happened — like a news that is reported only three months after the event itself. At that point the meaningful and direction of something might finally be clear. (This idea keeps occurring to me, although I freely admit it is idiotic.)
  • Read books on current events by well-known publishers. These authors have had to thoughtfully digest what has happened and what it means — and they’ve seen the aftermath or at least the beginning of the aftermath.

This was written before the onset of the COVID-19 era.