Not just this kinda news, in particular, about Mark Foley, our local congressman. All news.
This is a problem, as I have a degree in journalism, and write and deliver the news every day. But I hate it, hate it, hate it.
If I never see another USA Today or Washington Post; never watch another network newscast; never again see CNN or FOX News-babes again; never happen across another hyperventilating drudgereport headline; or, for that matter, read headlines on Drudge about how the Post is writing about FOX's coverage of Katie Couric's debut at CBS -- well, I'll be mighty fine with that.
Spiritually nourished, even.
I'm quite serious. Let me ask this question: When is the last time you saw something on the news that actually mattered, that minute, to how you needed to live your life? "Oh -- THAT happened? I'm glad I found out NOW, because now I need to..."
Bottom line: The manner in which the news is delivered is itself a lie, because it implicitly demands that you regard it, RIGHTNOW, as immediately important, but it almost never, ever really is.
The timpani-drums that signal every approaching newscast are saying, quite clearly, that it matters that you know, and now. But the timpanis lie.
This isn't saying that, for example, a given story isn't indicative of something truly important. A young woman's lost life in Aruba is important, isn't it?
Well...Natalee Holloway's life is very important. But it's not important at all that I, Brant Hansen, know about her. Yet, it's stunning that I know about her, given that I never once tried to find anything out. I can actually discuss some aspects of the JonBenet Ramsey case, though I've actively run away, at every turn, from coverage of her for ten years.
Some say they need to know the news, so they "know how to pray". Okay. If you pray that much, I admire you. I wish I prayed more, so much that I covered my neighbors and friends and enemies and my family and then went on to the plane crash in the Amazon.
If it weren't my job, I'd be done with the daily news. If it's important, if it's something I need to know, I'll find out soon enough. And, maybe, when I find out, I'll actually have some context in which to place the headline. Or, maybe I'd completely miss a major news story that, it turns out, didn't. matter. at. all. (John Michael Karr, anyone? Why did I have to know about this guy?)
John Sommerville teaches at the University of Florida, and wrote a sweet little book How the News Makes Us Dumb. The title itself is insulting (am I getting dumber?) and right on (yes, yes, I am, to the extent that my time is spent reading and consuming this unimportant crap.) Part of his treatise is that we have lost, as a culture, the ability to discern what is important, and what is not, and our news-culture bears much the blame for this.
I have a working definition of wisdom: I am wise to the extent that I know the relative value of things. What is more important: this...or this? Summerville says news culture is foolish culture, because it breaks down our abillty to discern what really matters. Your neighbor's marriage is breaking up, but wait -- trumpets are blaring about Tony Blair.
Think about it: Regardless whether anything newsworthy happens in a given day, CBS will be signing on at 6, full of self-importance, pounding home that something BIG, did, indeed, happen today.
And CNN, FOX, MSNBC -- even worse. All day long, crawling text that just! couldn't! wait! The crawl right now: "British paper posts new pre-Sept 11 video...Google buys garage where it was born..." Thanks. Now I know how to proceed with life.
Meantime, I have no idea what's going on with humans in my midst. War is truly vitally important, yes. AIDS in Africa -- vitally important, yes. That's why some reflective thinking is in order, but who's got time? Or the silence?
So what if I didn't read the Palm Beach Post? What if I didn't watch any news? What if I spent all that time actually relating to people, reading great literary works, writing...praying?
Well, Brant, then you'd miss the big stuff. How would you know the twin towers were attacked?
Someone would tell me. Then I'd pick up a newspaper. Even if it were a day old, I could read it. We put a man on the moon? -- cool. I'll buy a paper. Other days, I'll be a little more contemplative, almost without trying.
Or what if I didn't get to read Mark Foley's emails? What if I didn't know the latest Al Gore hypocrisy? What about Andrew Card's real feelings on Donald Rumsfeld? What about the sicko school shooting in Colorado last week? What if -- what if I didn't know about it, and spent time and effort on things, and relationships, I can actually do something about?
Man, I'd be out of it. "Uninformed"
I'll take it.