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 haven’t 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 wasn’t 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 didn’t 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 Father’s 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 we’re just neutral and stand firmly for our sacred teachings without lots of bows to a supposed neutrality, which doesn’t 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.
Here’s 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.