Why I don’t watch the news…

This post is inspired by Rule of Stupid’s post We are so much more wonderful than we let ourselves believe and informed by Guy Debord’s classic ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ and the rantings of controversial French philosopher Baudrillaird…I’m not half as clever as any of them, but I think my explanation of what I think is so insidious about the media in our post modern world takes a little from each of their theories…

In my response to RoS post, I propounded Baudrillaird’s notion that the media could never be a force for positive change, because by its very nature, it keeps us one step removed from reality:

“We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.”
Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation

I commented that I’d often pondered what the world was like when it was smaller: smaller because pre-technology, it was harder to know what was happening outside of our own communities, and impossible to know what was happening on the other side of the world. But I also wonder how the experience of living in a world which is so relentlessly enmeshed in a game of self-perpetuating surveillance and reportage affects us and the way in which we behave, politically, socially and culturally. I’m not just talking about the dis-empowering passivity created by being able to watch the suffering of human beings on the other side of the world on our televisions; a phenomenon perfectly summed up by Susan Sontag- ‘Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers’- but rather the way in which the knowledge that we are being watched, that we are being reported on, constantly affects our responses.
It seems to me that what is wrong with our political and social infrastructures is that they no longer seek to come up with the ‘right’ solutions to our problems but rather the solutions which ‘look and sound right’: a subtle difference I know, but one which has devastating consequences because instead of ending up with hard to face truths which have the potential to lead to solutions, we end up with marketing ideas and emotional rhetoric, carefully doctored to appeal to the majority. Policy should be informed by unbiased authenticity not ill-informed spin.
I don’t watch the news anymore because it is my silent protest against relentless media interpretation and a world where almost every ‘professional’ decision, whether made by a doctor, social worker or politician, is made with one eye on the news: where, too often, the question asked on an individual and collective level by those in power is not ”What can I do to help this fellow human being/society?’ but rather ‘How will the decisions I make look from the outside?’ and crucially ‘What do I need to do to make sure that I am not held accountable for anything that goes wrong as a consequence of my decisions?’
I’m not against visibility and accountability per se in so much as it can provide protection from hubris, but I am against rule by media mob, against a world so bewilderingly huge and all seeing that it no longer allows for humanity, compassion and good intention, for the making of difficult, unpopular and yet sometimes necessary decisions.

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5 Comments

Filed under From the news, Musings on Life

5 responses to “Why I don’t watch the news…

  1. This is why I love the blog-o-sphere. I can enjoy poetry, prose and fart jokes one minute, and then stumble across a really sharp mind the next.
    I loved this. I wrote an entire series on changing britain, and I can see how your idea, a kind of Foucauldian Panopticon created by the media, has led to almost all the problems I tried to outline (albeit not as cleverly as you have – cogito ergo conqueror!) in my series.
    I may try to revivify my own gubbins in this light – Thank you for your brains 🙂

  2. Pingback: Costa Del Fish’n’Chips – the problem with immigration « ruleofstupid

  3. Thanks RoS for the praise, but even more so for using the phrase ‘Foulcauldian Panopticon’! You don’t come across that every day! I was thinking about Foucault too as I was writing but I don’t understand enough of his writings to mention him…will check him out 🙂

  4. I quite watching the news many years ago now and since then my life has been much improved.

    For one thing I am no longer constantly seething with rage.

    One of the (many) problems is that the news is not some objective source of information, rather it is part of a business. That business is to get as many people reading/watching/listening/ whatever so that the news organisations can then sell that audience to advertisers. Newspapers are a prime example of this because the actual sales to customers don’t make any money and often come at a loss. Advertising is where the money is, so the emphasis is to present something not to inform, but to attract a particular market.

    There is also the question of whether or not you actually do anything. If not, why do you even need to know? As long as you know the fundamental structures of how power works then most.

    Below is probably a good enough place as any to start.

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