L. Neil Smith's
Number 245, November 2, 2003

Daniel Conan Weiner, R.I.P.

No News is Better than "The News"
by Caleb Paul

Exclusive to TLE

Having spent the better part of the past half a year in countries where I don't speak the language(s), I really don't have much of an idea about what's going on in the world at large. Oddly enough, I can understand some of the stuff here in Bulgaria, since it's quite similar to Russian (which I know a bit of), so I get a laugh out of seeing election posters with slogans like "working for you" (which I'd like to change to "stealing from you"), but that's about where it ends for me.

Obviously, I can't understand any radio, TV or newspapers I see. Likewise, news in English isn't that common. It's there if you want it, but you actually have to seek it out. Sure, if you want you can probably stay in a hotel that has CNN, or pick up BBC radio, and you can certainly find English, French and German language newspapers.

For me though, I've been confined to local papers pitched at ex-pats, or perhaps more at tourists, that sometimes deal with local issues, but more commonly talk about "things to see or do" in whichever city I've been in at the time.

You know what? I don't miss it at all. I've heard little snippets from other travellers here and there, but by and large I have no idea what's happened in "the world" (ie. things that relate directly to America, since that seems to be increasingly what "the world" and "the news" were all about the last time I checked).

Perhaps ignorance really is bliss. I don't know. On the other hand, I don't see the point to being obsessed about the news anyway. At the ripe old age of twenty seven, I've come to be completely disinterested and disenfranchised.

Here's why:

I think there are basically three types of stories in the news. The first two are completely irrelevant to me. One is the sort of feel good story they throw in occasionally like someone celebrating his one hundred and fifteenth birthday or some other such banal nonsense, just so we don't overdose on the fear projected by every other story. What the hell does that have to do with me or anything else?

The second is some other random fact that again has nothing to do with me, but has a negative effect. Do I really need to know that seventy people died in a train wreck in India or something of the sort unless someone I know was directly involved (in which case it should be private anyway). What's the point in screwing me up with that sort of horror on a daily basis?

Then there's the other stuff. I don't know what you want to call it, but I mean the political type stories that all seem to get connected to one another in some way, often an absurd one. Basically, the gist of these follows one of three courses. They either show scandal at home, or they show something bad somewhere else, or they show that someone else is out to get us.

I'm convinced now that a) even if the truth is out there, we sure as hell aren't getting it from the media and it's impossible to prove this one way or the other, which is precisely how they keep so many people tuned in, and b) related to the above paragraph is the idea that the media is there to keep us in our places.

A little paranoid you might say, but it just seems to me that it's all directed at keeping us in a constant state of fear and anxiety so that we feel insecure and must turn to others (ie. the government) for security, sacrificing both personal responsibility and civil liberties along the way. So long as we're kept in a perpetual state of Chicken Little Syndrome, business can go on as usual (in fact, be better than usual) for those wielding the power.

What I find ironic is that the people causing the problems in the world are then foisting them upon us in this manipulative way and they then make people grateful to them for keeping them safe from such problems. If only people would realise that.

At a more subtle, personal level too, I've actually found that the way I deal with people is a lot better without all this fear and anxiety. I'm more friendly and responsive to people now that I don't equate people around me with enemies (which sounds like an absurd way to be in the first place, but it's so incredibly subtle most people don't even realise it), although that could be as much the fact that generally, I have found central and eastern Europeans (with the exceptions of Russians, who really got screwed psychologically by communism far worse than anyone else it seems) a lot more amicable than people in the west and their societies to be far slower paced.

An article I read almost at the same time I first started thinking about this seemed to echo exactly the same sentiment (and when it takes a jaded western ex-pat living in Moscow to tell you the truth, you know the world is upside down): www.exile.ru/173/173120502.html

Now I actually can't partake of the media like I used to. It sickens me to see and hear the lies, the propaganda, to realise that it's all pointed at screwing with me psychologically. The other day at the place I was staying, someone wanted to watch "the news" (in English) and I left the room. It's not going to change anything to know what's "going on" and it's only going to make things worse. Changes will come eventually, and they sure as hell won't be heralded by CNN because those people will be precisely the ones kept out of the loop while we're kept in it. In the meantime, shoot your televisions and burn your newspapers because no news is better than "the news".


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