No News Is Good News

During a group discussion at work (as you both know, by day I’m with the Submerged Log Company) a colleague noted that among the various things one wouldn’t be allowed do with human subjects would be to deprive them of access to the news for five years.

Five years without the news, I thought. Bliss! Sign me up!

That was when I decided to ┬ámake myself nayesrein (I’ve just made that word up), so since 15 February I have stayed away from all sauces tzores sources of news, whether broadcast, print or online. I can choose not to watch TV news, or look at news websites, and when the aggressively inoffensive burble of BBC Radio 2 that’s usually on at home is interrupted by a news bulletin, Mrs Gee either switches it off, or I fire up Queen’s Greatest Hits from my iPhone into my bluetooth-equipped hearing aids. If in the supermarket, I avert my eyes from the come-on headlines on the news stand.

Earlier experiments with abstention from news (for a day or two, such as over a weekend) show that lack of exposure to news does improve my mood.

Consider: most of what news editors choose to report of world events is dreadful, and what makes it worse is that there is very little you can do about it. That doesn’t stop one being personally affected by the news. Ever since Recent Events in the Middle East, there has been a sharp rise in anti-semitism, evidenced with such strength of feeling and in such a large swath of the population that Jews like me feel, to say the least, intimidated. In short, it’s a downer.

How long will I abstain from news?

I don’t know yet. Some news has already leaked through (the death of a Russian opposition politician) but perhaps some crosstalk is inevitable. It reminds me of Anathem, a fine novel by Neal Stephenson, of a secluded order of monks whose members can choose to shield themselves from the outside world for a day, a year, ten years, a hundred years … even ten thousand years. I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep it up for that long.

I have a feeling that the world would be a far better place if we went back to a kind of world in which news came to us once a day, via a radiogram, at 9pm, and read by Alvar Liddell. Failing that one could get it from The Times, two days later.

Perhaps, you might argue, constant exposure to news should make for a more informed electorate. On the other hand, I am not at all sure that access to the news on demand, at any hour – any minute – of the day or night, is really healthy. And that’s aside from the invariable spin that news editors choose to put on the news, at times simply by choosing to include one item rather than another. It’s no wonder that fake news and conspiracy theorists have thrived in such a news-soaked atmosphere.

Hey, I have an idea. Wouldn’t it be great if the whole country, or even the whole world, simply refused to access any news site, or buy any newspaper, or listen to or watch news broadcasts, for a short while, such as a week, and do something more useful instead such as go for a walk? It would do wonders for our mental health.

About Henry Gee

Henry Gee is an author, editor and recovering palaeontologist, who lives in Cromer, Norfolk, England, with his family and numerous pets, inasmuch as which the contents of this blog and any comments therein do not reflect the opinions of anyone but myself, as they don't know where they've been.
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