Stop Consuming News Media

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35 Responses

  1. NewDealer says:

    I would argue it is the type of media that matters the most.

    There is nothing wrong with reading newspapers and magazines in their real world and on-line formats.

    There is nothing wrong with a half hour or hour of nightly news from the TV or radio every night or almost every night.

    The problem comes when people have CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and talk radio on non-stop*. This are designed to make mountains out of molehills and fill some junkie like quality for news/information. They create stories because of the need for 24/7 content.

    *I make an exception for BBC World.Report

  2. Pinky says:

    Based on the name of this article and its tagline, I assumed that it would be about avoiding the packaged media but still staying current on politics and policy. I’m less fond of what’s being proposed here. It’s easy to be informed without following the cable news outlets, for example – probably easier than if you do follow them.Report

  3. Damon says:

    Many years ago, I realized that the “game was rigged”. The political parties shout loudly about how the other side is evil and they are better side, all the while agreeing with the other side on 95% of all policies. I concluded that the media were either in colusion or participated to increase drama and thereby ratings, ie it’s all political theatre. The last several presidential elections have proved that point out well. Now I enjoy arguing points with my political friends just to get them all worked up because they’re still caught in the trap of thinking their vote counts and that they are part of the “solution”. I follow the news on the interwebs mostly, I get a lot more varied perspectives, both foreign and domestic then consuming the mass media versions but my consumption is modest.Report

    • Kim in reply to Damon says:

      All politics is local.
      My vote counts.

      We’re getting the first liberal in a generation as mayor, this fall.
      (Our current mayor has forgotten where his office is, so everyone’s
      just giving their talking points to the soon-to-be mayor)

      Folks like you have forgotten how to dream, and then get shit done.
      That’s not what we’re like around here. Ya put plans on the books,
      then you put people in power that can take advantage of the plans
      (and lower taxes to boot!).Report

      • Damon in reply to Kim says:

        Maybe your vote counts where you are. Mine doesn’t here. It’s a one party state. What passes for the opposition agrees with most of the policies of the other party and is geographically limited to low population rural counties within the state, and they cannot make in roads outside of those areas-the machine will not allow it. Given several decades of gerrymandering, they’ve been isolated nicely by their competitor.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kim says:

        I live in a “one party town” where the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy donates to one of the Democratic candidates. So don’t give me any of that “it’s a one party state”. That’s bullshit no matter where you live.

        If they’re hiding it all under one moniker, that makes it easier to win, not harder. Apathy’s a great ally if you want change — and nobody’s more apathetic than Democratic primary voters, properly tweaked.

        Besides, if you’ve got a one party state, generally the FBI is good to help you get rid of the real bad apples. (Yes, getting the FBI in takes research. You expected this to be easy? Making a difference is never easy!).

        Pick an issue you can move people on, and then get moving. Knoxville’s apparently been doing a bangup job turning green. Local issues are small enough that one person really can make a difference.

        You just have to ask yourself… what do I want?Report

      • Damon in reply to Kim says:

        It IS a one party state. The Democrats control the high population dense counties. Those counties are rich from feeding off tax spending from the capital and are full of liberals and progressives. The only counties controlled by Republicans are low pop dense counties on the coast and in the mountains, and even there, they are dependent upon largess from the wealthier counties/state.

        I used to live in one of those Republican strongholds. Their percentage in the general assembly is like 15%. Not enough to do much but to be an occasional annoyance to the majority. When I had my assembly woman canvas our area to get re-elected, she first reason she used was the “We have to get rid of those evil Democrats in the Capital taking our freedoms”. When I argued how she was supposed to do that being in the minority party, she switched to “I got money for this road expansion”. I countered with “So I should vote for you because when the Democrats passed the largest tax increase in our state’s history last year, you made sure this county got a few million dollars out of that tax increase to widen xxx road?” She shut up and walked away.

        What’s the difference between a “tax and spend” Democrat and a “tax and spend” Republican? Only where the “spend” is spent. One party. It’s call “tax and spend”.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kim says:

        and pittsburgh IS a one party town. That doesn’t mean that Scaife (VRW Conspiracy, referenced above) doesn’t donate boku bucks to get his man elected.

        Seriously? If you want to reduce spending, pick a couple things. Any decent PR campaign can get the more outrageous stuff cut (can’t run a PR campaign? LEARN, it’s not terribly hard). If you want something different than just TEA (taxed enough already), put together some policy briefs.

        And keep a few irons in the fire. If you have 40 policies sent to city hall, three of them might actually get implemented (the rest tabled, politicized, too expensive).Report

  4. zic says:

    A couple of years ago, we ditched our cable connection in the interests of our household budget. And with that, we ditched cable news. Since we live in a bowl in the mountains, the only broadcast station we pick up is PBS, which has a booster antenna nearby.

    I still consume news; mostly on the internet. I read a variety of sources, the NYT daily, Bloomberg, Mother Jones, TAC, HuffPost. I feel like I’m informed, and I think that actually does matter.

    So I don’t agree with your overall premise; I think being informed matters. One example would be voting laws. Without being informed you’re only going to hear the propaganda of ‘voter fraud,’ which is nearly nonexistent, without hearing the problems of vote suppression, which matters in a functional democracy.

    That said, the few times over I’ve seen cable news since ditching our cable connection, my stress and anxiety has gone through the roof. Simply watching increases adrenaline, anger, upset. I actually think this is an addictive thing on some level. It’s certainly not a healthy way to ‘relax,’ and the lack of actual investigative and informative journalism and analysis, replaced with horse-race he-said/she-said competitive reporting, lacks, greatly.

    So I agree that many people who are ‘informed’ are not doing themselves any good; but I don’t agree that it’s the ‘being informed’ part that matters; it’s the ways we opt to become informed that matter.Report

    • Zic, thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      I’d be interested to hear you elaborate on your argument about why being informed matters, or more specifically, to what end it matters and what vehicle is effective for achieving that.

      With respect to your example of voting laws, I can’t say I know anything about voter fraud or vote suppression, though I’m aware of gerrymandering. However, awareness of gerrymandering in itself doesn’t serve me since I either have to choose to do something (civic engagement) or not. With respect to this issue, I find myself in the same place I started: making an informed decision at voting time.


      • Right now, there’s an all-out assault on access to the voting booth, all in the name of preventing voter fraud, often driven by ‘sample’ legislation from a group known as The American Legislative Exchange Council.

        It’s a created problem; there is virtually no voting fraud in this country. But the legislation suggested by ALEC often makes it more difficult for people to vote by limiting hours, requiring ID’s, eliminating same-day voter registration, making voter-registration drives more difficult.

        If all you know about voting rights is the problems of gerrymandering (which are, in my opinion, overestimated, but I’m informed on this topic by Jonathan Bernstein at his blog, A Plain Blog about Politics, then a trip to the voting booth to solve the problem of voter fraud makes perfect sense; nobody wants people voting multiple times or people who are not eligible to vote voting. It requires being informed about voting to make a rational decision when you’re in the booth, voting on a potential law, a referendum, or for candidates who will cast those votes.

        This happens over and over; we are subjected to propaganda, and without being informed, that propaganda weights our choices, often to our detriment.

        Now I could give you pages of links to help inform you on the problems of voting. But doing so would be informing you. And since you’ve indicated a preference against that; you’ll just have to take my word for it.

        And that, in a nutshell, is my problem with your argument. My word is not good enough; real research, real information, and real discussion about consequences of policies matter.Report

      • Why do you decide not to take a more active (and amusing) role in local governance?
        Write a logistics paper, write an opinion piece, call the FBI, build a device to keep pigeons off the public lawn, create a public greenspace, or buy some influence.

        To divorce yourself from your community is a rather horrid thing to do, and it leads to worse problems that our society can ill afford.

        Local governance is one method that we can all contribute, it need not be simply voting.Report

  5. Kazzy says:

    Doesn’t this presume a singular end we are all pursuing?Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

      Not really. It just presumes that whatever end you’re pursuing isn’t advanced particularly well by consuming news media. Which is probably true for the vast majority of us.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        A fair point. But I think that last point needs to be substantiated a bit more before we can accept it whole hog because this particular point of advice happened to serve the author well.Report

  6. Kim says:

    If you want to buy influence, go ahead and buy some freaking influence.
    It’s surprisingly cheap!

    I think that the OP discounts the level of amusement available in politics these days.Report

  7. Kim says:

    I don’t know where you live.
    But I am certain you are going to regret not paying attention to real world problems.
    They have actual fiscal consequences on your bottom line.

    Here’s one small example:

    You can try and fix public problems in the private sphere, sure. But a lot of it takes consensus and governance.Report

    • Hi Kim,

      Thanks for your comment.

      My argument is not to never be informed or take action – only to distinguish why we’re seeking information and at a minimum see clearly when we’re doing so to serve some end or simply to entertain ourselves.

      Your last line is spot on: There are many ways to solve public problems. It’s not that I don’t care about them but, like you, I have to decide how to best spend my 24 hours per day.


  8. Pinky says:

    It’s a lot like being in shape.

    Eating fast-food news doesn’t help. Consuming a good diet of heatlhy, accurate information is necessary to stay in shape. But are we just getting in shape to look good in the mirror? Or are we going to use our muscles and stamina to accomplish something? And even then – if we accomplish something vain, does that matter? Helping a friend get on to city council is like running a marathon. You get a sticker for the back of your car and feel like you accomplished something. But what are you doing to change things for the better?Report

  9. roger says:

    I am convinced watching the stuff served up as news makes people dumber. This is especially true of political news. It is trivia and sensationalism. Bad lizards to save us from worse lizards fiction.

    I was in a room full of middle class, educated adults, two of whom are in law enforcement and I casually mentioned the dramatic long term trends in less crime in the US. You should have seen the look I got. Not only were they all ignorant of the trends, they were convinced they were moving in the other direction. The fact that I was able to google FBI statistics in three seconds just caused them to shake their heads. Cognitive dissonance ensued.

    The more people follow financial news, the MORE uninformed or misinformed they become. The more political coverage people follow, the more they get lost in irrelevancy. The same is true for social trends in general.

    There are inherent biases in what sells in the news. It is possible to share knowledge in such a way that people become dumber and less informed by consuming it. And just to clarify I do not necessarily assign any intentionality in the pattern.Report

    • Kim in reply to roger says:

      “The more people follow financial news, the MORE uninformed or misinformed they become”
      oh, come off it! Talk to a trader or two, half the stuff they have on TV is just for chumps anyway.

      Following REAL financial news is deathly boring, but will make you smarter.
      of course, a good deal of real news is put out by the govtReport

  10. Dan Miller says:

    Your argument is strongest for national politics, where issues are so huge and there are so many people involved that an ordinary citizen has little hope of making an impact, especially if they’re not rich, well-connected or both. But what about local politics? Even an average person can fight for improvements in their neighborhood and have a shot at making a difference–for instance, after gathering signatures on a petition, my mom got a stop sign installed at a corner near her house, when she worried that cars were speeding through an uncontrolled intersection with a ton of kids nearby. Little things like that–attending town meetings, making comments on zoning proposals, and so on–can have a real impact on your local community, and being well-informed about these issues is a prerequisite to being a good local citizen.Report

  11. Murali says:

    Taylor, why do you vote?Report

  12. Zic,

    Apparently I can’t do a doubly-nested reply, so, coming down here.

    Thanks for clarifying.

    I don’t think that I’ve anywhere implied that if I want information to inform a decision that I have to take anyone’s word for anything. I get to decide what I think is a valid source and chase down loose ends until I’m satisfied.

    I think your example is a great one and introduces another worthwhile topic: how to (efficiently) find and parse good and complete information from bad and partial. We all face that challenge at any level of political engagement.


  13. J@m3z Aitch says:

    Good post. Being political or politically informed is not necessary either to living a good life or being a good citizen.Report

    • Kim in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      That depends on your definition of a good life and a good citizen, I suppose.
      I’d hardly call it a good decision to send your children off to die in war, but
      such are the wages of the politically inattentive (dramatic example, yes?
      I could have chosen a more lukewarm one — losing half your savings…)Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kim says:


        We each decide for ourselves what is a good life, right? Subjtectivity of value. So of course a person can lead a good life without being politically informed. It just might not be somebody else’s good life. (Why do I have to explain subjectivity of value repeatedly?)

        As to being a good citizen, let’s pose a stark comparison. Joe obeys the traffic laws, pays his taxes in full, keeps his house and yard well-maintained, provides for his family, gives to and volunteers for charity organizations, makes sure his kids do their homework, obey the law, and treat other people considerately. But he’d have to think hard to name the VP or even on Supreme Court justice, and the last election in which he cast a vote was for junior class president in high school.

        Bob likes to drive fast and recklessly, hides as much income from taxation as he can, doesn’t pay his court-ordered child support, leaving his 4 kids by 3 women on welfare, “borrows” his neighbor’s tools without asking and “forgets” to return them, thinks voluntarism and charitable giving is for dopes who don’t understand life is all about getting what you can and screw everyone else. But Bob’s a political junkie, follows the news zealously, and is in attendance at every city council meeting (mostly to bitch about the ordinances that requires him to keep his yard maintained and not park several non-functional vehicles on his front lawn).

        Which is the better citizen?

        Obviously there’s lots of ground in-between Bob and Joe, and perhaps the ideal citizen lies between their extremes. But the contrast highlights which contributes more to good citizenship: social behavior or level of political awareness.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kim says:

        Most people are idiots. If you asked most people how much time and effort they are willing to give to make certain their kids don’t die, I’m guessing it would be a sizable fraction of the day (and their money).

        And yet, a sizeable portion of those kids are going to die, in horrid ways (not the least of which is not using a toilet correctly — offtopic).

        People are really fucking dumb some days, sorry to say. I don’t think they’re well equipped to valuate future outcomes very well (pretty sure for that I could pull some papers, actually).

        I see what political questions there are as being quite a bit bigger than the OP does.

        Genocide’s a current/future topic, for me.

        Now, it’s fine and dandy if someone actually can say “I’d rather not worry about my kid, and when they die from falling into the puppy pit, i’ll cry, but i’ll recover.” I don’t think most people are like that though.Report

      • Pinky in reply to Kim says:

        James, a well-informed serial killer is a bad citizen, and a poorly-informed scientist and saint does help the community in which he lives. But those are lousy examples. A person is better able to contribute as a citizen if he’s better informed. To imply the contrary is absurd. The most obvious case is the time of crisis. The poorly-informed but otherwise honorable citizen isn’t going to know about it, and isn’t going to be able to respond properly.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kim says:


        I actually addressed that point with my “in between the two extremes” statement, trying to head it off at the pass. The question was not whether the uninformed are “ideal” citizens, but whether they can be “good” citizens. And it appears as though we are in agreement on that point.Report

  14. veronica dire says:

    I agree up to a point; most news is a waste of time.

    Myself, I basically involve myself in local stuff, where I can make a difference, and especially on direct person to person activism.

    Voting is easy, as I pick the candidate who is better on transgender issues. (I’m trans.) So far that has always been the Democrat. I expect that trend to continue.

    Oh, and to the author of the piece, you grossly underestimate the value of good masturbation.Report