By Jon Cogburn
I wonder how common this is. In his most recent post Barath Vallabha states that:
Before the election, I used to get my news generally from four websites: cnn, huffingtonpost, slate and politico. Don’t know how I settled on these, but there it was. If I wanted to check out conservative opinion, I went to Foxnews and later on Breitbart.
Since the end of the election I have generally avoided these sites.
But nonetheless, Vallabha finds himself periodically tuning back in to see how the official organs of the center left have been covering our unfolding disaster. When he checks in, he finds his decision to consume less news media to have been a good one. In Vallabha's case this is because the pretense of these outlets to speak for everyone prevents them from representing or in any ways doing anything meaningful about the actual fractured version of pluralism that Trump exploited.
In any case, me being up to minute on the latest outrage didn't do anything to make reality less outrageous and it made me very unhappy. So I've scaled back (and embarked upon a year long hiatus from facebook, for that matter).
Perhaps tuning out is an act of bougie self-indulgence. I don't know. I remember after 9/11 when all of these damned televisions first went up in public places. It was fantastic business for CNN. Once at the doctor's office I asked the receptionist why the television was there and she said it was important in a time of war for people to have access to up to date information. Maybe that's an OK idea, but surely reading a daily newspaper would have done the job much better. CNN's repetitive disaster porn didn't accomplish anything positive. Instead of coming out of it more informed we all just came to feel like victims. And it felt great! This is because anything you do when you feel like a victim feels justified. Of course the national orgy of self-pity and self-indulgent sort of pretend fear** was beyond a slap in the face to the real victims, and it also led (among other things) to two disastrously conceived and executed wars, but there you go. It created, and continues to create, a lot of positive hedons for a lot of people.
I suspect that the idea that one has a duty to obsessively follow internet news or spend great swaths of the day thinking about politics is about on par with the idea that there is a civic necessity that we should be bombarded with cable news in public places. If I'm anywhere close to being correct about the analogy, then I don't feel bad at all about tuning out.
[*Yet another professional wrestling connection! Vince McMahon is the owner of the company IRL and the character he plays, "Vince McMahon," is the owner in story-line as well.
**All of the stuff people like Kendall Walton say about quasi-emotional reactions to artworks is not true about artworks, but is true about reactions to cable news.]