Fake News: The Poison in The Week’s Events

You need to stay abreast. You should be up to date with current affairs. You ought to know what’s going on in the world.

Right?

What are you doing with it?

Does the world actually care if you know about a new depressing thing that’s happening somewhere?

Unless you were going to do something about it, then no. Nobody cares. It does no one any good, and if it made you feel angry, tense, or stressed, then it does you bad. It’s a net-negative.

That’s assuming that the news will tell you what’s really going on in the world, that all this negativity is true.

But the truth is actually overwhelmingly positive, based on the statistics and facts — *barf*.

The truth is, the world is getting better by almost every metric.

What is it doing with you?

My parents are hooked on the news. A friend of mine has the same grievance. He once told me of the only time he “got through” to his dad on the issue.

He came down the stairs of his childhood house one recent December and wished his dad a Merry Christmas. He made himself a coffee as the news filled the background sound. With his cup ready, he picked up the debate he and his dad were having the day before with a single observation:

“Dad, it’s Christmas morning, and in 5 minutes I’ve heard the word rape 3 times. Could you please switch it off, just for today?”

If rape ever crops up in my social circles, make no mistake, I’ll want to know everything. I’ll want to know enough to do something about it, whether that’s bring the monster responsible to justice, or help the victim to recover.

But what about when it happens to a stranger? I’ll be honest, I don’t do anything. If you’re an amateur Sherlock Holmes, then more power to you, but in all likelihood you don’t do anything either.

What does it do for the victim that our household now knows about their tragedy? Nothing.

What does it do for the household? It provokes impotent and pointless anger and stress.

Spread that across millions of people and billions of hours of pointless negativity, and you get entire nations of people thinking the world is a bad place, when the boring facts and figures (you know, the truth) state the opposite. The world is good, and it’s getting better.

It might make you angry to learn the truth

I once showed my mother a TEDtalk about making deserts green again. It summarised the fantastic work being done to combat desertification — the thing that happens when a once green pasture turns to dust. Allan Savory, the speaker, describes how to make them green again, and it’s so damn simple:

During this, my mum’s breathing became fast and tense. She was angry.

I asked her why, and she said quietly, “Why is this the first I’ve heard of this? The TV makes you think everything’s going to pot.”

She was right. I was hopeful that I had inspired her to seek out good news like this and cut out the pointless negatives.

But I hadn’t. It takes effort to change when you have made the news a significant part of your life. It’s not just the information. It’s the rituals around sitting down to watch it. It’s the clever manipulation of the media to make you feel uninformed if you don’t consume their drivel. And it’s the social pressure. It’s many things. She wasn’t angry enough to combat all that.

So from time to time, I still send her little reminders of the rosy truth to which the facts are pointing.

At the end of your life

I’m not saying bad things aren’t happening. I’m not saying bad things shouldn’t be reported. I’m not in a position to make that call.

I’m only asking what good is it doing you that you know about the latest rape or murder? Will your outrage help anyone? Will you ever get back the time it took to learn that?

At the end of your life, how many hours in total will you have spent allowing people who don’t care about you to tell you the world is a terrible place?

How deeply will you have bought their lie — which they created by telling you about all the worst facts they could find?

Fake news is all news.

The 7-day news fast

Maybe just take a break. 7 days. Can you last for 7 days, just to see if it makes you happier?

Replace it with something better.

I like to get a weekly summary of the news every Saturday through the hilarious lens of The Frank Skinner Show. If anything really big happened that week, they’ll joke about it. It’s like a cliff notes of the week’s news with all the negativity skilfully muted via humour.

To get started on things that are more fascinating, positive, and/or true than the news, try these:

At the very least, acknowledge that the terrible crimes on the news and those depicted on The Mentalist are the same. Only one is fiction, but they are both only entertainment. You know it’s true!

“I can gather all the news I need on the weather report.”
– Paul Simon

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