Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Stop spreading the news

In today's toxic political climate, 
not knowing what's going on may be 
the best way to retain your sanity.

By all rights those of us who have retired in Mexico behind the Tortilla Curtain should be spared the political chatter and acrimony that permeates even conversations at strip bars back home.

But even here, seven hundred miles south of the border, every cheer and groan by both liberals and conservatives continues to disturb our retirement calm, thanks to the internet, social websites and satellite TV. 

Internet news sites in particular, popping up on our tablets first thing in the morning, get our guts churning even before we get out of bed.

Good morning! has been replaced by For God's sakes, what now?

Once upon a time the internet promised a limitless horizon of information, including current events, that would help broaden our intellectual and political perspectives. 

Instead it has created a myriad "confirmation loops" that people tap into to essentially hear what they want to hear. You've got your Breitbart News and I have our Huffington Post (though the latter tends to concentrate a bit more on facts than delusional conspiracies).

Today we can presume to be informed without having opposing voices rattle our intellectual cages. 

Can't read a damn thing? That's perfect. Go read
a book instead. You'll feel better. 
During the presidential campaign, and especially after Donald Trump was elected, Facebook turned into a hysterical—and bipartisan—playpen, though most people, of course, modulated whose posts they wanted to read and respond to, and so safely kept noodling their own biases.

Dr. Andrew Weil, a medical doctor who  during the past twenty years has written a raft of books about new age lifestyles and diets, has proposed the notion of a "news fast."

He argues that news from whatever source is so anxiety-inducing that for the sake of your mental health it's best, once in a while, to tune it all out for a week or longer. 

It's not just abstaining from politics, but news of any kind, about political assassinations in far away countries or families weeping because their mobile home was blown over by a tornado.  

That made sense to me, even at the risk of sounding like a disconnected zombie at my next social engagement.

However, kicking the "newsbite" habit can be as hard as quitting smoking. I can't follow through for more than two or three days. 

An article last month in The Guardian—which naturally came to me via the paper's e-mail daily news summary—argued that "news is bad for you, and giving up reading it will make you happier." 

The author's arguments are persuasive and extensive: News misleads, has no explanatory power, inhibits thinking and may even be harmful to your body, among other deleterious effects. 

For me, the biggest frustration with news is the feeling of powerlessness—horrible things are happening and there's nothing I can do about them, except maybe write another check to Doctors Without Borders, so it can attend to the next natural disaster at a Third World nation I've never heard of. 

Still, I intend to launch my indefinite news fast, soon. I've started by listening to nothing but Classic FM Nederland, an internet station that plays soothing  classical music and whose newscasts, in Dutch, I can't understand.

That should free up considerable time to finish "Red Notice," by Bill Browder, a real page-turner of a book, unfortunately with a news hook—the rampant corruption in Russia, America's new amigo. 

Stew, who may have started his own news diet without telling me, finished it and immediately slid into a story about the kings of Norway and Denmark during World War II. Bliss.

I encourage you to suppress your daily news intake and do some breathing meditation. It'll make feel better.

But just don't do it before you read David Brooks column today in the The New York Times. It's wickedly funny. 











13 comments:

  1. Being Dutch, I will have to choose a Chinese radio station... The idea of tuning out sounds interesting. No news, no facebook. It should be do-able, there is sunshine in the forecast...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lucky man. I love the Netherlands, and our recent ten days in Amsterdam and Haarlem was the best vacation in recent memory, and we don't even smoke weed. Beautiful place and people, relaxed, lots of good restaurants. I also spent a month after college loitering around a town called Kampen, which was also beautiful.

      al

      Delete
  2. It is the one you don't see or hear that gets you.

    Good luck,

    Robert Gill
    Phoenix, Arizona

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Robert: I can see your point, but a man needs a vacation from news once in a while. Thank you for your comments.

      al

      Delete
  3. I'm enjoying the news from above the Rio Bravo more than ever. The emotional meltdown, the hysterics, of leftists at Trump's being in the White House, and his poking them in the eye on a regular basis, keeps a smile pasted on my face. I look forward to reading the Gringo news. Mexican news? Not so much.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Estimado Felipe: Don't smile so much, my man. The problem with the chaos in the White House is that not only is it driving liberals up the wall (though there will be no Wall, it seems) but anymore conservatives also are pulling their hair, frustrated that all that noise is preventing them from getting anything accomplished. Very little is being done, one way or another.

    Saludos,

    al

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't read or hear news each day til the 5:30 national news. I usually have music playing and reading on my Kindle. Life is so much more enjoyable.
    When I do go to the beach each year for 6 weeks, I have no TV, internet or any other means of communication unless I drive to the nearest village of wifi. It is the most restorative time of my life, each year. Truly......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You sound like a Buddhist nun. Sounds good to me. Clearing electronic noise is key to a healthy life I believe.

      al

      Delete
  6. The media expects Trump to act like a politicin, which he is not. If they had given him time to do something his way, things might be totally different. Instead, they have criticized his every move, and he is spending all of his time defending himself and his actions. If he ignored the press, he would have more time to accomplish his goals...if only Congress woulld get behind him. With the help of the media, we have created a circus in Washington.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What's going on in Washington is complicated. If I were to pick out Trump's main problem is that he is often dishonest, or changes his mind too often, on top of the fact that you mention which is that he doesn't have much political experience to deal with Washington. In fact, few people in his team have political experience. Right now I'm trying to tune out the whole thing for a while because it's really upsetting, particularly that nothing is getting done.

      Thanks for your comments.

      al

      Delete
  7. I'm finding that the way that the news is reported to be more disturbing than the actual news itself. Not only is the MSM incredibly biased towards a "deep-state" status quo, but it also simply ignores stories it doesn't like, such as the curious death of Seth Rich.

    As for what's actually going on, some is disturbing, and some heartening, though the former, what with ISIS, N Korea, and other trouble-makers, seems to be dominant.

    After a few months in Mexico, I figured out that I could listen to both WBUR and WGBH radio via the internet, and it was comforting to be able to listen to Boston Public Radio (a daily talk show about Boston city and MA state gov't) and NPR's "All Things Considered." That, along with YouTube and various other news sites is a good way to stay on top of the lunacy NOB.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where the local news is one endless stream of weather that has already happened, murders, robberies, and traffic deaths. Ugh!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr. G: C'mon, you don't give any credence to the Seth Rich conspiracy. Even Fox News publicly repudiated it.

      I think WGBH and NPR's All Things Considered are good too, though Things tends to be too long-winded at times.

      OK, what "various other news sites" do you follow.

      Hope your mom is doing better.

      Alfredo

      Delete