Every morning I check several Internet news sites to see what’s happened since I last logged off. While the actual news items vary, what doesn’t change is the maddening repetition. There are usually only about ten items per day, and they are repeated across all sites, from all across the world.
It is hard for me to believe that these ten occurrences are the most important things happening on the planet. No matter how one prioritizes the ebb and flow of human activity, there simply must be more to life than is touched upon here. Much of what is described in shocked or portentous tone is simply rumor. Did the Brexit vote really cause billions of dollars to vanish overnight?
Of course, despite what a fixation on social media might lure one into thinking, there remains an art and discipline of journalism which puts of a premium on accuracy and verifiability. Now that anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account has the same ability to reach an audience as the owner of a small television or radio station, rumor and gossip can spread like wildfire. I have inadvertantly been part of this process, sharing lies and fabrications from websites created by middle-aged men living rent-free in their mother’s basements. I have found through trial and error to avoid yournewswire.com and the many sites like it, which simply fabricate stories in order to lure visitors and potential advertising revenue. If I go to a site that has more space devoted to ads than to content, I try to remember to avoid that site in the future.
We all know that the world is rich and that the seven billion people on the planet each could tell a story more interesting than the same general re-hash of the arbitrarily chosen top ten headlines of the day, but that doesn’t stop us from patronizing the same organizations that robotically tell us the opposite is true. I’m already so sick of the American electoral process that I could scream and the election is still six months away!
Still, I am addicted to my familiar morning news-gathering process. Has an important celebrity died? Has a psychotic gun owner killed a large number of innocent people? What harm is coming my way that I could avoid thanks to being informed in advance? How will knowing the news of the day allow me some advantage as I proceed out into the world?
Some illusions are more convincing than others, some behaviors more addictive, some utterances more repetitive, some institutions more resistant to change. Why I spend so much of my mental energy tuning in to any or all of this is a real mystery to this newshound.