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Confessions of a (half-assed) news avoider

(null)I can't remember a time when, as an adult, I regularly watched TV news. In the days before the internet, there were times when I got and read newspapers: the excellent Edmonton Journal in its heyday, The Globe and Mail, and the Sunday edition of the New York Times. But most of my news, in the nineties, came from CBC Radio One. They do regional, national and international series daily. Their coverage was balanced and interesting, their journalists are brilliant, and the people they got to do interviews had legit expertise in whatever they were being asked about. None of these were gimmes, even then, and it was all nicely curated and informative. It gave me that feeling I used to seek from the news, that of being connected to global goings-on.

All of that changed overnight, pretty much, on September 11, 2001.

It was a bad conjunction of events. I was stuck at home all day, writing a game review and waiting on someone who was supposed to come fix a household appliance. For once, I did have the TV news on--because we all had the TV news on that day. And by midafternoon, when I realized I was, essentially, freaking out, the damage was already done.

The reaction, in my case, wasn't really about the actual events of 911. The crime was disturbing and horrific, of course, and like a lot of people I didn't find it hard to imagine--and dread--how the U.S. would react, and the carnage that would inevitably follow. All of that created sadness and anxiety in its own right.

But atop that was this other element. A side-issue, entirely personal, which was that I'd witnessed a plane crash as a kid and it left some psychological tracks. A day spent trapped in the house watching big planes smash into buildings was, for me, unhealthy as ingesting poison. Triggering, we'd say now. It's not something I talk about much; it's odd, even embarrassing at times. I've been known to flee blindly, even into traffic, when the roar of a low-flying plane catches me by surprise.

Well, I don't write fiction when I'm highly agitated about ... about anything, really. And I'm miserable when I'm not writing fiction. Plus, of course, it's my actual job. The only survival strategy I could come up with, in the moment, was to close myself off: take six months away from CBC, and ask my friends and family to stop forwarding me the kabillions of alarmist links that were proliferating about everything from U.S. oil imperialism to how it was all a hoax to that ever-fascinating array of Islamophobic bullshit that accompanies such events. (Remember how we did that, before Facebook--actually forwarded jokes and memes and hoaxes to the inboxes of our nearest and dearest, not to mention the guy in the next cubicle and your neighbor down the street?)

When I did try the news again, some other terribly upsetting thing was happening. Every time. After a couple attempts, I shut off the radio, more or less for good.

During this period I still generally knew the headlines, because news and newspapers are everywhere. I passed vending boxes on the street and thereby caught the front page. I saw discarded papers on buses, and passed through strangers' conversations about current events. If something's happening and people are into it, they'll tell you. In fact, they're happy if you don't know the highlights, because then they get to be the one to clue you in. News is story, and we all love stories. I wasn't getting much in the way of depth or nuance by picking up things this way, but--as one of you pointed out--reading a newspaper article on any given issue doesn't guarantee that either.

Instead of skimming the shallows, I decided to read feature articles about things I was genuinely interested in, and count on my loved ones to drop me a line when something important, like the death of Michael Jackson, was afoot. (Seriously. People text me when celebrities die.) I love features. I love Nick Tosches's "If You Knew Sushi," in Vanity Fair and just about every word written by Texas Monthly writer Pamela Coloff. (Here's her "An Innocent Man" article.) I read top-notch collections like The Best American Science and Nature Writing. I pull true crime and queer news and history and green technology pieces out of Longreads and the deep end of my Twitter Feed. The Guardian sends me a list of the day's headlines and I give them a quick browse, just in case.

In a sense, then, I've gone from blocking the signal as much as I can to trying to highgrade it. None of this was possible when I first started avoiding the news, but time and technology have changed the nature of everyone's filters. A glance at Twitter every morning tells me what my friends are following. It's the same effect as walking past a bunch of newspaper boxes, but with ten times the bandwidth.

At times, the compromise is imperfect. I tell my Facebook feed to sift out the things I'm never going to be interested in, like U.S. political news, but it still flashes the occasional headline at me. Now and then the clickbait even hits, raising my curiosity sufficiently to send me to CNN. I almost always regret this.

The reader question that spawned this post was, in part, about my writing. I write ecofantasy: stories with magic and a strong environmentalist slant. In my first books, magic-wielding ecoterrorists try to reverse our current climate change trends, and come within a hair of destroying everything they're trying to save. In the book that's out this week, A Daughter of No Nation, two countries come to the edge of war when it turns out one of them is facilitating the growth of an invasive species within the swamplands of the other.

At this point, it's no longer truly the case that I'm not paying attention at all. I'm merely choosing to be selectively deaf to some topics. Which probably means I need to find a new label for this aspect of myself, because self-identifying as a "news avoider?" Doesn't really cut it anymore.



When I was young I started a degree in Photography and Film Studies where there was a module on reportage; newspapers were the main source of serious news. What I learnt from that three months was how biased all the news reportage is, and this was back in 1978 when things were allegedly better.

Since then I've taken news in any form with a pinch of salt and have come to the conclusion that the aim of news is to create fear, uncertainty and doubt. Of course it means that if one doesn't read the news then one can be caught by the other trap; ignorance. It's a lose-lose scenario.

My retreat is to use the scientific method; look where the evidence leads which usually means follow the money.


Is now the time to mention that news consumption is addictive? And it's a CNS depressant, like many other addictive stimuli -- the whole point of news is to get you to point your eyeballs at the advertisements, so strategically it pays a newscaster to cause massive emotional responses. Hence the old saying, "if it bleeds, it leads". Personal good news -- celebrity feelgood stuff -- can compete with disasters, but abstract good news (e.g. world poverty decreasing) is a wash, so we simply don't get to hear about it unless we go hunting.

Oh, that's the marketing angle; the other purpose of news is to propagandize us. And to understand how it does it in the US and UK political context, it really is a bit of an eye-opener to read Chomsky. You don't need to agree with his politics to find his tools for understand the purpose of news useful ...


For the past couple of years, apart from Google headlines, occasional follows of major newspapers and some blogs, quite a bit of my news has been via late night comedy.

These days I especially like John Oliver (Last Week Tonight). Laugh to myself imagining the job qualifications/interviews for his comedy show writers: 'Any advanced degrees in accounting, finance or economics? How about political science, biology, materials science or nuclear fusion? How would you explain ecology to a 7-year old? And what bits would you leave out or dumb down if you had to explain it to 50-year old Republican?' (BTW, Last Week Tonight won the the TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in News and Information given by the Television Critics Association. Most of the episodes are on YouTube.)


Re: '... news consumption is addictive? And it's a CNS depressant, like many other addictive stimuli...'

Exactly - however some people prefer a different flavor of stimulant, i.e., humor.


I wonder if the news companies have stumbled onto a U-shaped curve...

Imaging plotting annoyance/avoidance against bad news: at no bad news, annoyance is high and I don't read the paper: it's pap. At a little bad news, it attracts my attention, and I read the exciting stuff (ie, the bad stuff) and some of the other stuff, especially the intelligent bits. At a little more bad news, I read a little more. At a lot more bad news, I get annoyed and read less, but still some. At utter bad news, the annoyance level shoots up to infinity and I read nothing.

Alyx, are you perhaps selecting to stay in the good part of the curve?

CNN, are you perhaps trying so hard to attract us that you're driving all of us away?



NB: Right now I am too busy to watch news -- I'm working on a novel and in my spare time I'm reading "A Daughter of No Nation". (Which so far is standing up well beside the first book in the series, which was excellent.)



You will probably like one of my favorite websites:
This is a non-profit site run by a bunch of fans of long-form journalism. It's been around for about 5 years, and they put up several links each day to examples of articles they admire--most of them current, but some older.


Egad. I've started doing this. And will do it yet more, spurred by your post.


I generally like to have an idea of what's going on in the world, so pay some attention to the news (right now I have NPR on in the background as I do my morning internet rounds; mostly not sinking in, but an occasional story catches my ear). I also like to think I'm capable of weeding out the BS from the 'important' stories. The local newspaper is a conservative rag, I know that and take it into account, but it's good for local news.
But occasionally a story gets too big to avoid and it's time to take a break. Current case in point is the local Planned Parenthood shooting, it was everywhere the first few days, mixed with a lot of nonsense about it and a good reminder not to read the comments. Then there are the ones that won't go away, like Don T. Rump. 'nuff said about him. Probably time to extend the break.

While you're back I'll ask what I didn't get around to earlier: Any particular reason for publishing under your initials rather than full name?
I was going to ask if the Alyx spelling was a nod to Russ, but see that's not likely the case.


The sad part for me is that I used to not own a TV, but to listen to NPR. Now I watch the local news and I've tuned out of NPR almost completely. Sic transit something or other.

The real reason I watch the local TV news is that:
a) they've got decent weather forecasts (unlike the local NPR station or local Wunderground), and
b) when they do get stupid and linger on something (other than a wildfire--I live in the WUI) for more than 15 minutes, I can turn it off.

Otherwise, even NPR has gotten into the button-mashing marketing tactic, cranking the alarmist stuff to try to keep us listening. Years ago I got to the point where I didn't donate to public radio during election years, simply as a fruitless campaign to get them to turn down the "electoral horse race" BS and pay attention to the rest of the world in even-numbered years. It hasn't so far worked, except that I've now pretty much stopped listening altogether.

Thank goodness TV also brought along Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. At least one of them is still around, and Trevor Noah isn't bad.


I am reminded of the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."


Admittedly NPR is lighter on hard news now, but has good international coverage, and is still preferable to morning network TV news which is mostly fluff. I do watch the evening network news to get an idea of what's been going on during the day.
At home I don't have cable, but am currently housesitting for some friends who do, so I was able to watch some cable coverage of the PP shooting. CNN was a bit behind on events (understandably), but filling in with 'experts' who didn't have any more of an idea what was happening than the anchors. I even attempted to look at FOX 'news', once they bothered to have coverage--when after a couple hours it was obviously something they couldn't ignore, and could put their spin on it. So I stayed with the local channels that had non-stop coverage, which is like not being able to look away from a car wreck (holiday weekend with little else to do, though tried to get some writing in). Took a while to get over the news fatigue, especially after the story went international (thank you interwebs) and seemed half of everything was about it.


Yeah, comedy is a great delivery system. There's a show in Canada which premiered before Jon Stewart started doing more or less the same scthick, called This Hour has 22 Minutes. They examined, analyzed, and mocked. It was a good way to catch world headlines.


Yes, Longform is amazing! I don't spend nearly enough time there.

My first exposure to great feature-length investigative journalism actually came from Spy Magazine, if you can believe it.


I did add a "Y" to Alyxandra to honor Russ and her Alyx, yes.


I agree that we do this: take in the things that support what we believe and shut out the ones that challenge us. But while Facebook makes it easier to imagine we're doing it efficiently and in an automatic way, I'd argue that this is a default human response. It's always in play and changing it requires conscious effort.


Yes, I agree that NPR has good international coverage. Now if they could just put it on in a dedicated segment instead of salting it midst all the other crap that makes me turn the radio off (crap being repeating the latest dog-whistles-that-pass-for-news from the Republican presidential race), I'd be much happier and more willing to listen.

In any case, I'll listen to the BBC late at night to catch up on stuff. There's also Al Jazeera on the tube. Besides, if anything interesting is going on, it usually shows up here, on Facebook, or on io9 long before it makes it to the news.


Cool! Russ is a favorite.


There's a very good Canadian public broadcasting TV show that I've seen called TVO Agenda. The host does interviews and moderates group discussions that are balanced, civil and very informative. And probably because of this non-confrontational style, it makes it possible to listen to and consider new information, possibly even modify one's views.

Good channel for documentaries too. (Accessible online.)


The news - all the suffering of 7 billion people over the past day that can be rounded up, condensed into 1 hour and presented for your entertainment.
OTOH, the overwhelming vast majority of those of those 7 billion had nothing bad happen to them.
No wonder it's depressing.


Some of us refuse to have a TV & deliberately watch news, later, on the net & SELECT -though that selection may be wrong, of course.


Most of what passes for news isn't.


The only time I ever "watch" news is in someone else's house when they have it on their TV. I not only don't have a TV, I have also been very thorough about deselecting this and uninstalling that and writing scripts to delete the other to make very sure that under no circumstances will any video play in my browser.

I hate video. It is slow, one-dimensional, lacking in random access, requires excessive concentration to keep track of context, very low in information density, and much better at getting you to think what whoever made it wants you to think than it is as a means of finding out what you want to know. It is rare indeed that the useful information content of an hour of television cannot be summarised in two or three lines of handwriting, and the primary information conveyed is emotional impressions, which are absolutely the last thing you need when it's the news we're talking about.

(Aside re. TV news: just why in the name of alien duck sex do they think that political items have to be read by someone actually physically standing outside the Houses of Parliament, being rained on, trying to shout over traffic noise in the background and wind blowing into the microphone? If they really need the HP backdrop at all why not just bluescreen it?)

Text is the thing. Information density and speed of assimilation are orders of magnitude higher, and it is far easier to be appropriately selective. It is also far easier and quicker to overcome poor or biased presentation by checking up on various points it raises as you go along to determine the bullshit factor involved. So my news input comes from reading stuff, almost always on the internet; and it is comments on sites like this or twitter which alert me to the existence of things of sufficient importance to bother searching for in the first place.


"(Aside re. TV news: just why in the name of alien duck sex do they think that political items have to be read by someone actually physically standing outside the Houses of Parliament..."

Because it's Entertainment!


Welp, here we go again.
To quote Harrison Ford: She-it!*

If I didn't already know the answer I'd be tempted to ask if Charlie has room for a lodger in his attic, assuming he has one.
Seriously, looking for a new country. I'd say planet, but realistically...
Ought to look up the words to "Oh, Canada", but that's still to close.

*yes, I'm repeating myself.


On top of it all, Westboro Baptist is apparently planning to protest the funeral of the police officer killed in the Planned Parenthood shootings, which is open to the public at New Life Church (yes, that one). I can't make it to the planned counter-protest.


In the last year I've gone from obsessively reading all the headlines on four different news RSS feeds, and reading most of the articles, to doing virtually none of that. I don't avoid the news, I just don't seek it out like I used to.

And what a difference it has made in my life. I now have more time to do other things (OK, mostly involving reading /other/ stuff on the Internet), and I am much much less angry about the state of the world. That last point is very important. I'm no longer stressed about shit happening around the world that I can do nothing about. I am no longer yelling at the computer for shit that politicians are doing and saying. I am so much more relaxed.

Sure, I'm now much less informed about the state of the world, and indeed, the country where I live. But when it comes down to it, I don't need to know. I already know the generalities (e.g. fundamentalists do and say bad shit; more gun deaths in the USA; politicians everywhere should be hung; random individuals do bad shit to each other; etc.), I don't need to know specifics (e.g. Paris, ISIS, that latest shooting in the USA, politician X of Y party being corrupt, but so is politician A of B party, "man stomped on girlfriend's face").

I can't say this is the best way for everyone. But for me (who already knows who I'm going to vote for: "none of the bastards"), it works.


Okay, there are times when I hide my head in the sand/avoid the news ... but at some point it becomes necessary to pull my head back up and smell the roses (or the sh*t) and do something about it. News avoidance/denial merely perpetuates the cycle of whatever the bad stuff is that's going on. Think 'slippery slope'.

As for de-emotionalizing the news ... okay, some/quite a lot of the news presentations are deliberately trying to push buttons. At the same time though, pretending that only news/information devoid of emotions is meaningful can lead to dehumanization of the 'human' condition. Also not the best plan.

All in all, it's pretty weird that self-described news avoiders keep nudging OGH (who we know does not watch TV) for his views on current affairs.


Speaking of long form, here's Mark Ames, the former editor of Moscow-based satirical newsmag The eXile -- shut down by Putin in 2008 -- explaining the difference between Russian-style top-down censorship, and Web-2.0 American-style horizontal censorship (which is more insidious and harder to resist): The Geometry of Censorship and Satire. Money shot: 'One of the most revealing reactions to the Charlie Hebdo massacre came from Jon Stewart, who complained that "comedy shouldn’t be an act of courage." That pretty much describes the sad state of contemporary American liberalism, and why so much of our satire feels stagnant ...'

(NB: exactly the same criticisms apply to the British media, with some added special post-imperial-nostalgia sauce on top.)

This, incidentally, is why I put up with commenter CatinaDiamond (who hasn't been visible for a couple of weeks -- and is missed): when she (or they) are on form, they have an unerring knack for digging a knuckle into the funnybone of the more insidious expressions of horizontal censorship.


All in all, it's pretty weird that self-described news avoiders keep nudging OGH (who we know does not watch TV) for his views on current affairs.

Not speaking for him, of course, but if you keep an eye on his Tweets he is on top of the news, only not via TV.

Anyhow, I tend to think that the good, or at least neutral, news outweighs the bad. It's just that the bad news is what gets immediate attention and ends up in your face if you happen to be looking.
There are certain subjects I pay attention to. One is who's going to win the Bond Villain Contest; who will lunch a satellite or capsule into orbit and have the booster land itself safely first, Musk or Bezos?


CatinaDiamond (who hasn't been visible for a couple of weeks -- and is missed)

I've actually been thinking the same thing.
Reminds me that there was a former regular here that I used to chat with some, who had mentioned that her health was bad and I assume the worst. Hopefully CD's not another case of that.


Donald Pleasance's Blofeld ...


Information causes change. (This is a useful heuristic for letting you define what's information in a context. There are much more formal definitions of information, but they're much harder to use.)

In a democracy, the point of news is to present the public with information; it's up to them to decide what kind of change is wanted.

Note that the news we actually get is designed (and serves well as) a means of making it impossible to see what could change while making everyone as insecure as possible for commercial purposes.

So it's not, you know, news. In things that aren't particularly democracies.


I've got to disagree with this, and the tl;dr version is that there's no reason to assume malice when the absurdity of reality is a simpler explanation.

Here's the problem: politics is mostly boring-ass shit, enlivened with a lot of pointless ranting from mostly clueless people. I admire elected politicians on all sides of the aisles for sitting and taking this crap for years, sitting for hours every day to deal with this. If I had to do their work, I'd go postal in short order.

I admire the unelected board members as much, because they get to do the same crap for free, unless their business pays them to sit in those seats, which is why local planning boards and the like are often filled by people in the industries those boards regulate. It is a truly thankless job, and how are you going to get random people to volunteer to do it? Appeal to their patriotism? That only works for nutcases like me, and I'm one of the people who rants at these boards, rather than sitting on them.

Now, let's turn to the news. In the US at least, we don't have a state-sponsored news organization, we've got a bunch of non-profit and for-profit companies who have to make their payroll, by showing ads and/or soliciting sponsorship. To do that, they have to get people to pay attention to them.

They can't get people to pay attention to politics by being realistic about it, because the reality is so boring as to send the mostly clueless citizens of the average stable democracy screaming into the streets. Instead, they have to focus on the flashy, bleeding, addictive, button-pushing stuff to get people to watch, so that they can claim a market that they advertise to, so that they can sell those eyeballs to advertisers, so that they can get the money from the advertisers (and also from the subscribers and sponsors) just to stay in business.

In other words, they have to sell stories, not reality, just like SFF authors.

To me, this is an utterly absurd way to go about getting information, but the absurdity is from the reality of how democracy works, not from any evil intent on the part of the news media.* If we were all better citizens, we wouldn't need the news media, and CSPAN, local government channels, and the like would be the top channels in every market.

*Yes, there is a lot of evil in the media. The point here is that even if we were able to exorcise all of it, they'd still have to go with "if it bleeds, it leads" just to stay in business.


who will lunch a satellite or capsule into orbit and have the booster land itself safely first, Musk or Bezos?
Musk. Looks like return to flight for the Falcon 9 will be round about the 15th, and one of the things they've been doing during the stand down is the paperwork for a return to launch site recovery. It may not be signed off in time for the first launch, in which case it's barge time again, but all the launches scheduled for the 6 months after return to flight ought to be RTLS capable.


I hope so. The barges have been nothing but trouble, they need nice, stable ground to land on. Though a successful barge landing would be cool, and get extra Villain points.


Here's the problem: politics is mostly boring-ass shit, enlivened with a lot of pointless ranting from mostly clueless people.

"Politics is rock music for ugly people who can't sing or play guitar."

Alternatively it's a real time MMO with crap armour and lots of heavy grinding for XP, and if you get it wrong a random NPC shoots you because they think you're polluting their precious bodily fluids.

Anyway, y'all have got an imperial presidency; why don't you just buy Barack O. a fancy diamond-studded crown and scepter, give Michelle a dress budget that stands up to the British royal family, and if that doesn't glam it up enough for the gossip columnists, subcontract the White House franchise to the Kardashians or the Beckhams?


I've seen, more than once, conservatives posting an image of Obama as Louis Quatorze, though I don't think either Barack or Michelle is trashy enough to match against the Bourbons, and the Bushes were downright stodgy (perhaps the appropriate image would be of Dubya as Victoria). On the other hand, if Clinton gets it in 2016 Bill will bring really trashiness back.


I have to thank OGH for his help in calling my attention to books I want to read, including lending his blog to other writers who do so. The title "A Daughter of No Nation" caught my interest, and I'm now planning to read "Child of a Hidden Sea"—I love the Age of Sail as a topos for fiction, and a fantasy set there sounds worth a look. And earlier I ordered "Guns of the Dawn" and found it one of the best fantasy novels I've read in some time. This is one of the best sites I've found for hearing of new things to read, and it's much appreciated.

(I should also mention "Debt: The First 5000 Years," which I often disagreed with but learned a lot from, and found thought-provoking. Not to mention that it enhanced my understanding of "Neptune's Brood.")


"All in all, it's pretty weird that self-described news avoiders keep nudging OGH (who we know does not watch TV) for his views on current affairs."

It isn't really. It's part of the strategy for keeping reasonably well-informed while avoiding the sensation of being beaten around the head with a spiked club that engagement with mainstream media induces. Charlie's commentaries and the discussions which follow them provide an intelligent, comprehensive overview of a situation which is considerably better than is provided by the same word count of "real" news articles, without the glitter and without the gaping holes in coverage that (to pick a topical example) lead to people "well-informed" in the sense that they do follow the news saying quite seriously "but Saudi has nothing to do with it". The generally left-wing viewpoint as opposed to the general right-wing bias of The Media also helps to fill gaps (as well as being more in line with my personal position). They are also a far better source of "search suggestions" of the type that lead to more good information rather than cack. As I replied to Alyx's first post, "crap overload avoidance" is a more accurate description than "news avoidance" tout court, and intelligent prefiltering is very useful for helping to maximise the ratio of milk to moo.


. . . general right-wing bias of The Media. Oh, now that's just funny.

Speaking as a constitutionalist libertarian—that is, someone who, in American terms, is very definitely "right-wing"—I see very little in the media that is at all close to my viewpoint. Or to that of any conservatives I've encountered.


Anyway, y'all have got an imperial presidency; why don't you just buy Barack O. a fancy diamond-studded crown and scepter, give Michelle a dress budget that stands up to the British royal family, and if that doesn't glam it up enough for the gossip columnists, subcontract the White House franchise to the Kardashians or the Beckhams?

I think you're one president late. You're thinking of George II Bush.

You ever notice how often Obama punts stuff back to Congress and tells them to do their effing job? It's almost as if the guy wanted to be the president, not the imperial nutcase that both the Republicans and Democrats like Pelosi want in the White House.

The stupid version of why the American legislature doesn't rein in presidential power is that most senators (and congresscritters) are arrogant enough to think that they could do a better job as President than whoever the current officeholder is. They want all that addictive power that the office appears to hold, so they aren't going to do their boring job of scaling back presidential authority, because they'd be neutering their dream.

I don't know whether this is really the case or just the usual nasty scuttlebutt, but I am pretty sure that Obama is not thrilled with being even perceived as an autocrat. To me, he looks more pissed off than anything else. If he was power-drunk enough to reach for imperial authority, I suspect he'd be assassinated by some right wing nutjob (google stochastic terrorism), and I suspect he's been more aware of that prospect than I ever will be.


Media institutions tend to motivated by the direct financial concerns of their corporate owners and indirectly by access to their subject matter. Definitely not left-wing, and historically does quite well at maintaining the interests of the moneyed and powerful. That might not fit in well with the current fad of populism in conservative circles.


TV news: just why in the name of alien duck sex do they think that political items have to be read by someone actually physically standing outside the Houses of Parliament, being rained on, trying to shout over traffic noise in the background and wind blowing into the microphone?

We have the same thing here for the White House. I wonder who did it first?

Sort of like the local news where the BEFORE DAWN reports have a "reporter" riding around in a van when it's raining or snowing so you can see the rain or snow through the window while s/he talks about riding around in the rain or snow.


I've come to the conclusion that like revenge most news seems to be best served cold.

(this is about the US)

I collect NPR stories on my iPhone via their app. Some days I miss but I get most of them. I pick the evening show. I then listen to them when I'm in a position to hear the stories through. Making a meal. Driving more than 10 minutes. I also collect Charlie Rose interviews and the News Hour's Friday TV shows. Airports and airplanes are also good times to listen. I tend to run 1 week to a month behind. I feel just as informed as most people. And I can skip over things that no longer matter.

Currently I'm about a month behind.

As to current things. I put on my local news when I get up and typically watch/listen to 1/2 to 1 hour in 15 to 20 minutes of real time while getting up, eating, and dressing.

The only "live" thing I keep up with is the MSNBC show "Morning Joe". It's 3 hours. But it loops the first 1/2 at the end. And ads are nearly and hour so we're now down to 1 1/2 hours. Ignore the fluff that all network shows get stuck with and the "live" interviews with politicians saying nothing be sound bites and now I've got between 45 to 90 minutes of real commentary. Which I let play while dealing with the day's email and such. And I miss 1/2 of that due to life. Or all of it for a few days or weeks. Life goes on if I miss it.

As others have said, the LIVE AS IT HAPPENS is a huge time sink with in most cases no new information 99% of the coverage.

I also read a lot from Google's news feed. But it can sure dish up some nonsense at times.

And I go with the knowledge that everyone has a bias. And this all "news" sources have biases. It's real. Deal with it.


comedy shouldn’t be an act of courage
I can remember the insane Mary shitehouse & all the others screaming blue murder & asking for Monty Python to be taken off the BBC ......
Or, earlier, "That was the Week that Was" being "pulled just before a General Election.
Never mind their reactions to "The Life of Brian" (!)
( Which is why I start snarling when good little christians start whining about "we're different from those NASTY muslims & how dare you?"
Lying, ignorant hypocrites, the lot of them. )


I'm told that the last part of the last film of the "Hunger Games" series makes this point, apparently with some vigour.
Anyone else know about this?


Re: 'They want all that addictive power that the office appears to hold, so they aren't going to do their boring job of scaling back presidential authority, because they'd be neutering their dream.'

Not an expert, but it seems that Congress is very content with a three-way tie/stalemate because the only political office term limit is for POTUS. Therefore even if Reps/Sens don't like the current President, they only have to bide their time. Individual congressmen/women can get away with almost anything ... there is no oversight... no job description apart from getting re-elected. You don't even have to toe the party line all that much, and you get to rub elbows with people with money.

Yes, there are some elected folk actively trying to help their electorate (vs. their financial backers), but they are probably in the minority at this point. Can't find the study, but someone somewhere did a regression analysis on Congressional voting behavior vs. campaign platform (i.e., promises to electorate/voting public) and campaign financiers/lobbyists (promises to the moneyed few.) The R2 was 0.00 as in completely random for campaign platform, and about 0.10 (which while not a slam-dunk is still significant) for the financial backers. This type of analysis can be done routinely these days because Congressional voting data, meetings/appointments, campaign speeches, etc. are all on record. By performing and publicizing such analyses on a regular basis USians can make their Reps accountable. The tools are available.

Oh -- and here's an interesting analysis of differences in large-$ political contributions for Rep vs. Dem parties in the US.


You didn't read the article, did you?

(Clue: it's by someone taking violent issue with the assertion that "Comedy shouldn't require courage".)


Incidentally, I can strongly recommend this short video remix of the news (British network TV variety) by Cassetteboy: Bombing for Dummies.


No I didn't
Having now read/skimmed it - I didn't need to.
The criticism of the "horizontal" censorship we suffer under - ask my MP - also requires courage to stand up against.
E.G. 1] Try suggesting that brown-skinned people can be vile racists, for instance, since "only pink ( & usually male pink ) people do that" ...
2] Or that awkward & difficult subjects need discussion, even if people are "offended" - a particular trope at present in USA universities I understand ....
3] Or that, as we worked out many threads back that any personal tax rate over 50% ( & quite probably 40% given other add-ons) is a futile waste of time & effort ...
4] etc ....

And see how much shit descends on your head.


I hope you enjoy it, William!


Talking of comments in the media & "unpopular" viewpoints
Yeah, you're brown & worse FEMALE & you dare to come out against supposedly anti-imperialist wonderful islam?
Good for Maryam N - you stick it to'em sister!


You seem to be assuming that spiked are accurate and repeat only the truth.
Maryam's blog can be found here:

The spiked article seems rather short on evidence and long on insinuation and "some people" stuff.


You might find the text of her speech here of more use:

Which she does identify some leftists/ progressives.


Interesting discussion. I spent 10+ years as a TV news producer.

Video is in many ways a terrible medium for conveying information. It is an excellent medium for conveying emotion. There are days I think TV news should be outlawed because of the damage it does to the body politic. But then go watch the video of Murrow at Buchenwald -- it would take 10,000 words to do the job he does in 3 minutes.

The other time TV shine is when there actually is live news that is important and developing quickly. There were a couple of times during my time in TV when we literally saved lives. I'm proud of that. There are a lot more times we did live reports because it helps ratings.

Also, no one is more aware of the problems and limits of TV news than those of us who work in the trenches. I spent a lot of time fighting to make our shows just a little smarter, a little more relevant, a little less full of s**t. Sometimes I won. More often....


I'm a member of the National Secular Society, which is where I got the Maryam Namazie links from.
Sorry, but there is some really unpleasant shit being put about by some people who are "supposed" to be on the equally-supposedly liberal left in rubbishing a woman who dares to stand against religious misogyny, 7 it is utterly disgusting.
Same goes for Ayaan Hirsan Ali, too & the names she gets called.

Yeah, rights for everyone EXCEPT brown women who must get back into their religious ghettoes, because "we" can then shout out about how horrible the "western imperialists" are.
Either we have Universal Human Rights, or we don't - you don't get to pick & choose.


Child of a Hidden Sea looks promising, but a couple of things held me up slightly in the first chapter: On page 3 Sophie estimates that the swells in the sea she's fallen into are half a meter high. I gather she's American, and she uses American units for other things (for example, "like kicking a slimy two-by-four"); it seems really odd for her to ballpark a height in metric. I've used metric units since college physics forty years ago, but I do intuitive estimates in feet and pounds.

On the same page, Sophie is surprised that she doesn't recognize the species of a moth. But Wikipedia says that there are 180,000 species of Lepidoptera, which is way beyond the human memory threshold. I suppose this makes sense if she's surprised that it's not a Californian species, but she seems to be thinking that she ought to be able to (a) identify what species it is and (b) use that to figure out her geographic location.

Neither of those stopped me reading further, so they're not major issues. They're just things that stuck in my memory.


I hadn't actually read this thread as I assumed it was about a book I'd not read, and saw 9/11 mentioned so dipped out.


Glad to be of some small merit, a life saved and all that.


Comment: it is naive to assume that a narrative isn't being sculpted; it's also naive to assume you're the best in the business if your (non-hidden) competition is weak.

The candle that burns brightest burns half as long [Youtube: music: 2:23]


@OP (if she is still aware of this thread): Ecofantasy?!?

You're on the list!

(It's a good list, the reading kind)



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This page contains a single entry by Alyx Dellamonica published on December 2, 2015 11:59 AM.

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