Why The News Is So Pernicious

Spoiler alert: because it’s pernicious.

The problem with “The News”, as a window onto Reality, is that it isn’t a window at all — it’s an interpretation. And as with all interpretations of Reality, The News is filtered through something of a “fundamental worldview,” an implicit — if not explicit — metaphysic. The facts, it’s true, are always filtered (if not their content, their context). Now if your own, embodied metaphysic happens to align with the default metaphysic of The News, the way the world is presented —by traditional media — will roughly mirror your sense of the way the world is. Cats get stuck in trees, natural weather events take place, people war over vaccines, and some token heroic event always happened somewhere. Yep, yep, yep, and yep. Just another day; and now it’s 6pm.

Overall, it’s a woefully sad picture of things. Not so sad you want to shoot yourself, say, but sad enough that if it weren’t for the token heroic event you’d probably think about. So sad it’s truly sad, but not so sad you won’t tune in tomorrow. About that much sad.

Of course, cats do get stuck in trees. Natural weather events do take place. People indeed war over vaccines. And some token heroic event is actually always happening somewhere. This is the world we live in, no doubt about it. That’s all fine. The issue is the way it’s presented. The distribution of the type of events and happenings conveyed by media skews Reality to such a point that it bares scarcely any resemblance to the real, bona fide deal. It pays far more attention to things that aren’t worth it, and far too little to things that are.

None of this do I expect to come as a shock to the reader. Obviously the news is bullshit, you’re probably thinking. TV is insane. Trusted institutions are few and far in between. And surely there aren’t that many cats getting stuck in trees. You’re conscious, after all. You’re sophisticated. You’re on Medium. You’re ‘above it all’, capable of discerning fact from fiction, Reality from a simulacrum. And perhaps you are. Perhaps, but awfully unlikely. For the problem with The News is not how patently ridiculous it is, but rather how subtly ridiculous it is, and the almost invisible ways in which it perverts our sense of Reality.

Although we might consider ourselves armchair epistemologists, and perhaps rather good ones at that, our minds are never immune to the effects of cultural conditioning. No matter how aware we are, no matter how in tune with the eternal Present, our minds — at the conceptual level — are all always vulnerable to manipulation. We are numinous Beings, for sure, but we are numinous Beings inhabiting a human form. And the human piece isn’t trivial. We’re the purest of spirits, in other words, but we’re also all kinds of stupid.

To be sure, a yearning to know what’s going on is entirely valid, indeed likely a signal that you are connected to your fellow brethren and simply interested in the status of the human story on any given day. That’s all good. The solution is not to disengage with what’s going on and that’s certainly not what I’m here advocating. Rather, it’s to figure out how to most positively and efficiently ascertain what’s really what. To become an informed citizen, not an indoctrinated one.

Reality is an incredibly subtle thing; a thing we can be abstracted from, to a truly astonishing degree, without the slightest clue as to the fact. That’s why The News is so pernicious. Because it drives a wedge between ourselves and Reality, without us even knowing it. It’s a magic trick, a sleight of hand. And it pays to be aware.