Sometimes, when I’m halfway through some spittle flecked aneurism about some story or other. Mid-shout, face all contorted in a “who the fuck cares about whether George Michael is friends with Stephen Fry” scream, a little voice pops into my head and says “How do you know this and why do you care?!”. Well … the voice doesn’t just pop into my head. Passers-by may even stop to slap my hysterical face and calmly relate the same sentiment. Or work colleagues, or friends, or even family may step in with a well-timed kidney punch to bring me to my senses. Either way, someone. somewhere, usually plugs the outpouring with a question/statement along those lines.
And it’s true. It’s a pretty accurate thing to ask. I often wonder the same myself: How do I know? And Why do I care?
The answer to both lies in the same thing.
Or in this particular case
Think I’m joking? I’m not. Think about it. Every morning when I wake up I put on the news. Not because I want to know about whether Scarlett Johansen is mothering Sean Penn’s child, but because I want to know what’s going on in the world. You can’t blame me for that now can you? I mean we’re involved in a war in Libya, there’s been regime changes going on from Cote d’Ivoire to Tunisia to Egypt. They’re still killing protestors in Syria and Japan has a nuclear reactor alert at Chernobyl levels (ahem – even if the risk remains a fraction of that of Chernobyl).
But what do I get? I get everything of course! I don’t just get the news I want – I get all the stuff the news thinks they should be reporting – a lot of which isn’t news and is just a big belch of minor celebrity gossip half-digested by lazy journalists who have realised that it’s far easier to report fame-hungry pre-packaged news-bytes than do a proper job of investigating and reporting on something decent.
As if that wasn’t bad enough – there’s a little news ticker at the bottom of the page repeating what’s usually being said by the news reader anyway. So if I mute the volume I still get the same trash thrown out at me regardless
Gah! Enough of that. On goes the radio. But on the radio it’s worse. A million times worse. If I’m listening to music they interrupt it with news skits so vacuous that they feel like a black hole has opened up on the airwaves and is sucking out your mental capacity and will to live. Ever wonder about what’s wrong with kids today? Try listening to newsbeat and you find out pretty quick. One of today’s main stories presents the view that some people think carrying guns would make US colleges safer.
If I listen to the “serious” radio stations it’s the same. Nicky Campbell? Come on. They fill in all their airtime with meaningless viewer driven garbage speculating on everything from serious news to what’s going on between Katy Perry and Russell Brand today!
Then there’s the papers… When I say headlines screamI mean it. They really do get sore throated in their attempts to grab you by the eyes. I don’t read the papers. Well, except the free ones. And only then because I like laughing at their meaninglessness. But you only need to walk past a newsstand to get a good impression of what they think is important in the world today.
Today’s headlines are a perfect example of the cross-section of dross our tabloid media bats into our faces on a daily basis. So we have one headline bemoaning the collapse of society. One headline vomiting out some random celebrity sex scandal. One headline blathering on about that Royal wedding dirge and another headline railing against some perceived government failing. I bet if you were to check these headlines EVERY DAY the general cross-section would run like this. Nothing on anything really meaningful. A mixture of panic mongering and celebrity obsession – perfect for everyone’s daily news fix!
And that’s my point. If you have any natural curiosity or inclination to want to know what’s happening in the world then you’re screwed. With the best will in the world, you cannot help but absorb a fetid distillation of bile, rage, opinion and meaningless celebrity tittle-tattle. On Friday the Evening Standard ran a piece on how George Michael doesn’t follow Stephen Fry on twitter. This morning, while waiting for my emails to load onto my phone on the train, I discovered the following things:
- Kate Middleton’s mum has fallen out with her dressmaker.
- JedWad have announced they are celibate.
- Posh Spice is having a girl and the family may move back to the UK.
- Some celebrities ran the London Marathon.
- Lady Gaga has offended Christians with her new song Judas (the piece was 50% composed of the lyrics to the song)
So now I know how I know… why do I care? I care because my brane has only a finite capacity and it really can’t take half the stuff that fills it up on a daily basis. If I don’t rant and rave about it there’s no catharsis and the whole world of media triviality builds in me like a tumour waiting to burst. I care because I want the news to have perspective and report on stuff that affects people. I want to know what is happening, not who is doing what! I care because I don’t watch X-Factor so I have no reason to know or care that Simon Cowell has quit the UK version of the show – can’t that part of my brane be filled up with a good book or a nice historical fact instead?