Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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No news is good news?

Like most Poli-Sci majors I used to be a news junkie. It kind of comes with the territory, if you care about government and politics and the Important Issues of Our Times (tm) you need to pay attention to the news. How else are you going to know about that critical House appropriations bill that the evil Republicans are trying to attach some manner of foul rider to, or those chaste and pure Judges who will restore decency to the bench who the vile Democrats are filibustering? Being a news junkie doesn't just involve reading a daily paper or watching TV, of course. You need multiple sources so you can triangulate the truth through the layers of bias, and of course now there are the blogs to pay attention to, bringing you the stories that the mainstream media missed, or refuses to carry.

If it sounds like a big job it is. There's a reason they call them news junkies and not news dabblers. That's not the worst part, though.

The worst part is that when you're a news junkie you actually know what's going on in the world. At least you know the things going on in the world that most people think matter. The vast majority of them are awful. Sure there's the occasional bit of good news when the economy heats up or a previously authoritarian regime takes a few steps towards democracy, but those hardly make up for Sudanese genocide or prognostications of doom based on burgeoning credit card debt. It's depressing. It's scary. It's living in a world where the sun may come up tomorrow, but that will only lead to a spike in malignant skin cancers.

Most news junkies become burnouts or cynics, people who just know that the other shoe is about to drop, and it's going to be a doozy. It's an interesting population, but not one you want to really get to know well. The beltway doesn't corrupt just with nice dinners and corporate getaways, it corrupts because once you see the problems of the mass of humanity, once you understand their scope, everything seems intractable. Why not take the money and run when anything else you try and do is likely to have roughly the same effect?

This whole mess is why I tried to divest myself of my news junkie habits and become more focused on other things. Writing, sports, entertainment, the whole lot of it. Reading about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes may not be the best use of brainpower mankind has divined, but it probably won't send you spiraling into depression either. Only you also need to stay at least somewhat informed, so you can be a good citizen and an intelligent voter. So I didn't give up the news entirely, I just restricted it to the Times and a few blogs here and there, maybe the San Francisco Chronicle when I wanted to know what those damned hippies are up to. It seemed a decent balance.

For a time. Lately I've been slipping though. I think it started after the election, when I learned that we'd have four more years of Republican rule. And it's only gotten worse since then. Now I find myself upset if I'm not up on what's happening in Tikrit, or unaware of the latest machinations of the Republican Country Destroying machine as it systematically decimates our once proud nation. I need to stop. Because knowing what's going on isn't the same as changing things. Oh sure you can take up a career in public service, or mount a campaign to improve things on a local, state, or even national level. It's not that an individual can't make a difference, but an individual can't make a difference in every arena. Not even a president of the United States. So it's best to focus on the things that matter most to you, understand those issues and fight the good fight, have a passing knowledge of whatever else is going on, and spend the rest of your time focusing on things you can change for the better.

Because being a news junkie is like any other kind of addiction. There's never a point when you have enough, there's always a greater cost than you expect, and ultimately it stands a good chance of destroying you. It's not only possible to have too much of a good thing, it's easy. Easier than you would imagine.
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