Most of the news is worthless. It’s said we have to keep up with all the transient phenomena, but why? For most private citizens, the actions of those far away don’t matter; they do little to affect us and we do little to affect them.
Even if you are among those praise-worthy few who aim to change things, you have probably realized you must specialize in one area to make a difference. Only fools spread their efforts over every fashionable cause, leaping from oppression to education to malnutrition and never pausing to offer deep and prolonged effort. So, the charities waste your money, awareness campaigns are forgotten and the stone rolls back down the hill. As a result, much of the news is irrelevant to even the most involved and active of us.
Still less necessary than letting the news steal our time and attention is letting the news steal our whole day; what does not affect us immediately need not be known immediately.
As an example, for those who have no special connection there, it is vain curiosity to keep checking the news on Libya. Similarly, if you lived in a monastery for a couple of months and didn’t learn the outcome of a presidential election until six weeks afterwards, would it really matter?
What did you really learn from yesterday’s news?
After all the unreliable factoids, unimportant fillers, schmaltzy human interest stories, repetition of old events and those wretched, wretched commentators who divide their time between flattering their partisan friends and snarling at their enemies, how long did you spend perusing headlines for each snippet of real knowledge that you will remember, keep with you and act on?
We as a society would know far more about what’s really going on if we would get a couple good weekly or monthly papers, and then in the time that we saved read books on economics and history in order to take hold of the background behind what’s going on.
As students, we shouldn’t be spending our time gazing on shallow particulars; it is our duty to learn the universals, the principals behind all these shifting appearances. This vanishing time is given to us so we may gorge ourselves on wisdom, devouring the centuries of thought that alone can give order to the news. It is our duty as students to escape the dim cave, where dull, meaningless images wander past our eyes, and wander into the light of ideas, so our eyes may understand these fleeting things by first seeing the patterns they spring from.
If you can look upon the factions in the Middle East and cannot say what Kant and Mill and Aristotle would think about it – worse, if you don’t know what you think of it – maybe you should stop looking and read some books on political philosophy.
Those provide knowledge you will never learn from daily news sessions, despite the number of newspapers and news channels you support.
This is not to say news is totally worthless. Republics demand informed citizens, and it’s important to be able to have an intelligent conversation about current events, while for a very few, knowledge of all the swirling happenings is truly necessary.
Most of us just enjoy the news as a form of entertainment – I certainly do. Yet, remembering we really are amusing rather than educating ourselves, we should resolve to gain true knowledge of lasting things, instead of vague opinions on happenings that will be irrelevant tomorrow.
Journalists keep asking themselves why citizens are so misinformed. Maybe they should tell their customers to purchase less journalism.
Gerard Keiser is a junior majoring in linguistics and classical languages at the University of Oklahoma.