The Extremes of Video Absorption

I knew better than to skim the headlines on the CNN website this morning, but I did it anyway. As I read the words—ostensibly intended to enlighten me about important events in recent days—it occurred to me that the vast majority of the “news” reported to me is not news at all. Instead, it is meaningless drivel; clickbait meant to drive up the volume of website traffic, a key metric in the never-ending effort to sell ad space. Clickbait. Interesting. My IC and I watched a short series called Clickbait on Netflix last night. More on that in a minute; in the interim, though, I contemplate how I define “news” and what it does to my state of mind.

Here are some of the headlines I encountered:

  • How US gun culture stacks up with the world
  • Why these students dread turning 21
  • ‘I don’t respect him at all:’ Taylor Greene rips Republican leader
  • Rep. Boebert suggested Rep. Omar was terrorist in anti-Muslim comments
  • 1 person shot at Tacoma Mall in Washington
  • A British guy crashed her Thanksgiving dinner. They’ve been married for 20 years
  • What we’ve learned about global travel this week
  • Madonna hits out at Instagram for removing photos
  • World Chess Championship: Chess is sexy again. But for Magnus Carlsen, it’s business as usual

During my brief attempt at learning what happened overnight that might impact how I live my life on Earth, I discovered that none of it matters. Not a shred of it. Zip. Nada. The headlines, and the stories they introduce, are unnecessary. My life, and indeed the lives of everyone I know, will be unchanged by this mindless junk. CNN.com is an internet version of The National Inquirer , It is nothing but a slightly different format of tabloid journalism, carefully curated to appeal to readers who stopped thinking after reaching a second-grade reading level. But the website designers—the headline writers and graphic artists other members of the elite team of brainwashers responsible for making the site appeal to the masses—cleverly make the site appear to be a sophisticated resource for the consumer of “serious” news. What utter hogwash! Look again at the sample of headlines. There’s not one iota of serious news buried in those words. Even the one piece that might appear to be both unbiased and newsworthy (How US gun culture stacks up with the world) is awash in bias, albeit bias with which I tend to identify, which of course makes it easier to classify as serious news…

What, exactly, is “news?” In my admittedly imprecise assessment, news is dispassionate, impartial, nonpartisan, neutral information about events or developments that contributes to one’s knowledge of the world. “News” enables the consumer of such information to make educated assessments of the impact of that data on his or her life. The impact might be personal and immediate or it may be general and insensitive to time.  The key thing, though, is that the information is journalistically pure. That is, it is not tainted by bias. Exactly! There is no such thing as news! It has been digested by money-hungry pseudo-journalists and excreted in neat little balls of crap disguised as knowledge. When we read what pretends to be the “news,” we are in effect swallowing the intellectual equivalent of laxatives; real knowledge is flushed away along with the drivel.

Okay. This entire diatribe may be a tad too judgmental. Yes, some news—even the stuff I equate to The National Inquirer for the semi-literate—has some real-world value. It’s not all a vast wasteland of pre-digested stupidity, carefully crafted to dumb-down the masses. But most of it seems designed to do precisely that. And reading this morning’s headlines brought that into clear focus for me. Even after switching to the PBS news website, I was inundated with garbage unsuitable for consumption by people with low-normal intelligence.

I don’t know quite what to do in this environment in which the gold standard of reliable news delivery has shrunk to the level of The National Inquirer. I suppose one has to be extremely skeptical of everything one reads. Read for facts, not opinions. And watch out for opinions disguised as facts; they are everyone. Ignore headlines (and the stories beneath them) that sound like tabloid garbage; because that’s exactly what they are. The bottom line is that, by carefully discriminating between information/knowledge and persuasion/pablum, one can remain at least partially immune to infection. But it takes real effort.

+++

I mentioned Clickbait. My IC and I watched a few episodes of the rather unpleasant short Netflix series last night. It was okay, but I view the time spent in watching it as time I will never recover and time I could have spent in more pleasing and more productive ways. Still, it kept our interest for almost all of three episodes. Watching it was better than licking icing off of scalpel blades. There are five more episodes. I do not know yet whether we will watch them.

Other Netflix stuff we’ve been watching of late includes:

    • Hit & Run (a short series featuring Israeli actor Lior Raz, who I have seen in several “foreign” series and films and who I enjoy watching)
    • Quicksand (a short series; Swedish)
    • How to Get Away with Murder (series)
    • Wind River (a film)
    • Red Notice (a film)
    • Peppermint (a film)

The good news about watching Quicksand and some other bits and pieces online is that my IC says she has enjoyed watching foreign-language flicks with me. So, I translate that into being able to go on a binge of watching some foreign/foreign-language stuff, including:

  • The Twelve (Belgian)
  • The Trial (Italian)
  • The Innocent (Spanish)
  • Caliphate (Swedish)
  • The Woods (Polish)
  • Ingobernable (Spanish)
  • Roma (Mexican/Spanish)
  • Kitty Love: An Homage to Cats (Dutch)
  • Layla M. (Dutch)
  • Red Dot (Swedish)
  • Forever Rich (Dutch)
  • Ferry (Swedish)
  • The Resistance Banker (Dutch)

There are more, of course. Much to my chagrin, though, I discovered a night or two ago that several of the Scandinavian series I wanted to watch either have been removed from Netflix or have not yet made it on. For example, I have long wanted to continued watching all the component element mini-series in the Department Q series based on novels by Jussi Adler-Olsen. I’ve seen three of five that have been adapted into short series; but, unfortunately, even those three are no long available on Netflix. The two I have not seen, The Purity of Vengeance and The Marco Effect are not available, either.

I might be able to spend my entire life in the clutches of foreign films, but that’s probably not wise. I have things to do, people to be, and places to see.

+++

The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.

~ Joan Didion

Interestingly, the refusal to accept that responsibility is the unending source of self-doubt.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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