August is allegedly a slow news month, yet here we are, buffeted by grim affairs the world over only a week and a half in. What is going on?*
There was a time in my early 20s when I actively avoided the news cycle, or only got as much major news as crept into my internet time-wasting (which, by 2000 or 2001, was already pathological) or television viewing (ie, The Daily Show).
I have more than one acquaintance who actively avoids current events. “The news is always bad,” these people tell me. “It just stresses me out.” I understand this perspective, but I cannot practice it myself.
After 9/11, I became a news junkie. I still can’t believe how that morning, I got out of bed my customary 30 minutes before I was supposed to be at work (remember, early 20s…) and ate cereal while watching whatever was on the Food Channel. The moment I got into the office I perceived that something horrible had happened, just from the air in the room. We gathered around a television together and watched events unfold. I was so ashamed of my willful ignorance, but it was an emotion that I could actually do something about.
I think it’s my duty as a voting citizen to be as informed as I can, no matter how upsetting or frustrating the news cycle can be. For me, one way to avoid the angst of it all is to eschew television reporting, which is predicated on conflict and hobbled by its own time constraints (too little time = failure to do justice to a story; too much time = endless rehashing from tangential sources and/or analysts who quickly exhaust their own analysis). For several years, I watched network morning news shows, but overemphasis on human interest stories/the lack of hard news and the myopic (domestic) quality of the coverage drove me away. It’s all internet and radio for me these days.
*It seems like the amount of bad news in the world is accelerating, but is this not just a cycle, like Yeats’s widening gyre of 1919, echoed in the late 60s by Didion? Perhaps you are familiar with paranormal ringmaster/conspiracy theorist Art Bell, founder and one-time host of radio program Coast to Coast AM? He wrote a book about something he called “the quickening” in which he observed how events are accelerating toward some presumed end-times. That book came out in the 90s, maybe? Don’t know. I didn’t read it. I can’t even believe I know about it. Blame S. …I know I do.