You’ve probably heard the quote, bad news sells. And boy, does it!
In fact, thanks to the news, you’d be forgiven for thinking the world is a horrible place full of terrible people who want to kill you. But really, nothing could be further from the truth.
Honestly, yes there are people out there who want to kill those who don’t agree with their philosophy/political standpoint/current mood – but the likelihood of you meeting one is generally very slim indeed. Even if you travel to somewhere perceived as ‘high risk‘ you’re still going to have to work quite hard to get yourself killed.
Looking at the western world right now it can be easy to feel a pang of despair.
- Donald Trump is in charge of the world’s most powerful nation.
- Brexit was almost certainly a terrible idea…
- …And the people in charge of it are clueless bumbling fools.
- Islamic inspired terrorism happens and when it does it happens in quite a horrible way.
- There appears to be lots of people willing to die in boats to get to Europe.
Then looking around at the rest of the rest of the world and you’ve got…
- Vladimir Putin seems to enjoy perpetuating global sabotage.
- Rodrigo Duterte in The Philippines is a genuine psychopath.
- Kim Jong Un is a little upstart who also happens to have access to a large military with nuclear capabilities.
- Syria is a mess which which will probably spawn another mess.
But hey, cheer up! Life is still better than it’s ever been. No really… If you didn’t click on the link at the top of this article then here it is again, but I’ll break it down for you like this.
Life Is Better Than It’s Ever Been
You probably know that life is better for you than your grandparents. But life is better even than around 10 or 15 years ago.
- We live longer and things like AIDS or Malaria which were once a death sentence no longer are.
- We work less hours for more money. Plus, thanks to technology, most of our work is easier.
- The world is a smaller place with airfares cheaper than ever and global communication a modern miracle.
- In the western world you can be gay, atheist, transgender, a goth (or whatever) and no one will bat an eyelid.
- Women are free to work, vote and are pretty much on level pegging with men in terms of society (this is open to debate I’m sure but generally, the world is better for women than it’s ever been).
OK there are definitely factors which aren’t as good as they were a few years back such as house prices and the fact that the current generation will probably never get to retire unless they sell their startup to Google/Facebook etc. But overall, it’s a good time to be alive.
So why this sense of doom and gloom?
We Love A Big Mess
First of all, human nature loves a big mess. A car crash? Someones marriage breakdown? A big fire down the road?
On a local level, gossip has always been a thing and everyone has an opinion on other peoples business (yeah yeah, don’t even try and pretend thats not you). Anyone who has worked in an office ever will know that gossip and hearsay travel faster than the speed of light.
Bad news fascinates us. How could they do that? Didn’t they think that would happen? I’d never do something like that… Yeah yeah.
Rolling Coverage Of Bad Things
At first the advent of satellite TV and 24 hour news coverage of, well EVERYTHING, meant that we only had to switch on our TV to be kept up to date with the latest terrible thing.
In the UK the news of the death of Princess Diana dominated almost all TV and radio news channels for a week and still cropped up months later.
In fact British tabloids the Daily Mail and Daily Express have at least one Diana headline a week, somewhere in their pages. People are still obviously lapping up the news that happened 20 years ago even though there can’t possibly be anything new to add to the story.
Now however, the media landscape is very different. The internet has spawned a 24-7-365 looking glass into the world of horrible things.
You can try and avoid the news sites but even on social media you’re not safe. Twitter and Facebook are packed full of peoples opinions, shared articles and updates about events which are happening or even that happened ages ago.
Nobody is safe from the news.
But here’s the thing. Most of what you read in the news doesn’t matter or doesn’t affect you.
Donald Trump being an imbecile? Kim Jong Un firing missles? House prices gone up so much you’ll need 8 lifetimes to buy a flat in London?
It is hard to avoid these kinds of sensational news events if you’re anywhere near the internet. But really, who cares? Does it reallt affect you directly? I’m gonna take a stab in the dark and say no.
And the stuff that does affect you? What are you gonna do about it anyway?
Powerless In The Face Of The Powerful
The press used to be the tool by which the people would make the powerful accountable for their actions.
For example the pillage of Congo was pretty much ended thanks in part to it’s coverage in the newspapers back in western Europe.
The Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal exposed horrors and corruption to a populace that would otherwise have been ignorant and contributed to the result we know today.
But somewhere along the line the mainstream media has gone from being the mouthpiece of the people to a political tool. To the astute eye/ear the word of the mass media sounds like a vested interest and reading between the (head)lines is becoming more important.
A quick reading of a few of the tabloid headlines right now inlude this gem about Glastonbury Festival hiring people on zero hours contracts and then firing them days later. It’s a 3 day music festival… But the whole article is slanted as anti-Labour and even slightly anti-immigrant.
As awful a human being as Donald Trump is, and for all his undermining of a free press, the guy is on to something when it comes to ‘fake news‘.
Who Can You Trust?
Most news providers have a vested interest and their spin on the news will be serving some greater purpose, normally political.
- The Times of London, The Sun and The Press Association are owned or part owned by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp.
- The Daily Mail and Express are very conservative leaning and widely read papers which often push a right wing agenda.
- Alexander Lebedev, a Russian billionaire, owns The London Evening Standard and The Independent.
- The Guardian/Observer are very left leaning papers which have become the mirror image of the Daily Mail/Express in terms of left wing views.
- The BBC the impartial beacon of British news has been accused of bias both politically and socially.
- Al-Jazeera is a Qatari owned news service which carries a pro-Islamic slant and is often very anti Israel.
- Russia Today is an international channel which is backed by the Russian Government. Say no more..
Getting a balanced picture of the news globally is becoming a little trickier with all these vested interests. In fact, none of the mainstream media sources can really be counted on for all the facts and much of their opinion pieces serve to further whatever their political aims may be.
So who can you trust for news? What are the options for independent news reporting devoid of political influence?
Well, the first problem is, as humans we all do have a bit of bias. Even the most objective point of view is going to carry a degree of the subjective. How can one report on a war, from the front line, without conveying the viewpoint of the side you are reporting from?
However, these are some of the most trusted alternative news sources which are mostly free from political influence.
- Reuters is one of the main independent news sources and one of the bigger news wires (sources of news for other publications). UK based.
- Associated Press is another news wire and source of independent news. USA based.
- Vice is still a relatively independent source of news, however News Corp own a 5% stake since 2013.
- Huffington Post is now owned by AOL but is still a reasonably trusted source of independent news.
- Pew Research Centre is another independently owned news source although there are a few question marks over their bias (to the left).
- The Economist is an excellent source for a global view and a deeper look at various issues.
- Bloomberg is another good source of independent news.
Avoid The News
We are bombarded with the news. Free newspapers, ticker tape headlines, notifications on our phones, headlines when we sign into our email, it is now literally non stop.
Quite frankly, we don’t need it. It creates a sense of unease, distrust of other communities/countries and even gives validity to some acts of agression by psychopaths. Mass shootings and and modern terrorism for example are made for the rolling news channels.
In fact, the modern form of Islamic terrorism is trying to initiate a religious war bought on by intolerance. That very intolerance is perpetuated by the news media whereas the actual problem at heart is not discussed readily in the mainstream. But that’s a whole other blog post.
Sure, we need to be aware of whats going on in the world – to a degree. Skim the headlines once a week, maybe change news sources each time you do.
How much of it matters? Actually, very little.
You might be outraged at the governments failure to make sure an apartment block in London didn’t burn down, fair enough. Do you live in an apartment block? If you do, then yes, take it up with the government. Otherwise, move on.
Does Kim Jong Un doing another missile test directly affect you? Do you live in Japan or Alaska? Even if you do, what are you going to do about it? Probably not much.
No big deal. Next…
How To Avoid The News
Most of the news simply does not matter. So if you feel that the world is a big mess and that you are utterly powerless in the face of all the horrible things happening, here is how to cure that.
- If you have any news apps on your phone, uninstall them.
- If you have a news website as your homepage (Yahoo, MSN, Google Now) or in your bookmarks, remove them. Turn off Google Now if you have that on your Android device.
- Avoid Facebook as that has become a political soap box (or maybe that’s just some of my friends – maybe unfollow them or whatever). Same with Twitter.
- Don’t read the free papers (The Metro and Evening Standard).
- Every time anyone says, ‘Did you see in the news?’ start to shush them noisily until they shut up.
You can safely assume that Donald Trump is being a terrible president, Brexit is a mess that the government is scrabbling furiously not to make a disaster of, there is probably some terrorist attack somewhere – probably quite a horrible one; and there is probably some alarming study that has revealed onions are not actually edible (or something).
Hey guess what? Your life goes on unchanged.
When you have the urge to read the news read one of these instead…
There’s loads. Look up ‘satirical news’. Better still, read a book, better yourself and stop worrying about the state of the world. It’s always been a mess, it probably always will be and your life will be the same regardless.
Well… Your attention span is too short then.
Basically I said the world has always been full of terrible things, non stop news coverage tries to keep us addicted with car crash headlines, most of which don’t matter to the average human. Do something else, read a book, stop watching/reading stupid news headlines every day.