Don't watch the news

The news will only make you angry and fearful

March 25, 2021

So for some reason I wandered onto Richard Stallman's website yesterday, I can't really explain why because I could honestly don't care about anything going on with the man right now since I have better things to do with my life, but regardless I was there and found that he had written something that had noting to do with technology or any other topic that makes him a controversial figure. He wrote a small post titled "Don’t watch TV coverage of Covid-19!"

Here he explains that right now you can watch 24/7 coverage of what is going on in relation to the pandemic when each day there is probably less than 15 minutes worth of new things to talk about. He explains that consooming this sort of "news" puts you in a state of fear (whether or not that is intentional is another discussion). And he backs his analysis up with the story of someone who he knew back in 2001 who did nothing but watch the news for several days following 9/11 and became afraid to leave their own house.

I completely agree with Stallman's view on this issue, and I'd like to take it a step further and tell you that you really shouldn't be watching the news at all. The modern news industry does more harm than it does good in your personal life as well as society as a whole. I've recently touched on the fact that the media thrives on making you angry and I've also been trying to tell you that often times journalists don't know what they're talking about. Mindlessly watching the news every day will not make you a better person.

One major way in which the traditional news industry is bad for society is in their coverage of mass shootings. Did you know that a mass shooting is three times more likely to take place within the three weeks following another one? This has nothing to do with any sort of coordination between shooters, (they are almost always lone wolfs) but it has everything to do with the media covers mass shootings. Both NBC and NPR have reported on the fact that researchers figured this out. Both of these similar articles were written in August of 2019 right after three mass shootings took place in one week. Ironically they were reporting on their own failure (of course they were not at all self-aware), I remember watching NBC Nightly News (the most watched news program in the country, at least at the time don't fact check that) the day after the first shooting of that week, they spent the majority of that broadcast talking about that shooting and about the shooter and about how he did it. I think Lester Holt himself (the host of the show) was flown out to the site that it took place, they showed the exact section of the fence that the shooter jumped and filmed Lester walking on the very path that the shooter took right before he did the terrible thing that he did. This broadcast did nothing to discourage potential shooters, it did nothing to encourage them to rethink their life, it did quite the opposite of these things, it taught them how to do it. This alone should be reason to boycott traditional news indefinitely.

Contrast this with many smaller news organizations who have made it a policy not to discuss things in that much detail, in fact many of them have a policy to never utter the name of a mass shooter or show their face,* instead they refer to them as a disgusting and despicable person because that is what they are.

It is also quite interesting how people have failed to internalize the fact that not that many people actually watch the news these days. A video of Pewdiepie playing Mincecraft will almost always get more views than any news broadcast. Also it is interesting to note that the most watched live coverage of the 2020 United States election was not broadcast to any TV channel, it was instead on YouTube made by a guy who makes money selling mugs.

If you feel that you absolutely have to watch the news watch local news. A local news station will spend more time covering things that are actually important to you, that is where you can find the weather for your area, updates on traffic, and good things going on in your community. There is no national or world news broadcast that will talk about things that are actually important to you.

Stop giving attention to fearmongerers, stop giving power to corporations that feed off your anger, stop trying to learn from people who don't know what they're talking about, stop watching the news.

* See the last section of this company's policies