Once again, I think this is the way out. 19 months now.
It’s nearly impossible these days to write something that takes a look at our society without seeming to make half the population wrong and the other half better in some way. That is not my intention here. I think this is a situation no matter what your political beliefs are.
I just want to share the results of a purely personal and non-scientific experiment. Roughly five months ago I stopped watching all video curated news and opinions on politics.
No more MSNBC, no more FOX of CNN (though I rarely watched either.)
No more Network News or Youtube news or talking heads of any kind. Zero, zip, nada. And I used to watch it every day, a bit or a lot. No more radio either. No NPR, which I really like.
The reason I did this is because I really looked at the intention behind the punditry and the curated news and realized that it was mostly intended to create an emotional reaction. The intended outcome was outrage, or curiosity, or fear, or disgust, etc. It was emotional.
Emotions are fine, but I realized that they aren’t, emotions, particularly useful in running a country which is what Politics is or should be about. Running a country is a complex endeavor with many controlled and uncontrolled elements. It’s not for the faint of heart. It seemed to me that emotions had become a senior factor in our politics rather than an occasional one, such as when there is a direct attack on the nation.
To say that it’s “the media” is, in my view, painting with the wrong brush. It’s a segment of what has become the media that I see as the accelerant on this fire of emotion. It’s the curated news in videos which take some data or experts (always another expert) and skew it towards a predetermined emotional response.
This is done through the art of video editing and production. Entry theme music, clever headings, short cuts of fires and such, intense close up on cue of your favorite face and then the voice indicating anger or disgust or curiosity… and then the message, always the message of what it means, what I am supposed to think about it.
The underlying data is always fractured in curation. This fracturing is like creating a witness to a crime scene, a synthetic personality, and determining what they will say that they “witnessed.” This ersatz persona operates behind the smidgins of data they give you.
False data gets tossed in there with some real and it’s given a spin, lots of spin in opinion news and quite a bit in just regular news where the veneer of impartiality can be somewhat disingenuous.
Okay, that was what I realized and so I just stopped watching it to see what would happen.
I still get the news from print. I read rather than get it curated in video form. It takes about the same amount of time, maybe a bit more, but I try to find source data. And I’ll watch source videos to see what was actually said and in what context.
Here’s the takeaway :
- I’m better informed about the actual facts, what is really going on rather than what I am being pulled into focusing on,
- I can see that many things that are tossed around in the video media are incomplete data sets, they aren’t really ready for analysis at all, still gathering data, but long before that can be accomplished, video media insists that sides be taken,
- I’m not nearly as emotionally affected by current events.
I am upset with many things that I see as wrong, but it’s MY upset or outrage, not something amplified by an inciting influence.
That’s it. The art of video editing and producing has become extremely sophisticated and things that took a great deal of time and equipment are now done almost in real time. Images are easily manipulated and human beings are very easily manipulated by them. We are being played, essentially, by those professionals and amateurs who want us emotionally reacting to things, not thinking about them or solving them, simply reacting to them.
And here’s the best of it. I started completing lots and lots of projects. I was moving on them before but a great deal of attention on what I was being told to care about came back to me and I…relaxed.
Watch at your own risk. I truly believe that the entire panoply of videos curated for our consumption are not just useless, they are harmful to our society. I’m done.
Peter Kjenaas is an author, screenwriter, theater director, producer, chef, AirBnB host, parent and caregiver extraordinaire. And now he adds travel writer to his resumé as he sets off across the country in a 1971 VW camper bus. But first and foremost he is a caring and productive human who has graciously allowed us to post some of his writings to this site. See his latest book at PeterKjenaas.com, and his travel adventures at Riders on the Storm Bus.