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Reading too much political news is bad for your well-being (theatlantic.com)
548 points by DarkContinent 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 316 comments

As I've noted here a few times:

Just over 10 years ago, I conducted an experiment. I watched an hour of CNN every night but it was never that night's coverage. It was from exactly two weeks ago.

It was amazing how much "breaking news!" was irrelevant or just outright wrong, how many large trend predictions were wrong, and how many "[person] will do X" were wrong. While the predictions could have been portrayed as opinions, they were presented as facts and the obvious next steps or conclusions.

I realized pretty quickly that avoiding CNN kept out the blatantly wrong information so even if I didn't replace it with anything, I was net ahead.

A few years ago, I discovered this article and realized that some portion of it was probably on purpose:


It always surprises me to what degree US cable news, as opposed to print, seems to treat politics like entertainment and sports coverage. At least from an outsider's perspective. Maybe no surprise a reality TV star became President.

Commercial television news is very manipulative and the intent of the manipulation is to keep eyeballs glued to the screen to sell ads. They use lots of elaborately animated transitions with bright colors, swooshing sound effects and musical cues to mesmerize viewers, just as slot machines in Vegas use such things to mesmerize gamblers. It's the same sort of graphical bullshit they pad out televized American football with. And the talking head personalities emotively reading from teleprompters are there for viewers to form parasocial relationships with, to keep viewers coming back to that channel. Before social media was invented, the term was created to describe the asymmetric relationships television viewers have with television personalities. The whole industry has manipulation down to a science and I think anybody would be better off reading newspapers instead. Public funded news channels may be better, I remember PBS's News Hour was okay. But is there any value in watching CNN instead of reading the NYTimes? I don't see any.

I was living with a host family when I first saw American TV.

I just couldn't tell when the actual show is on. The shows, the news, the ads, and whatever else there was, they all had the same "air". The same kind of music, the same kind of cadence, the same kind of tone, the same kind of fake laugh.

TV is pretty shit everywhere; but I can't understand it in US.

Confusingly, some of the greatest TV shows are US shows. But I have to watch them on Netflix/DVD, because the actual TV breaks apart the show into tiny pieces that take away the enjoyment entirely.

I consider myself lucky that I never get sucked into the habit of watching TV.

I had a similar experience. I was a tourist in New York for a week and watched a bit of TV. It was like an exaggerated parody of itself. It felt positively dystopian.

Nowadays I can't even watch swedish TV. I can't stand the ads.

What surprised me was the drug ads.

A friend used to stream basketball games live, and when I watched every ad break had an ad for a (prescription?) drug.

It felt like something I'd see in a movie/TV show mocking TV ads. A parody, like you said.

Those are crazy. I think in general what struck me was the sheer volume of heavy handed and often poorly produced ads quite bluntly stating "buy our product or you might DIE!"

Also: "take our product and you might die"

American here, and I have to agree.

I think it has to do with the fact that the only people left watching TV (As in cable), mostly just want noise and bright colors, while people watching TV (As in shows) have moved on to Netflix/Prime/Piracy.

TV has also become shit in India. Indian news is now on a whole new level of shitshow - leaving even the US behind.

Print media and public stations don't have the same high-strung presentation that cable news does, but the actual substance isn't much better in my experience. The last few times I listened to NPR they seemed to be pretty deep into the horse race style reporting, distracted "Breaking News!"-style reporting, and lots of speculation. Print media as well.

What the other poster suggested is something I also highly recommend - read old news, and see how many of the stories the news media was obsessed with and treated as a huge deal turned out to be nothing in the end. Putting a custom time range in searches is a great way to do this. Often there's little to no followup to stories, or new narratives get created that completely rewrite what happened. News junkies get left with a highly skewed version of reality.

>The last few times I listened to NPR they seemed to be pretty deep into the horse race style reporting, distracted "Breaking News!"-style reporting, and lots of speculation. Print media as well.

As a dedicated listener to NPR, here's my advice:

- The 6 minutes of headline news at the top of every hour covers all you might need to know.

- The more reporting-style programs (All Things Considered, Morning Edition) often have good interviews with figures directly involved in the news. Of course, these are only worthwhile if the person hasn't already been on a national platform. Politicians and lawyers will just pretend to answer questions as they read prepared statements.

- Everything else is entertainment.

I like it, but I'm not deluded enough to look down on anyone (e.g. my wife) who finds it boring.

That six minute hourly news summary is available as a podcast. It's nice to dip into it when I want to hear the latest.

I wouldn’t even put it in the pedestal of psychological manipulation. It’s gossip, the same as teen magazines and tabloids. They just dress it up with authority.

Standard low minded stuff.

I tune in for some gossip from time to time, no harm no foul. But jesus, do it all the time and you might as well become this:


I disagree. In 'our' constitution there is the "Recht auf körperliche Unversehrtheit / Right to physical integrity(of your body)" as in it is forbidden to harm you. I'd extend that to a right to mental integrity, which that sort of shit is in continous violation of. And even if you don't directly consume it, the 'overspill' alone is toxic enough.

In other words: mass media is one big superfund site.

I’ll concede to the fact that they are in a sense polluting our population (no different than carbon footprint).

I don’t know, it’s all very odd given that big tech is banning misinformation now days, but big media has no such imperative. They will run with the most unsubstantiated stuff for however long it’s profitable (Russia-gate). Their modus operandi in terms of carving out markets is to do the opposite of another network/publication and claim that territory as their feeding ground. How do you even begin to treat waters like this?

Kind of shows who is really powerful, Qanon or the rampant proliferation of party talking points. One of those is a legit 4chan meme, so do the math.

It actively writes the public narrative and fills the space in your head but the toxicity is in forcing out that what should have been there. The things that should have been there ideally are feedback loops. Their rewards and punishments encourage you to do your own practical goal oriented thinking. Your head is filled with the war effort therefore you didn't plant that first fruit tree, the other trees and bushes that should have followed didn't happen and you are not eating the fruit reminding you of what you did every year that followed. You in stead read about Chiquita murdering employees and want to buy a banana.

It's manipulative both in the narrative sense (they're preaching to the choir) but also in a sense the commenter made - 'like they do in Vegas'.

The big focus on the 'head only' now on CNN, because that's more engaging - personalities who are almost always 7.5/10 - i.e. nice to look at but not ultra-attractive, the ability to appear 'just credible enough in tone and disposition and yet also empathetic' - that posture is important. And then background, the overlays - it's designed like the environment in Vegas.

Go to CNN.com right now and let the ad for Cuomo's show run - listen to the words he is using, listen to the music, the specific text that they overlay. They are communicating "It's panic time in America, is your heart racing? Because this is so important, and we have the 'Truth' for you here, tune in at 8pm".

These are all generally intelligent, well intentioned people, but the ultra focus on eyeballs and attention really hurts credibility.

During an election cycle it gets much worse, it's almost impossible to watch any cable news outlet right now.

Agree, as a non-American I read the WP, the NYT and in Germany stuff like the Sueddeutsche. When I watch US news, aside from late night stuff which became surprisingly good at this, it is left-leaning, e.g Rachel Maddow or Chris Hayes. i can't stand CNN. And yes, i am aware that the mentioned TV news shows are a lot opinion. But I do also get the same news from European sources, so there is a balance. I reall do have to stop watching that stuff after the election it is nauseating, but pretty damn important, not just for the US.

Written news and commentary (mainly online) is not that different. When Trump caught covid, there were endless articles speculating about how severe his illness was or whether a second week with the virus would bring about more severe symptoms. Just a bunch of suppositions and hypotheticals to get you to click and spend a few minutes reading.

The main loss from all this is not wasted time but that serious issues receive less discussion in favor of what's happening right now and what it could possibly mean.

I mean, the current President of CNN was previously in charge of NBC's primetime programming when he lined up Trump for The Apprentice. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/20/business/media/jeff-zucke...

It was a race to the bottom driven by ratings.

I stopped religiously reading news after I stumbled upon Aaron Swartz's blog post on the topic [0] way back when!

I'd say I have been insulated from the depressiveness of it all ever since but also that I've lost the ability to meaningfully participate or contribute to socio/economical/political discussions that seem to dominate any gathering of modest size [1].

[0] http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/hatethenews

[1] This quote particularly hits home: The worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies. --Bretolt Brecht (https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/541442-the-worst-illiterate...)

[1] sounds like a good quote, but keep in mind that the author of that quote was a tacit supporter of Leininsm and Stalinism, and initially supported East Germany's murderous repression of union labor.

In practice many people who "hate politics" are, I think, at least partially motivated by not desiring to get into conversations with people who would call them "illiterate" and "imbecile" for, yanno, not supporting evil authoritarianism and the nonsense pseudophilosophy that motivates it.

I think many people would not "hate politics" were it not for the nature of the politically-motivated to look down on those who disagree.

Also keep in mind that the quote is from a different time. Today if something important happens I will find out about it even if I don't want to. An acquaintance will text me, or it will be discussed somewhere (everywhere perhaps) online. You'd have to make a huge effort to be "politically illiterate" in the sense Brecht describes, well beyond not reading the news.

I'm not sure that is true. Even the illiterate can see the problems. But he will not know how they came to be, or how they could be resolved. That the politician promising to fix it all will just make it worse.

> Even the illiterate can see the problems. But he will not know how they came to be, or how they could be resolved.

Will the literate know? It seems similar to a sports fan saying what the coach should do. They absolutely know that if they'd just do X, they'd win. I have zero knowledge about professional sports. My guess is that neither I nor that kind of fan actually do know how to coach a professional sports team.

I believe it's similar in politics. If you don't become a subject matter expert -and I don't mean "politics expert", I mean a tiny field and literally expert, like seasonal effects on labor requirements in some specialized industry- you don't know how to fix "it" whether you watch 0 or 10 hours of news a week.

What experiences have you had in the world that make you think things are so complicated? From what I've seen in my short time, it seems like when you get "experts" in a room you get closed-mindedness because everyone thinks alike. I can't even begin to think of an example were a voter would need to be an expert to be informed. But I can think of dozens of examples of bad policies that experts have backed. Book bans, carbon credits, moral hazards in our stimulus packages, bad trade deals, eugenics etc.

There are obvious things like "should we just blow up the planet for lolz?" where you don't need to be an expert. But there's also a lot of stuff where a universe of complexity expands once you look close enough. Things have unintended side effects, and the average voter will not and can not spend the time to look close enough to even notice that there are side effects, much less what they are or how they are connected.

"That's easy, just do X" is usually something non-experts say, me included in things that I know nothing about. I like to look into some of those things and usually learn that it's not as simple as a cursory glance makes it look. That's also why most people shouldn't be day traders.

That may be true in many times and places, but to be German, in the East of the country, through the period of the 20th century in which he lived -- politics was rather thrust upon you. And the politically literate and illiterate alike had rather more to fear than "multinational companies".

> a tacit supporter of Leininsm and Stalinism

..."tacit" meaning that Brecht never actually said it. An ad hominem argument addresses the person and not their claims....

Sometimes I wonder if it's such a terrible thing to be politically illiterate. After seeing how everyone was misled into invading, plundering and destroying Iraq, I don't know if it's really possible to trust the reality we are presented. We only know once the dust settles.

You could also be politically literate, but completely blind or apathetic to the realities of other people.

I'd like being politically illiterate, but morally and ethically educated.

If politics is manufactured outrage and pandering to the lowest common denominator, and ethics is the study of universal moral invariants, those core values that should always apply when making decisions... I'd say screw political engagement.

> I'd like being politically illiterate, but morally and ethically educated.

> If politics is manufactured outrage

But it's not; politics is everything concerning government.

Manufactured outrage is a common tool for manipulating the politically illiterate.

I would state it even more broadly: Politics is everything concerning how society is organised. Of course, government is a big part of that, but it is not the whole. For example, how mutual trust in society is created or eroded is a political question in my mind.

I agree news can be mentally harmful but I actually think I disagree with Aaron's position here. The way he writes makes it sound like your citizenship and influence on policy and politics starts and ends every four years (or two) when you vote for new politicians.

Personally I believe this should be the bare minimum of democratic involvement. Voting is important, but you can do more than just that if you do decide you care about something -- contact representatives, attend local hearings or meetings, start petitions, etc.

This view of news consumption (i.e. don't bother) works when you only engage with your government via the ballot.

There's a balance to be had. You probably shouldn't be waiting for CNN's push notifications with bated breath, but I find that weekly is a good enough cadence to follow along with what's happening without getting too stressed out.

I also try not to read sensationalist news that is unlikely to move the needle on how I feel about something (e.g. the 9000th variation on "Trump said X")

I used to live near CNN Center and would go there frequently for lunch. As you'd expect, they had large screens in the atrium so you could watch CNN while you ate or shopped. It was a nice convenience. Over time the tone of what they presented changed drastically and I couldn't stand to listen to it even long enough to eat. Though the content also had declined in quality, it was the tone, the non-stop outrage and anger being presented that made me start eating at Peachtree Center instead. It really was vile and I can't see why anyone would want to pump that into their home and into their brains. It wasn't always that way.

Thank you for sharing this great experiment!

I'd love a news source that gives me relevant information at lower frequency and, water reading your description, with some delay. Maybe every two weeks and the content covers two weeks with a two week delay. So the oldest news would be over month old when I get it.

Years ago someone on the a16z podcast claimed that more frequent news is more negative in its content than less frequent news. They proposed the thought experiment of a newspaper that only gets published ones a century. Yes you'd cover the world wars, but a lot of space would go to incredible medical discoveries, human rights advancements, improved living conditions for the vast majority of people, fewer famines, etc.

For better and worse, a low frequency publication will have the benefit of hindsight, which can lead to deeper thought but also a big bias in coverage. There is a tendency to create grand unified theories of the past, and pretend contrary stuff didn't exist.

Reading a higher frequency publication with a delay will reveal how much ambiguity there really was.

A popular German speaking author made a similar case years ago: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/apr/12/news-is-bad-ro... Also published a book about that issue recently. Basically, you'll be much better informed and have better mental health by only reading a monthly publication and books instead of following daily news.

You could conduct the same experiment reading online predictions about computer/internet technology from years ago. This is one of the most dominant types of "breaking news" one will find on the internet. It is especially entertaining to look at the "tech" news in the years leading up to the dot-com bust. People who contribute "content" over the internet and those who consume it seem to have a love affair with trends and making predictions.

I like to imagine, that if "oh my god the world is ending and its because gasp donald trump" had a physical manifestation, it would be CNN.

This is exactly how I decide to watch or read something on the net.

1. Read the headline. 2. Ask - Is the topic likely to be relevant after 2-3 weeks? 3. If yes - Read/Watch it. 4. If no - Ignore.

I would posit that using CNN was a problem for that experiment. I would say that you at most confirmed CNN was illegitimate which is not much of a surprise.

Aren't news outlets required to rectify information they got wrong?

Genuinely don’t know where you got that idea

The legal right to demand rectification is a fact in at least one EU country: https://www.erc.pt/pt/perguntas-frequentes/sobre-a-imprensa (in portuguese)

sounds like some weird moral thing

> They found that those watching the most partisan television news sources—on both the left and the right—were often less knowledgeable about world events than those who consumed no news at all.

This is some very fancy footwork to leave out some key information. The study found that those watching only Fox News and MSNBC answered worse than people who watch no news programs at all. As far as I can tell, this latter group doesn't exclude people who read newspapers, blogs, political websites, etc. Meanwhile, all of the viewers of other programs/networks (NPR, Daily Show, CNN, etc.) score higher than average, so saying "often less knowledgable" kind of buries the lede if you ask me, which is that some "partisan" viewers are in fact, much more informed than others. Also, since the quiz the survey participants answered was split into domestic and international topics, FOX is the only network whose viewers consistently failed both on exceeding the average number of correct questions than achieved by "no news" viewers—MSNBC at least seems to be informing their viewers on domestic issues better than that baseline.


Country song I heard some years ago, a weary older man is singing (obviously in the era of newspapers)

I read Ann Landers and the comics

And know as much as the people of the left and the right

Some days it feels that way, even with things as urgent as they seem today in the US.

Electric Light Orchestra - Here Is the News (Official Video) from 1981, 4m9s


> MSNBC at least seems to be informing their viewers on domestic issues better than that baseline.

The difference is only about 5% to the "no news" crowd. Also, people that are better-educated tend to lean liberal and therefore might prefer to consume liberal outlets, but that doesn't mean liberal outlets are better at informing people. Looking at the frontpage of MSNBC, it's almost exclusively political opinion pieces centered around the US.

Moreover, the key question is not whether you're being informed better by consuming this media, but whether it is worth risking some of your well-being by consuming it. Research has found that media that is upsetting is the most addictive. People with addictions make up all kinds of rationalizations on how their addiction has upsides. The idea that you've been wasting time consuming ultimately useless information that irritates you - it's not very attractive.

100% of Americans believe, that 50% of the American population is filled with morons, the rest of them are either average or intelligent. To find out, if the person is intelligent or not, all you have to do, is check is if they support the same party that I support.

> Also, people that are better-educated tend to lean liberal

Do you have a source on this?

> Research has found that media that is upsetting is more addictive?

Do you have any source for tjat research? (Not doubting you, just curious.)

Anger is the emotion that most activates you and spurs you to action [1]

[1] https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1528077

Being spurred to action != addiction.

> better educated

Then you can fill in the blanks faster and don't need quite as much spoon feeding

> Also, people that are better-educated tend to lean liberal

better educated, or indoctrinated?

Yea and isn't HN always going on about how education != intelligence? It's great branding too, hook your cart up to the liberal party and suddenly you're smart, refined, enlightened, morally superior. No questions asked. SW/SV lives in a bubble. Most of eng is more conservative. Aero,EE,ME.. these are no dummies.

I get very frustrated, sad and emotional when I read CNN or any of the major news sites. So I avoid it.

Instead I use Wikipedia once a month : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Current_events/Septembe...

That's intentional, especially with CNN. The major news sites have essentially been tabloids since the death of print.

Sites from local TV news groups seem to be the most dispassionate reporting these days.

PBS News Hour. I've never watched more boring and informative news in my entire life.

NewsHour is great. Litigation of the petty partisan crap is restricted to a 10-15 minute segment on Friday evening.

Reuters TV[0] is pretty good for this too, you can even set how much time you want to watch it and it will pair down the information. Extremely boring for the most part.

0: https://www.reuters.tv/

Cspan in a nutshell

Excellent wordplay

> Sites from local TV news groups seem to be the most dispassionate reporting these days.

Really? Our local TV news websites are:

1) absolutely terrible user experiences -- like, so many ads that the scrolling lags on my 16 inch MBP.

2) clearly just reposting whatever their parent networks feed them for everything except local news (so, Fox and NBC, the two mentioned in this article, are literally feeding lines to these "local" channels that are ostensibly totally different from their parent networks)

IMO: the death of local newspapers is a problem but the death of local TV news can't happen fast enough.

CNN is nothing but editorials.

The OP link is to September, but if you go to the main/parent link, it’s always the current month, which conveniently has today’s news at the top (reverse chronological):


This is incredible. I wish I knew about this years ago. I have long been looking for impartial news sources. I used to listen to CBC, NPR, and ABC (Australia) to try and get more angles to a story, but that got tiring.

I use the BBC World News site as my homepage.


Once you become consciously aware of their emotional manipulation techniques you can watch without being impacted. Still a waste of time, though.

I read only Reuters and APNews these days. They report things but not in a way to make you emotional. They make news outright boring which is a good thing.

I don’t know what happened to CNN. Seems they have decided to become the left wing FoxNews.

That's a very good resource, I find that even if one truly believes that the news or political media is not warping your vision of reality and your beliefs that is not the case. Once you step back and view the situation from the outside, then you really start to understand how people's nervous systems are being regulated and influenced by the media.

https://weekly.hatnote.com/ might be of interest, weekly update with the most active wikipedia entries. Tends to be news events.

Thanks for sharing this link. It helps catching up with news once a month or so.

Thank you for this!

Great suggestion! I’m going to try this as well.

Wikipedia is a great filter.

This, this is awesome

I put myself into a news bubble about six weeks ago. I still very occasionally read local news and a mainstream front page (say, every few days), which seems sufficient to let me know what's going on in broad terms. Stuff leaks into the bubble (e.g., via HN) but the point is not to be totally isolated, just not to get caught in hours-long doom spirals.

I've given money to the campaigns that are going to get money from me. I voted yesterday (which answered the question, "are we going to get our mail-in ballots on time?"). I'm done.

As a consequence I'm getting more done and I'm happier. I'm reading a lot more books.

Same, my new routine is I receive a daily news briefing email in the morning and read that, and then don't read/watch any other news for the rest of the day. I feel relatively informed but no longer feel as depressed as when I would check the front page of news sites every hour.

The other plus side to this is that the whiplash of rapidly developing news is never an issue. Previously the news headlines would speculate on new developments so frequently that you felt like you were always behind on what was current, but truthfully most news can wait 24 hours (and if it can't it's probably an emergency).

I also instituted a news blackout about three weeks ago, with the intent to (perhaps) resume reading the news on Nov 5. In 2016 I spent an inordinate amount of time hooked on election news. This year I decided to spend my time more productively (as a Canadian, I can’t even vote in the US elections, so I’m ultra powerless).

Anecdotally, I do feel happier. I’ve also poured the time I previously spent on news consumption into studying and making music, and it’s just generally a more positive mental environment for me.

I may decide to switch to a less in-the-moment mode of news consumption, such as getting an Economist subscription and only reading the paper magazine when it arrives. Or maybe the NYT Saturday paper only, or something. I feel a duty to be an informed citizen but the ceaseless noise and sense of angry powerlessness doesn’t make me feel happy or satisfied.

I did this too. I gave up reading the news about four months ago. I'm much happier and sleep much better. I found I was constantly reaching for something like the guardian to kill time (including if I woke up at night).

I wanted to still read something current so I subscribed to the New Yorker and love their long articles.

What service do you use for daily news briefing by email?

sorry for spam, but do try us out: https://www.thefactual.com

I put myself in a semi news bubble about 6 months ago, no longer check the news daily or watch TV news. Now if I could only stop checking HN multiple times a day....

HN has a noprocrast feature that might help. Go to user settings to configure

I had no idea about that, thanks. I have Reddit totally blocked, but that always seemed excessive for HN.

Try Slashdot 5-6 links a day feels a bit less addictive than the HN 30.

How common is it for people to donate to campaigns? I don't think I know anyone who does it in Australia, unless they do it secretly.

This point rings strongly true to me. I have a number of members of friends/family who have become very difficult to be around, because they’ve become so intense/constantly outraged about politics, even if they are on the same end of the political spectrum as me:

> The research doesn’t reveal precisely why we tend to dislike overly political people, but it doesn’t take too much imagination to guess that constant foam-flecked political outrage makes one quite tedious. It also impedes our ability to think clearly: At least one experiment has shown that people become less accurate in interpreting data when the data concern something politically polarizing.

This is basically why I stopped using Twitter. Reading a dozen of my friends expressing basically the same thought at the same time, even though I agreed with it, was just getting tideous. In hindsight it took me way too long to realise how much time I was wasting on it.

But Facebook and Twitter can sell many more ads this way.

We are manipulated into constant outrage for someone else's profit.

While not wrong, the country is headed toward a revolution / Cival War. Similar to when Mao or Lenin came to power.

So yea, emotions are running a little high right now.

I like to call that "violently agreeing". "You all seem to be having a violent agreement" usually defuses the situation with some humour ... the first time anyway.

A couple years ago all you heard about was kids who didn't want to get shot in school. Now it's communities of color who don't want to get shot by police. It sure is a lot nicer to keep my head in the sand.

There are always tonnes of terrible things going on in the world, throughout human history. Hell, my grandfather was an Auschwitz survivor, and his entire immediate family was murdered by Nazis.

I think Trump is a terrible, terrible President, causing a tonne of damage to America, but he’s not exactly Hitler, more of a poor man’s Putin. I’m all for having political conversations, even reasonably frequent ones, but barring a legitimate Hitler situation, I don’t want it to be the ONLY thing I talk about. There’s a lot more to life. Some members of my friends/family can talk about nothing else anymore, it’s nonstop outrage, and they completely ignore all social queues from people who want to change the subject. These people suck to be around. The article sums it up well:

> it doesn’t take too much imagination to guess that constant foam-flecked political outrage makes one quite tedious

What is the point of this comment? communities of people of colour and the poor were being brutalised by police and school shootings were regular occurrences long before the Trump presidency.

Presumably to put things into perspective regarding the prevailing zeitgeists of who's destroying the world.

I reconnected with an old friend from childhood a few years ago. I knew he was politically opposite from me so I kept politics out of our conversations... do you know how hard that is? It's hard enough that it requires effort, effort that he noted. He accused me of being closed off and never saying what I really wanted to. I made it clear we should not go there.

He told me that several years ago watching the news made him physically ill and his GP told him to avoid news. His health improved. In 2016 he admitted to me he does not watch any news, read any news, but he believes in voting. I asked him how he could vote if he hasn't educated himself on the candidates. How a person like me who thinks you either eat politics or it eats you, sees an uninformed voter, proudly ignorant of the candidates, but voting with his gut, what am I supposed to say? This deeply offended him. He then accused me of living in a bubble despite the fact I read news from all over and he reads none.

I asked him how should educated voters feel about gut-feeling voters with uneducated opinions? I think his response was "Fuck off". We do not talk anymore because any subject he brought up that had any hint of politics to it was an empty conversation. I would bring up things related to the subject and he would default to making jokes. Serious conversation was beyond him.

Tone deaf, dumb, and blind. He eventually said he found all women of my wife's race "unattractive" and then could not understand why I was upset at him. Ex-Navy man, ex-Nuclear Engineer, ex-friend.

Perhaps it was true that he was uninformed about the candidates, but that's not a conclusion you can draw solely because he did not consume any news. There are many ways one can become informed about candidates: visit their websites, read Wikipedia articles, see who endorses them, etc.

Some news sources, even "mainstream" ones, are so hopelessly biased that I think they're less informative than consuming candidate propaganda.

Such person would say that. Some people believe and response with offence if they can't support their believes, flat earth etc.

Of the cuff comment but it occurs to me that they may have been right.

I am pretty well informed politically and follow the news regularly, however, I still vote for the same party I voted for thirty years ago and always have done.

Knowing what is happening in the news has rarely changed my vote - pretty much whatever happens the parties are not going to substantially change relative to each other to the point where you would prefer a different party so following the news or not doesn’t really make a difference.

You may be in a bubble by thinking this is important when it really doesn’t matter as much as your bubble is telling you it does

Oh, my conclusion is not about politics

> This deeply offended him. He then accused ...

> I think his response was "Fuck off"

Unfortunately I've seen been in such situations. I've politely asked to act in good faith of each other or close the topic. Some people feel better after arguing, I don't.

Fair enough if you don't want to talk about it, but the OP had basically just told the person they were ignorant so probably shouldn't be too surprised at a 'fuck off' response

Maybe my experience reflects how I read

> so I kept politics out of our conversations...

I do not watch news for 20 years. I am fine if someone thinks I'm ignorant but ready to discuss that. Some people look brainwashed, aggressive, they don't answer uneasy question, they attack instead. Yes, OP provoked, I do not recommend this way. But response depends on the person and that was my message.

I mean sometimes I argue with friends for fun. And we know how to stop while it is fun. Persuasion is not fun.

Who do you think the get out the vote targets? It's people that barely have an opinion nor care enough to get off their butt and vote.

>Just because one has the right to vote does not mean just any vote is right. Citizens should not vote badly. This duty to avoid voting badly is grounded in a general duty not to engage in collectively harmful activities when the personal cost of restraint is low. Good governance is a public good. Bad governance is a public bad. We should not be contributing to public bads when the benefit to ourselves is low. Many democratic theorists agree that we shouldn’t vote badly, but that’s because they think we should vote well. This demands too much of citizens.

>Most voters have no idea what is going on–they may not even know who their leaders are, and certainly do not know who is the best candidate. Imagine that someone asks you for directions to a local restaurant. If you have no idea where the restaurant is, you should not make it up. You should not tell the person some guess that seems sort of plausible to you. You should tell them you don’t know and let them get directions from someone more knowledgeable.

>Ignorant voting is even worse than ignorant giving of directions, because voting is an exercise of political power (albeit a very small one)–to vote for a policy is not only to make a recommendation, but to request that the policy be imposed on others by force.

[Polluting the Polls: When Citizens Should Not Vote](https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0004840080258730...

> He eventually said he found all women of my wife's race "unattractive" and then could not understand why I was upset at him.

Obviously, I am not aware of the full context of the conversation you had or even his tone and this could make a huge difference.

But I have to note that he did not call a whole race "stupid" or "lazy" or anything else objectively racist. He just expressed a sexual preference. What is wrong with that? If your wife was red-haired and he had said that he found red-hair unattractive, would it be offensive?

It would be very rude to say something like that to your friend. He effectively called a whole race ugly in his eyes. We don’t know the race mentioned but I think you can imagine a context where that would be considered more offensive and sensitive than red hair.

I agree. It shows at minimum lack of empathy / interpersonal skills and at maximum an attempt to offend him.

It is not racist though.

Ok so? OP never said his friend was racist. I don’t understand why you feel the need to split hairs on this point.

> 2016 he admitted to me he does not watch any news, read any news

> He then accused me of living in a bubble

This kind of tu quoque thing happens a lot when people get defensive. Accusing you of the thing they know they're in the wrong over.

Interesting anecdote. Sounds like he didn't want to talk politics but you kept pushing, trying to take some moral high ground. Voting isn't an exam, it's actually pretty simple even for swing voters. Believe it or not, there is no right or wrong answer or else we would not have a vote. You essentially vote on a personal philosophy that is developed over your live, or primarily in your earlier years, and by studying history, consuming art like books, movies and music, and meeting people and discussing these ideas. It's something that happens in the background. Keeping up with what the candidates, parties and news outlets are saying isn't nearly as relevant.

The economist is great for this.

Views aside, getting a single bolus of well-considered, well-written news once a week is wonderful.

You “miss out” on the “did you hear what X said” water cooler talk, but the gains in understanding and attention are significant

I think more should adopt The Economist model. Yes, they definitely have an opinion, and they push it, but they're open about it and are fair to other sides. It's much better than feigning impartiality, or doing a half-hearted "both sides"ing.

I love the Economist. I used to pay for it but then ended up having a stack of unread magazines because I tried to read every page. I really should renew my subscription as their articles are in depth and I'm often amazed how can they crank out so many great articles within a week.

Having said that - I see many tech people complain about pay walls even though many of us make $100k+. Pay walls on websites aren't that expensive. Wait till people find out how much the Economists costs.

Honestly the biggest bummer about the cost is that it makes the content less accessible to many, and I’m unaware of any cheaper options of the same quality.

I just get the digital versions. Their app includes high quality audio recordings of all their articles, which makes it much easier for me to listen to all I’m interested in.

I also got my subscription through discountmags and locked in the price, so it’s only $50/yr in perpetuity for me.

In the past five or size years the Economist has sadly become quite partisan and unreadable..in their trump derangement they've lost a lot of the even keel view they'd previously had over the prior decades I'd been a reader. Sadly I still read but effectively skip all politics as the new Eric Schmidt led board have certainly co-opted the formerly drier view the editors formerly would have taken in exchange for a more activist view which is far out of character for them. Sad because it was once a must read end to end to years for me. Now it's a skim for 35-45% unique content type of publication.. No one else covers the breadth of intriguing topics like African politics but the anti Brexit UK and anti Trump US political angle ruins most of the other content for the major western economies.

Agree (though I dropped the Economist a bit earlier). The Financial Times has followed the same path unfortunately. I was a long time reader (15y+) and it used to be pretty austere and reliable (good things in my opinion) but in the last few years it has become pretty much a gigantic opinion piece, with all articles biased to push a narrative. I know people around me who also cancelled their subscription for similar reasons (I am happy to pay for news but have no interest in paying for propaganda).

Will you also stop reading Nature, Scientific American, and The New England Journal of Medicine? The simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of scientists, academics and journalists is horrified at the anti-intellectualism, brutality and outright lack of decency demonstrated by the american administration.

The Economist does a good job of judging each case on its merits. A socially liberal, pro free-trade publication taking issue with Brexit or the actions of Donald Trump seems perfectly consistent. Fully in keeping with its heavily “partisan” coverage of the USSR in the 80s & 90s, the regime of Robert Mugabe later on or the current perspective on the CCP.

Not that one counter example refutes your whole point, but I found the analysis of his record (this week’s edition) to be rather clear-eyed.

I do agree that I’ve noticed a tinge of bias that didn’t seem there before, but to represent it as more than slight is incorrect based on my experience (been subscribijg for ~12 years)

>>> The bulk of the analysis covers the period from 2017, when Mr Trump took office, to the end of 2019. We stop in 2019 in part because some data are released only annually, and in part because the pandemic has turned economies across the world upside down. Our conclusion is that, in 2017-19, the American economy performed marginally better than expected. (That conclusion remains if we follow the practice of some political economists, who argue that the influence of presidents on the economy can be discerned only after a year in office, and limit our analysis to 2018-19.)

I enjoy reading The Economist and I’m glad that I’m able to filter out their editorialism from the facts. I think it’s easy to do due to their combination of forthrightness and writing style, plus my own ability to cut through the BS that I’ve worked hard to sharpen over many years.

The one thing I dislike about The Economist is their cover art. I grew to strongly dislike having some caricature of Trump or nuclear blasts staring me in the face all the time. Something something “living rent free in my head.” Except I was paying rent by paying the subscription.

I just want the information, and I’m happy to pay for it! But I reached a point where I couldn’t justify handing over that much money to them any more because it was unsettling having these images barge in at me every delivery or every time I took it out of my bag to crack it open. And they use the same lines other rags do: “if you read the economist, you’ll be informed, and to be informed is to be safe... now look at how the world is going to hell!” I felt like I was being negged as a subscriber.

There is a place for these works of art, I just wish it could be in the letter from the editor or one of their columns, all of which I appreciate.

The problem is that most biased articles aren’t using outrageous headlines or pushing false and/or improbable facts. Most of the bias happens by simply omitting the facts that go against the narrative. No critical reading of the article will give you the missing facts. You kind of need to read away from biased newssources. Or read both sides on every topic.

Their letters section does a nice job at backstopping them in that regard.

I’d love to see some examples of flagrant omissions gone unchecked.

Agreed. Any more, I struggle to find a single publication that even tries to do both.

Much of it isn't "news". It is mostly propaganda.

Quoting Garry Kasparov: "The point of modern propaganda isn't only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth."

But Garry, why not both?

I concur, however. Like others, on this thread, I (slowly) eliminated nearly all news from my life over the last two years. Doing this has had a profound effect on my perspectives, but has also ruined a lot of "conversation" for me. Previously, I played along in various forms of political shittalkery, but now, I find it disturbing to hear/see.

Increasingly, I am concerned by the tone, content, and purpose of many (American) people's strongly-held positions. On occasion I have found that voicing a contrary opinion results in estrangement, but more worryingly, merely not voicing a validation is enough to achieve some alienation.

We have moved from free speech to compelled speech. If you fail to perform the necessary virtue signaling then your loyalty to the tribe is questioned.

That's a great quote, but I would characterize what's happening now as 'Narrative Propaganda' in that, there is no authoritative source dictating the terms, but a gaggle of groups fixing the language, narrative, establishing the 'Overton Window' of what is acceptable to talk about - and anyone who has reasonable arguments against said narrative is just suppressed.

Social Media and 24-hour Cable News were designed for addictive effect. it's all based on fear. Fear of missing out mainly. The monkey brain wants constant reassurance.

Then, to be assaulted with ads while consuming these "information sources" on top of the crap. It's designed to sell you things you don't really need or want, and if your mental health suffers as a result, well, neither the producers or the advertisers give a shit.

I don't blame them. They're not responsible for managing how much media we consume. We are.

Eh, sounds like cigarette manufacturers defense. Social media is addictive. They know it is, they leverage that to make money. They have some responsibility for their products affect on people.

Tobacco companies knew smoking contributed to a rise in lung cancer and hid that from the public. If there is something like that being hidden about social media, then they should be held accountable for it. However, I doubt that's the case as we're all here discussing it. We already know it's bad to consume news in excess.

Yeah... whenever I consume news I get anxious and realize I should spend my time on things I have influence over.

About 15 years ago, it didn't seem like the news added anything of value to my life, so I stopped actively consuming news. You get some from the environment if you don't live in a cave, but I don't go to any news sites, listen to or watch news, even click one-off news links on HN or reddit. I've stopped all active news consumption.

I was right. It really didn't add anything of value to my life. I've never missed it.

Very similar on my end. Active talk news radio consumer. I stopped around 2012. Like you, I’ve noticed nothing missing but am generally happier. I was so out of the loop that I was surprised to hear Trump had not only gotten the republican nomination but won the bid for president. I thought about getting back into things and watched the presidential debate. Oh lord, what a mess.

I’ve come to realize that if someone is making money from delivering news, it’s not news in the sense of the priory being to deliver facts.

The priority is to make money, with news and “facts” being secondary (or even further down the list). Most of the time, facts are uninteresting and therefore not prone to gain a lot of viewers — at least not when there is competing “news” that is more about being interesting than factual.

In other words, I no longer trust viewership and/or ad-driven “news”. Which pretty much means almost all news of all forms, including TV, web-based, and social media.

I agree, but there also exist papers, magazines and news sites that have capitalized on the fact that literally anyone can report the news these days, to provide news at a slower, more accurate rate.

The Atlantic's Coronavirus coverage has been excellent for example, and the FT (while I don't always agree with the opinion pieces) has some of the most accurate and sober reporting around- often at the expense of being the first paper to a story.

When the price of information drops to near-zero, the niche papers can fill is to provide _trustworthy_ information. This could be where every reputable paper goes in the future.

More accurately, GIGO: those that watch garbage sources, i.e. Fox, MSNBC, are poorly informed compared to those getting news from more legitimate sources such as NPR, BBC, etc.

If you want a quality education in anything, choose your sources carefully. For instance, Al Jazeera is a good source, except on the subject of Qatar.

I listen to NPR often. What they say is generally factual and true; however I often note that a bias shows through what they do not mention when covering a topic. That's why we have the concept of the truth and the WHOLE truth.

The author, Arthur Brooks, is the past president of a Republican thinktank, AEI.

Republicans have a strong incentive to encourage citizens to ignore the political news, because their policies are deeply unpopular. Republicans rely on a non-engaged citizenry for votes.

Brooks is one of the Republican elites who shapes Republican political strategy. He has a deep conflict of interest when he tells you to stop reading about politics.

> [Republican] policies are deeply unpopular

Well, this is demonstrably untrue with people at large. You know, about 50% of the country or so.

Are you sure you are thinking outside of your bubble. Those polices may be unpopular with you or I but clearly people support right-wing polices.

> Republicans have a strong incentive to encourage citizens to ignore the political news, because their policies are deeply unpopular. Republicans rely on a non-engaged citizenry for votes.

Conservatives outnumber liberals in every age bracket above 30, among both men and women, in every income bracket, among every education class except folks with post-graduate degrees, in every region, and among both non-Hispanic white and Hispanic people: https://news.gallup.com/poll/275792/remained-center-right-id....

OP said Republican policies, which you reframed as conservative vs liberal, while ignoring the middle moderate column.

Many conservative and even some moderate voters might prefer to vote Republican but are uncomfortable doing so due to the current Republican platform which is not only not conservative, but also unwelcoming to anyone but straight white men and their allies.

On GOP policies:

> GOP leads on the economy but trails on other issues, including the coronavirus. By 49% to 40%, registered voters are more likely to say the Republican Party, rather than the Democratic Party, can do a better job on the economy. The Democratic Party holds wide leads on several issues, including climate change, abortion and contraception, health care, issues involving race and ethnicity, and handling the public health impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. Nearly half of voters (47%) say the Democratic Party could do a better job in handling the public health impact of the coronavirus outbreak, compared with 35% who say the GOP could do better.


> > Republicans have a strong incentive to encourage citizens to ignore the political news, because their policies are deeply unpopular.

> Conservatives outnumber liberals

Perhaps, but “people who identify as conservative” and “people who support Republicans’ concrete policies” have no necessary relation.

I don’t classify myself as liberal, although I voted for Democrats in the ballot I dropped off today — for everything except for my state’s treasurer and secretary.

My point is that conservatives or liberals don’t necessarily outnumber one or the other in the way you’ve generalized across all these dimensions. If that were the case, conservatives wouldn’t need to rely on the electoral college to win Presidential elections.

I rarely post, so apologies if this has been posted here before, but this excerpt from a letter by Thomas Jefferson in 1807 seems relevant. In short, the problems described about modern news media are entirely true, but - frustratingly - not at all novel.

"To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted so as to be most useful, I should answer ‘by restraining it to true facts & sound principles only.’ yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. it is a melancholy truth that a suppression of the press could not more compleatly deprive the nation of it’s benefits, than is done by it’s abandoned prostitution to falsehood. nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. the real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knolege with the lies of the day. I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens, who, reading newspapers, live & die in the belief that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time: whereas the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables. general facts may indeed be collected from them, such as that Europe is now at war, that Bonaparte has been a successful warrior, that he has subjected a great portion of Europe to his will &c &c. but no details can be relied on. I will add that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. he who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false."


Yes, history repeats itself. However I guess the person who "never looks into a newspaper" remains informed through people who do read it at least from time to time. I would wonder why "Europe is now at war", even if it's speculation, since that sort of thing is often highly subjective (see: Armenia and Azerbaijan right now). IMO, getting "nearer to truth" is possible through collective effort. If we all make no effort at this, then it is simple for a despot to take over.

Democracy's burden is that some responsibility is placed upon all of us to contribute to sensible policy through discussion and voting. It is on us to interpret which part of history lines up with today.

And I'd argue reading opinions is helpful too to practice learning how to influence others. One take away from Jefferson's opinion here is "don't listen to them, listen to me."

This article seems well written but not critically examined.

Based on the data presented, the article seems to conflate “correlation as causation”. Specifically, there is no mention of eliminating selection bias.

Typically if people are currently fortunate and aren’t in need of social safety nets, these people are both more likely to be happier and, given the lower risk, they can afford to be politically agnostic.

Meanwhile, when people are in need of social safety nets/political change in general, they are likely to be less happy with their current lives and also more politically opinionated.

So while the article’s data says: political agnosticism is correlated with well being, the article’s narrative incompletely/incorrectly creates a causal link between being politically opinionated and a level of well being.

Empirically, the dynamic of "can afford to be politically agnostic" doesn't seem to happen. Data I've seen (https://www.hofstra.edu/pdf/academics/colleges/hclas/cld/cld... is the clearest presentation I can find off-hand) indicates that complete political disengagement - never discussing or following politics - is much more common in lower income brackets.

I'd argue that this is what we should expect from an abstract perspective too. If someone has to struggle just to put food on their table, it's going to be pretty hard to convince them that the goings-on of some political candidate are worth spending their time on.

Again, this is falling into the trap of incomplete statistics.

“Given people discuss politics not at all, 40% make less than 30k per year.”

But we aren’t told how many people fall into “the given”.

What would be interesting for this discussion,

Given people’s income brackets, how often (the median, ideally also p90 and p99) do they discuss politics per month?

I've been trying to cut news and social media out of my daily habits as much as possible, and am attempting to replace it with reading books whenever possible. It sure isn't easy, but I feel significantly more productive, healthier, happier and overall more human on days where this works particularly well.

What helps is to not have the phone in your bedroom and charge iit elsewhere instead - replace it with a Kindle or a book and rread that instead for a few minutes upon waking up.

You can read one book that recaps the events of multiple years in a fraction of the time that it takes to consume the news daily in fragment form, with the bonus that it comes with appropriate context. It is also easier to avoid sensational gore or celebrity tales that are for the most part meaningless (or the opposite if that is one's proclivity).

I was surprised to learn that Bukowski submitted poems and stories to The Atlantic in his early, hungry years. In my lifetime, I've only known it as an outlet for partisan opinion pieces.

On the occasions that I do visit the site, I wonder what he would say about what The Atlantic has become. Not in terms of how it would suit his political biases, but in the agenda first, logic last, unimaginative partisan hackery. I imagine him ranting at length or condemning them eloquently.


People in the (very small) poetry world used to know the Atlantic as one of the premier places to have a poem published. If you pick up a physical copy there are two or three poems and those are guaranteed to be by someone huge in the American poetry scene at the moment.

In the last decade or so things have changed, online has boomed, spoken word/slam poetry took off and left it's mark. And now the markers which signify status in the poetry world are shifting. And for the first time in a while I was actually reading the Atlantic for the articles (online) and surprised to find how much of it was, as you said, partisan, ideology-first, logic-last type reporting.

Quora question: Why is slam poetry so bad? : https://www.quora.com/Why-is-slam-poetry-so-bad

>Don't read the news, don't stay informed.

>If you read too much news, it's bad for you.

I do enjoy the idea of a newsbubble, as it really does not add much to your everyday life, knowing something bad happened here, or there - because the news is a marketing machine of commercials and local interests that sell your attention to sell stuff.

But, it's also hilarious how they say too much is bad, it's akin to buzzfeed saying these websites are good, these that don't agree with us is bad. --

I use a pihole, but you can just add a rule into your HOSTS file or local firewall to block access and untrain your body. I used to always be on reddit, consuming, not really contributing much.

Then I realized I spend way to much time, reading, which itself, is not a bad thing, but then I realized the communities of the people who may post in them may not be the best or really useful/smartest and then some communities turn into a "selfie" parade to whomever has some small budget can easily swing conversation.

Then I stopped going, and missed nothing. Once I realized the people online wouldn't be the ones I would normally want to be "seen" with or socialize with, it helped break the distinction and neutrality of a screen with words on it.

Now I'm more careful of whom I read articles from online, and forums, it's pretty much hit or miss, good for opinion swaying but any true info I make sure to verify and not rely solely on Google/AMP links, but if they are published and which vector of publishing are they on (from New York Times to Dailymail for example.)

And even then it isn't enough, all news suck and really does not matter to you.

Stoicism is best.

What purpose does it serve for you to be well informed about the democrats and republicans, what they vote on, who they elect, etc, when you have no control over their actions afterward?

Same goes for voting. None of the research you do and the research others don't do will alter the outcome of the election.

It's not widely appreciated that the point of being well-informed is to influence what happens between elections. That's when the politics gets done - the lobbying efforts, candidate selections, control of local political groups, agenda and policy design, and so on.

Elections are just a process to rubber-stamp decisions that have already been made by groups of people who understand this.

^^This point exactly. The entities that want legislation to help them make money do not change. Which is why elections hardly mean much. Trump does a little bit though just because he's lone wolfing it/looking for his own self interests. So it's "different" in a way, but it's still the same game.

The Lindy effect: The Lindy effect is a theory that the future life expectancy of some non-perishable things like a technology or an idea is proportional to their current age, so that every additional period of survival implies a longer remaining life expectancy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindy_effect

From that I reasoned that breaking headlines are really not much use for anything. Concentrate on old books or documentaries if you want to know what is going on in the world.

When the rich and powerful rig the economy, then the real problem is when you read about it. Not that it really happens.

I think that’s by design...

From Sun Tzu (loosely): when an enemy is large in number, divide them.

Isn’t that what news does, especially the political crap we call news in the US - divide the population so they fight among themselves.

> After controlling for household income, education, age, gender, race, marital status, and political views, I found that people who were “very interested in politics” were about 8 percentage points more likely to be “not very happy” about life than people who were “not very interested” in politics.

If we could locate these philosopher-kings from Aristotle and put them in charge, then ignoring politics might be safe.

But your disdain for bossing others around isn't reciprocated by the Chads and Karens seeking office.

This, detachment from the swamp is a sin of omission. You and your wallet will be punished.

I am very interested in policy, but I do not watch the news.

Why? Because it contains no actionable information that changes my decisions: I'm still going to vote in every election, I'm still going to research the candidates when the time comes, I'm still going to volunteer at the polls...

The news is trivia, generally speaking. When I have a more active life in politics I'll take the Chomskian approach to news, but for now I'll vote with my ideals (which don't change with the passing tides of the news cycles)

I don't watch the news either but I do scan headlines here and on AP and/or Reuters every day and follow up on what interests me.

I can't say "it contains no actionable information that changes my decisions". For example the news that Obama wanted to renegotiate the "SOFA" agreement before he even took office made me regret my decision to vote for him in `08 and I did not vote for him again in 2012 because I already knew he would not end those wars.

The only actionable thing I've really done since is keep others informed via FB of our progress to end those wars but for the most part interest in that fell off long ago with their yellow ribbon car magnets so it hasn't amounted to much real action.

What is the Chomskian approach to news?

Instead of drinking the koolaid, you complain that companies are manufacturing koolaid, despite the fact that you are currently using an I.V. drip of the stuff. Turn the dial on your I.V. up to 11, while you lean back and realize that you are glad that you’re not thinking about linguistics.

> says person commenting on a news aggregation site

This story didn't contain anything actionable that changes your decisions either, and yet you still read it and spent the time to comment. I don't see a substantive difference between reading HN and reading following political news. Nearly everything on this site (not even just this piece) will not affect your ability to accomplish your goals in anyway. It's a distraction at best.


Let's suppose for a moment that we ever reach a point where the democratic process gets involved with the question of how best to manage the western forests (what's left of them) in the USA. There will be people arguing for regular understory and brush burning, and others arguing against it.

Let's suppose that you're a citizen who gets to vote in some way on this matter. What will you base your vote on? The materials circulated at the time by those for and against various policies? Perhaps. But how will you judge those materials if you have not even a basic understanding of forest ecology.

Now, if you sit down and read about forest ecology today, it will have no impact on your ability to accomplish your goals in anyway. But is is not a distraction: it's the groundwork and the preparation for you to be able to participate meaningfully in democratic decision making, perhaps tomorrow, or next year or some other time in the future.

In short: it is education. You just have to be careful that you're learning about the actual world.

Agree, educating oneself is a great investment even if not immediately actionable. The knowledge you gained will pay dividends later when it comes in handy.

The issue with news is that I'm not sure reading all news sources is an effective way of educating yourself.

Another problem though is that of shared values and goals. In your example you said:

> the democratic process gets involved with the question of how best to manage the western forests

But how does it even get to this point? Does news play a bigger role in that part of the democratic process? The part where we decide on our values and our priorities?

I didn't read the story.

Interestingly enough, Plato's proposal for creating an ideal city-state had specific instructions for how to breed philosopher-kings.

He advocated eugenics, and he also recommended lying to the citizens about how it was decided who would be paired up with who.

So...I'm not sure we should go down that road?

Any quotes to share?

As a hypothetical, can you imagine a scenario where nobody voted or put faith in the political class?

From this perspective, participation only validates the farce.

My (apparently unpopular) point is that non-participation affords no solace.

It isn't non participation though. You can participate in politics (local, state or federal) without consuming the 24/7 news cycle. The "news" is usually pushing doom gloom and fear no matter which side of the spectrum you are on because that gets the clicks. Rarely do political issues have meaningful developments everyday so continually checking not actually enhancing your ability to participate.

Fair point. My response is quite binary when there is a full spectrum of engagement possibility.

If you’re upset about the system or the options, your other option is to vote a write-in. This sends a stronger message in my opinion: we call such votes “protest votes”, whereas not voting all all leaves the situation a bit more ambiguous to the rest of us.

Many jurisdictions will ignore "write-ins" and they will not be reported.

This is a good point: opting out of reality is a worse strategy for happiness on a longer timescale. However, reading the 24-hour news cycle and being aware of the real political landscape is not perfectly correlated; I'd argue it's 50% overlap at the upper bound and sub-ten % at the lower. Furthermore, reading the news cycle and being politically active in a way that affects your, your family's, and your "heirs'" wellbeing is probably almost negatively correlated.

Any political wins made by groups exploiting and dominating mainstream media (Trump) are explained by the fact that the barrier to entry in political action is so low—just getting a few people to vote is politically effective because almost everyone is just watching the news instead of doing anything real. Meanwhile Trump's team meets with money and accrues powerful stakeholders by annexing their agenda, building support in institutions and markets.

So ignoring political news and pursuing interfaces with actual nexuses of power is far more politically effective than the hundreds of people with twenty tabs of The Atlantic open and the WSJ draped across their lap like a religious shawl every morning. Go out, meet politically active people in your city, email representative staff, make friends with people with money and vested interests that are vulnerable to political changes.

Read the news with a goal in mind: understand civic life. My 20+ years of reading news daily has brought me a personal understanding of the world, and it’s way better than when I started out in my teens ignorant, confused, and unmoored.

I know what’s most important to me now, and I know how to participate in those issues.

Of course, there are many news outlets that don’t offer much in terms of better understanding the world, so avoid those.

Not being informed enough to be politically involved is often the worst possible thing for your wellbeing in the long term. If you don't fight for your wellbeing, someone who is fighting for theirs might do so at your expense.

But of course, news is a pretty questionable source for this goal, because its always filtered through an ideology that might not really have your wellbeing in mind.

I'm curious if it's because political news is so messed up. Like, if we read tons of positive articles regarding good things being done, I doubt we'd see the same impact.

Which highlights your point imo. If we change the way politics is done, then we can eliminate this issue. But it requires being politically informed.

If you have a decent income you should consider getting your news from magazines and history books. I subscribe to Australian Geographic which covers issues I actually care about. Another good source for global news is Delayed Gratification [0]. Aside from the coronavirus pandemic, if you live in a stable developed country (not the USA) there is pretty much no piece of news you can't wait a while to become informed about.

I have found I know much more about politics now that I read history books and biographies rather than Sydney Morning Herald headlines.

0. https://www.slow-journalism.com/

Australian Geographic is a truly wonderful magazine. I wish it were easier to obtain in the States.

On the Media (podcast) ran a good piece Friday about how the problem with news (especially right now with the election) is that journalists are treating the candidates as the protagonists of their own stories (and the media then get the voter reactions to what those protagonists deem important) when what’s needed is for us voters to be the protagonists who set the priorities for what the campaigns should be talking about.

De Botton's "The News: A User's Manual," inspired me to cut back on my news consumption. The blow-by-blow of the news isn't particularly enlightening.

De Botton's other books are worth a look, too.

Sorry but what exactly is non-political news?

I’m convinced that people who talk about “politics” as a thing external to them are just refusing to engage with the parts of the world that are uncomfortable to them.

Looking at the CNN front page for a good source of examples, non-political news would be things like:

* Evacuations ordered in Colorado and Utah as crews battle new blazes

* NFL reports no new positive Covid-19 tests

* Preorders are open for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro

When people discuss political news, they're referring to stories like "Biden is putting red states in play" or "Mexican restaurant takes political stand with sign declaring 'No Love, No Tacos'" - stories which are fundamentally about partisans doing battle with each other.

“Political news” very often consists of what Daniel J. Boorstin called “pseudo-events”, actions taken by people for the purpose of generating news. Today’s example:


In a profound sense, most political news really is “fake news”.

I think less 'fake news' and more like spitballing, personally. The article even ends in a 'could.' I think there is space for postulating on the implications of an event. We only see brief windows into what actually happens in discussions on capitol hill anyway, so idle speculation based on what we do see is expected.

I think that the good faith of "politics" is more related to "winning elections and/or otherwise gaining the power to create and change legislation". This differentiates it, ideally, from e.g. processes to find solutions to problems that have different kinds of approaches depending on your political outlook.

Someone who says that any discussion of e.g. energy policy is "political" is just being stupid. Someone who points out that someone is taking a particular position w.r.t e.g energy policy purely as a cynical political move might be right.

If your response to "I don't like X" is "everything is at least a little bit X" then you should read "I don't like X" as something like "I don't like anything more X than necessary" or "I don't like anything unless its in the bottom 25% of X".

This feels like a version of the continuum/heap paradox.

I don't engage with politics online seeing as the psychotic leftist sentiment doesn't allow for an honest discussion of the current democrats. Also if anybody simply says they vote for trump, theyre labeled online as if some sort of abhorrent miniscule group.


See, you don't even know why they're voting for Trump. You just assume the worst and that they're all incoherent morons. Did you know that the moral high ground doesn't mean you're superior to these people. It affects your life in a minuscule way.

If you don’t read the news you’re uninformed. If you do read the news you’re misinformed.

— unknown

I believed this was a Mark Twain quote. Turns out I was misinformed! (I always thought it sounded a little Mencken-esque too)

Egoistically, the less you care about politics - the better it is for you. Caring about politics is actually a duty, a contribution (of your time and health in particular), but in reality, for most of the people who seemingly care, it's merely a drug.

Yeah, I feel like you could write a similar article: "You will have more money if you don't donate to charity"

The news is depressing. This is, in its own way, a form of voter suppression.

I find news as a concept quite weird, since it implies recent data is important data, with all its side effects. There is a ton of old news, maybe even years, that did not loose relevance, but we simply ignore it.

We have to learn to compartmentalize political news and keep it separated from our personal life.

And we have to be honest with ourselves about our personal life. For many of us, and it's probably fair to say most of us here on HN, life is pretty good. But we have to put that statement in perspective to see it that way. Where I live, in the Ozarks, life 100 years ago was pretty tough and even compared to when and where I grew up life is pretty good here right now.

In fact it's pretty amazing. Stuff I find here on HN amazes me almost daily.

If you are frustrated by politics but do want to know what the US government is doing, might I once again recommend the Federal Register. https://www.federalregister.gov/

You'll find some stuff that probably affects you that isn't being reported on at all. The "Proposed Rules" section is always interesting.

> Current Issue: 119 documents from 44 agencies (268 Pages)


I mean, that's the problem with the federal register. Sure, it's all out there in the open, in public. Buried beneath 267 pages of three-column 8-point-font crud.

The synopsis on them is pretty short, and a lot of it is "nope" so its pretty easy to go through to find the interesting items.

I think the problem isn't the news, but the obvious injustice that politics gets away with.

In germany, the minister of transportation lost the taxpayer 500 million euros, with a publicity stunt to bolster his party in a local election. He is now lying in people's face about it, everyone knows it and he does not have to step back.

Instead, they wrote a fluff piece about him, because he managed to buy some masks for the nation by using some connections from his home town. The article that came out two weeks later about these masks being fake and another million euros lost was for some reason behind the paywall of the online newspaper.

It's not the news that makes people unhappy, it's the blatant bullshitting we have to endure.

If you want to get really depressed you should look into the state of our media where they themselves have something at stake. One examples from the top of my head would be Peer Steinbrücks destruction in the weeks running up to the 2013 election where they collectivly decided that fighting against tax evasion is bad. Or the reporting about Article 13 where they forgot to ask critical questions about how some of the arguments made absolutely no sense and could someone please explain that in more detail?

On the other hand if you are looking for more nuanced reporting I've come to like deutschlandfunk radio lately.

Well then that’s bad news because boy have things changed. Growing up in Cali in 80s with a robust social life, I cannot remember having or hearing a single political discussion at all.

Now I think it’s the norm for kids to have deeply felt political views.

I wish I knew how that changed. Maybe it’s the teachers because I also cannot recall any political discussion in me elementary or high school classrooms.

Political news just expose the selfish nature of human being.

It is mostly a continuous attempt at manipulating people into thinking your party is good and that you should vote for this guy vs another. It shows how corrupted and dishonest people become, the more power they get. It's unhealthy by definition.

I disagree that the answer is ignoring the problem or tuning out politics as if it's something we can't control. Sure, we're powerless inside the golden prison of democracy, believing the lies of the current psychopath leading the country and without a real choice.

But we need to be aware of how rotten the situation is, fight state mandated indoctrination and hope enough people over time are going to reach the understanding that the root problem is centralisation of power, not what's the name of the current buffoon in charge of spending half of your salary.

I may be reading too much into this article; this is probably just another new age attempt at getting people to ignore whatever bombshells are being dropped between candidates before the elections.

This coming from a highly partisan outlet.

To me all sides are a joke with both of their arbitrary soap opera drama (Hunter Biden, the Impeachment, the russia collusion junk, PizzaGate (lol that one). Stop with the madness and made up crap... tell voters what you will do for them and the issues that matter! Politics doesn't need to be reality TV but that's what it has become and not just because of only the reality tv star in office; again both sides feed this madness/reality tv drama b.s.

The Atlantic ... is a joke just like the majority outlets feeding this reality tv narrative! Which is just about each and everyone of them; most local news isnt as bad, though.

I like many others also decided to effectively dodge the news as much as possible. For the last three years, I subscribed to the British magazine called 'Private Eye' which comes out fortnightly which keeps me up to date, but I see no reason for me to know what's happening at a higher frequency than that.

We launched https://www.thefactual.com over a year ago, to solve exactly this problem.

Get a daily email that informs you of the main events with multiple perspectives, with a sprinkling of interesting articles.

We are a paid service ($1/month, with a 2 week trial), no ads.

News is akin to social media. Its engineered to capture your attention, albeit, in maybe a psychologically more damaging way. Everything is breaking and urgent, everything is going to kill you, fear and death are around the corner. Otherwise, what's the point of reporting things at their face value?

I stopped using Twitter for a couple weeks because the trending section that's forced you was always showing political garbage. It was driving me insane.

When I came back, I installed an extension to get rid of the trending section and some other garbage on there. It's been so much nicer since then (Retweets can still be problematic, but I don't want to block them entirely because I use Twitter as a way to follow artists that were forced to flee Tumblr. Retweets are how those artists share art from others that they like)

In the time that I was off Twitter, I didn't fully disengage from the news. I checked Apple News+ to stay up-to-date, but that was only once or twice a day instead of dozens.

What are we supposed to read then? Politics is the current day s soap opera

Books. Replace the instant gratification of doomscrolling with more thoughtful consumption that encourages self-reflection rather than reaction.

It's a good time to re-visit old friends on the shelf, or find new ones.

I picked up a series that I'd stuck a bookmark in 30 years ago, and I wish I'd continued reading it back then. On the other hand, I have roughly 2,000 pages of greenfields escapist fantasy to crawl into. [For a number of reasons, I won't mention the series]

I agree with this approach. However, politicians and talking heads generally lack self-irony. Many refuse to acknowledge the farce they are participating in.

Even worse, audiences have a tendency to take it all a bit too seriously.

Everyone would be better off if pundits would look into the camera and wink occasionally. Just let us know that they know we know it is all a spectacle. A little acknowledgement goes a long way here.

You do other things to improve your life and the lives around you. This culture where everyone is compelled to be a participant in politics is relatively new, or wasn't common once civilization made small tribes obsolete.

When Trump caught Covid I actually thought to myself that this is a soap opera plot from a parallel dimension and the writers had just jumped the shark.

I'm actually curious to understand why it was such a big deal. A fair amount of world leaders, ministers, representatives and all did get sick. Was this not mentioned in the news at all in the US?

The US media's coverage of Covid-19 outside the US mostly seems to be focused on pushing the narrative that the US is uniquely failing at dealing with it due to Trump. Most of the time they don't actually lie to do this, but the facts they include are very selectively chosen. So for example Boris Johnson's Covid infection got a lot of attention since he's seen as a kind of Trump analogue, but I don't think others did so much.

(There was a really... interesting progression in the NYT's coverage of the Covid-19 outbreak in Spain where they downplayed it as obviously less severe than say Florida, omitting the already much worse trajectory it was on, then when it finally and inevitably became too bad to ignore they turned that whole thing into an allegory for Trump's failings too.)

The news actually feels like it's just messing with me now. We live in the timeline where Osama Bin Laden's QAnon conspiracy theorist neice went on Fox News to say that she is really an American at heart and to give Trump her endorsement.

WHAT??? Looks like the writers decided to bring back a reference to two seasons ago.

[1] https://www.mediamatters.org/qanon-conspiracy-theory/tucker-...

Damn the plot is thickening

That would have only been true had he also been attacked by murder hornets.

Step away from the screen

I've all but quit reading Facebook and Twitter and Parler. I use Facebook Messenger on my Mac to keep in touch with a couple of friends.

I've stopped bringing my phone to bed. Leave it in the office downstairs. The only device upstairs is a Kindle loaded with a lot of fiction and some nonfiction.

It's a start, anyway. I now believe that it's possible to be too well informed, be exposed to too much information of an ephemeral nature. Our brains aren't really designed for it.

“Yet ah! why should they know their fate? Since sorrow never comes too late, And happiness too swiftly flies. Thought would destroy their paradise. No more; where ignorance is bliss, 'Tis folly to be wise.”

Thomas Gray https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44301/ode-on-a-distan...

We should redesign the news. What would it ideally be like?

It would reward reporters who are honest and courageous. The incentives right now punish objectivity and reward conformity.

I won’t call some of these reporters journalists, they are more like activists. They aren’t interested in keeping society informed, they just want to push their agenda.

I wouldn't call them journalists either, more like royal scribes speaking to a class of courtiers. Real journalists have agendas other than uncritically repeating what some unnamed intelligence source told them.

They're like that because that's what the current system rewards. I think that's why the user you replied to said what they did.

The only worthwhile journalism is activism. Discomfort the powerful. Unfortunately it's dangerous to be too good at this, see Daphne Caruana Galizia.

This opinion is quite new. Unfortunately journalism has been coopted by such folks.

We do need activists, but they don’t have to be journalists. Maybe these groups on youtube that are just filming things without interrupting with questions are the journalists of the future ... https://youtu.be/pW_jsS_JnMY

It is not new, it is more of return back to where journalism started.

Sorry, that is exactly the attitude that got us into the mess we are in. I for one care very little for activists doing journalism. Just tell people the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth as best as you can ascertain it and let them make their own choices.

If you have 1 hour a week or even 1 hour a day, the truths you choose to tell will look just like activism.

Then you should not be in journalism. It can't be done that way and what can be done that way is worse than useless.

You aren't really addressing what I am getting at. There's too much happening for the simple editorial decisions that go into choosing what to talk about for an hour to not end up looking like bias.

Maybe that makes a little sense for live media. Maybe. But you cannot tell me the nyt or wpost do not have the resources for thoughtful editorialization.

What a destructive point of view. There is an enormous difference between activism and journalism.

The truth doesn’t have an agenda

Unfortunately, truth hasn't published any articles. So far, only subjective views have been published by fallible humans.

The fact that something cannot be done perfectly is not a valid excuse to do it poolry.

Agreed. However, it would be a good reason to hedge expectations accordingly. Everyone has a bias. Much of the current political acrimony could be avoided if both speakers and listeners acknowledged this.

Instead we have appeals to 'truthiness' and 'fact-check' that defy the basic premises of human nature.

I am not sure admiting that there is a bias would make any difference. Its plain to see. I think the fundamental problem is that the bias is the main thing now. It trumps everything, including decency, respect for your fellow citizen or the profession. Activism has become the mission. The people who think this is OK seem to lack the imagination to realize how quickly the BS firehose can turn towards when unencumbered by the facts.

I'm not sure they are aware of what they are doing. It isn't hard to imagine them claiming they're only reporting 'the truth'. Deep convictions have a way of shaping perceptions.

Partisan 'fact-check' outlets are a good example of this.

An admission of bias would serve as a disclaimer and a reminder for the consumer of news. Integrating the disclaimer into the writing could actively influence how the article is written.

That is interesting. You do not think the people at CNN, NYT, WPro and Foxnews are aware of their biases? It seems so hard to believe.

Let's take WaPo as an example. They changed their tagline to "Democracy dies in darkness" after Trump won.

I imagine they know they don't like the guy, but in their minds it is justified. I suspect there's a fair proportion of their staff who believes enacting Godwin's law isn't hyperbole.

For them, selectively misquoting the Charlottesville press conference isn't misleading, because they believe that they know the _truth_ about his intentions.

All right, but these are intelligent adults, not children, why wouldn’t they see the exact issues you mention? Isn’t it a more natural explanation that they of course see it, but believe their misinformation is justified because Trump in their eyes is an existential threat to democracy?

>believe their misinformation is justified

More or less, but the belief may be strong enough that they don't view it as misinformation. If they already believe Trump is a racist, selectively quoting his press conference in a way that construes him as a racist is accurate in their eyes. The full quote where he criticizes the racist groups could be viewed as Trump lying or hiding his true intentions, so they may feel it is their duty to not report that.

Of course journalists are individuals and there's a spectrum of this behavior on both sides of the aisle, but this is my take. Willful ignorance isn't only for children or idiots. Let's also observe the volume of illogical and often emotional arguments presented.

Ba dam bum.

We can't just redesign the news because the incentive structure isn't there to do so. You have to Foster a culture where people don't treat politics like religion. When the culture doesn't give undue attention to self important people who wear suits and ties, then the incentive structure changes how news is produced to fit that environment. But if we just treat issues like these as engineering problems, tweaking variables to fit a broken environment without considering the human aspect, the system simply won't support whatever improvements we try to make.

I hear you — but I can also see the opposite perspective, at least in the case of TV journalism. Once we lost the almost religious reverence for the nightly news anchor, it devolved into pure spin.

I also think that in a case like the news, there is a real need to step outside of the current cultural phenomena and engineer it — what are the known requirements for the news and how do we move from here to there.

I think Axios is on the right path in keeping news reports as short as possible without too much fluff.

My idea: Wiki-style collaborative contributions, ranked by a fact-checking algorithm.

If the news could:

1. Stop publishing minority opinions as if they were representative.

2. Stop publishing minor stupidities because they are "exciting".

3. Stop trying to be entertaining or interesting. Stick with informative, and if you get less views, so be it.

4. ???? Open to suggestions. Maybe we could write up a set of voluntary rules for journalists with ethics.

Here, the best definition by Denzel. The need to be first, not the need to be true. They don't care who they hurt. https://youtu.be/GXYzjYBTlpA

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