This past weekend was my third strike. I’m pining for baseball, and feel the same swing as to college basketball, but in both areas all I have to bear is references, so the third strike metaphor must be exhausted. For the third weekend straight, I failed. I was continually committing to myself, usually no sooner nor later than Thursday, to let the entire weekend pass by without tuning into political news coverage at the least with the real objective to waylay all news coverage. My initial plan emerged because of the partisan noise that, as you know, for many, many years has influenced, framed, and otherwise distorted journalism.
Here I am writing for this news outlet, evolving as it is, trying my darndest to get off the stuff for a few days. Seems that therefore by showing my cards I’m potentially casting seeds around that might germinate into turning your head from the news, including our news. If you asked your server for her recommendation after glazing over that huge menu of delicacies, and she said, “Meh, I never eat here,” I admit it’s akin to where I’m going with this, or where it started I guess. I will say, for the benefit of my editor and this newspaper’s stakeholders, that as I’d actively fantasized about turning off the news flow for even a brief stint, that notion was always tethered to television news, not often the local feeds, and the programs that mostly broadcast in the later primetime weekday slots or certainly the Sunday morning lineup. Online news, this fine print-based publication, and even radio journalism weren’t wholly immune to my plan, but it focused on the idiot box, which is no longer a box, or so I’d hope for your eyes’ sakes, the brilliant HD flat versions most beautiful to watch.
I can’t be alone, here. I’m exhausted and have been. You must be too. And it’s showing no signs of relief. We’re headed into what will likely be the most caustic, demoralizing, and de-patriotizing election season that America has maybe ever witnessed, with the TV news channels and programming still yammering about the last one and its ugliness. It’s only been in recent years that I ever even contemplated whether the office of the President means anything above ceremony in modern times. The news isn’t helping that internal debate. The world of 2020 clearly beholds no good news in the areas of health and safety, either. Corporate fraud. Identity politics. Monuments and sports mascots. Havoc in the streets. Arrghhh! The onomatopoeia, at least for me, invokes Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, so I contrived a little smile from my sense of futility. What’s a person to do?
My answer to that rhetorical was, again, to tune out. I thought that for one three-day swath, less than one percent of this most unusual year, I would blissfully create ignorance of the nearly limitless list of negativity. Partly, it seemed selfish. Not that I contribute any salient solutions to all society’s muck and mire, but rather that turning my head and creating that ignorance was wholly, purely for my benefit. As I said, I tried a few weeks ago. Couldn’t help myself. I tried again over Independence Day weekend thinking that its symbolism set against my fervor to avoid the news of modern America was, in a weird sense, patriotic in and of itself. I caved. This past weekend was going to be it.
I’m no news junkie. I, without much afore- or afterthought, go a day or two here and there without television rarely, but sometimes, and occasionally without news on TV when I do tune. In other words, there’s no feeling of want if I miss a news cycle. For whatever reason though, and in spite of what had built into a real yen to tune out for a weekend thus spent focused on goodness, nature, spirituality, and the important people (and cats) in my life, heading into Friday last made me uneasy. How wildly would the world spin for those three days? What would we be facing us come Monday morning? What global, national, or local security threats would have played out? And, as per the 2020 that we find ourselves in, what would the pandemic numbers look like on the other side of 70-80 hours of selfish, yet still blissful, ignorance?
As I said, strike three. I’m out.
Political discourse, which is a nebulous action that easily implicated itself into my scheme, was too important to scoff at for a three-day stint, most so during three days these days. It was admittedly a bit melodramatic to worry about the state of the world after not observing the TV news coverage of it for such a brief period. Still, I could not overcome the thought that when times are so wackadoo, and are as such in so many diverse yet connected strands of the fabric of life, there is a duty (call it patriotic if you will) to stay informed. Maybe with the combination of pervasive negative news coupled to the speed of 2020 communications that duty is heightened. I’m frustrated by it—the television news that finds no objectivity, or where “if it bleeds it leads”—as we all may be if we’re engaged viewers. Political discourse should result from the engagement.
The connections between a secured society and its ability and willingness to embrace and activate political discourse are solid. Without the citizenry’s intellect, the political body’s security wanes. Think about the most despotic, oppressive leaders and regimes throughout time. Discourse was eschewed in the streets, and downright illegal in many examples. We cannot afford, not even for the weekend, to disembark from learning, understanding, and then discoursing—it’s a word, I looked it up—meaning discussing, debating, and honing our positions. When we tune out, or go silent….
Ed is a professor of cybersecurity, an attorney, and a trained ethicist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.