One of the reasons I don’t post much anymore is the sheer volume of fact-checking I have to do whenever I see current events. Clicking on a news story, I invariably discover conflicting accounts and spin putting it in different directions. People claim truth is subjective, and in today’s climate of persuasive and alternative facts, they’re right. I suppose that if one confuses every issue long enough, you can have your proverbial cake and eat it too.
What this means for me is that I keep feeling manipulated. I can’t just read about facts and make my own mind about it. Instead, I have to look for where the story doesn’t make sense, for where they’re hiding something. Good spinners of news will give people what they think they already know, which keeps consumers coming back for more. They’re not in the business of giving facts; they’re in the business of perpetuating a narrative.
Another problem I’m having is that this isn’t the first time I’ve expressed this feeling, or the first time I’ve had conversations about this. It seems like whenever I have conversations about it, people agree with me up to a point. Sure, news media is bad, in a general sense. What gets left out is the caveat: “But not the news I believe.”
I really do get why this is a thing; I grew up in a house where my mom listened to conservative talk radio all the time. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were big names (the latter was local to Huntsville, unfortunately), and I got to hear all sorts of messed up things when I rode in the car. Conspiracy theories about Bill Clinton spread like wildfire, and that was the first time I figured out that not everyone in the media says the truth.
Before people get too smug, other political camps are just as deplorable. There was a meme going around which claimed Mitch McConnell got help from medicare to cure a childhood illness. Turns out, that meme wasn’t true at all. But it sounded great, so nobody gave a fuck.
All of this builds to a greater point; it’s hard to believe in nothing because it’s better that way. Disillusionment doesn’t even begin to describe the despair I can get in. I can’t go anywhere without someone saying something extreme about people in whatever the other tribe is. This behavior makes us all look and sound like the apes we are, and not anything resembling a sentient species. Sometimes it gets really bad, and I feel we all get the misery we deserve.
In the end, I avoid talking about it because it doesn’t even solve the problem. People get defensive when their pet theories about the monstrosity of “those other people” get challenged. They’re more likely to just dig their heels in or maintain the illusion that it’s true for everyone but them. The last thing I want to do is help that along.
So, the more I see how fucked up things get, the less I want to get on those topics. It shouldn’t matter if people agree with me or not, about this or anything else. I’m trying to treat it like that, and get to a point where it doesn’t matter to me. While I can’t change the world, I can control how I feel about things. As it turns out, the least I can do is also the most I can do.
And if someone wants to manipulate me into getting irrationally terrified of the Donald Trumps and Barack Obamas of the world, I can just say that they’re barking up the wrong tree. It’s not that I don’t care about world events; it’s that I don’t care about the shit they’re covering it in.