Once upon a time I was a news junkie. I couldn't get enough of current affairs and I had a high interest in what was going on in the world. I felt that knowledge of global events was essential in understanding my place on planet Earth. I watched as much news on television as I could, listened to radio bulletins, devoured several newspapers a day and became absorbed in discussion programmes like BBC's Question Time. I loved it all.
But in recent years, and I can't really put my finger one one specific reason, I recoiled from news programmes and tended to skim the headlines to catch the bare minimum to keep me in touch with what was going on. I watched big news stories as they happened up until the point where repetition and commentator blether wore me down. I was suffering from news fatigue.
Perhaps my current negative feelings towards news presentation and analysis is to do with rolling bulletins on TV, avalanches of words in print dissecting every story, pugilistic radio phone-ins, fisticuff interviews and a tendency to overfeed viewers, listeners and readers with reports that are designed in some cases to create anguish, fear, adversity, distress, malaise and other afflictions in a bid to suck us in to becoming the kind of cowering sub-species that I mentioned at the beginning - news junkies. There may be a deliberate motive to brainwashing us into becoming lab rats manipulated into thinking and behaving in ways that suit whoever is driving the news bus.
It is a well-proven technique to push people to the edge and then grab hold of them with some kind of reassurance before they tip over into the abyss. The 'and finally' fun story at the end of a stressful news programme is supposed to tell us "there, there, everything will be alright". We are puppets, our strings are being pulled by agenda setters who decide what will be the "important" stories of each day.
We watch recorded reports on television and then watch the same reporter being interviewed live by the studio presenter, allowing us to hear the same stuff twice, just in case we are too moronic to pick the gist up from the original film. Sometimes viewers, listeners and readers can be summed up in one word - saps.
What makes us buy, believe and even vote the way we do? Who is manipulating and influencing the patterns of our daily lives? Who is probing our desires, needs and drives to find our points of vulnerability? Who is channeling our behaviour as citizens and adjusting our state of mind? Who is marketing the news and messing with our heads?
Politics, media and business merchandise their products to persuade us to make decisions in support of manifestos, agendas and plans. If, as a news junkie, I swamp myself with the cocktail of facts and opinions offered, I will soon hear the sound of the liquification of my cerebral cortex. If I choose to avoid detailed news coverage, I have a fighting chance that I will free myself up to think more independently and intelligently. In that scenario I could be accused of not caring about some of the terrible things that are happening in the world. Accuse away. It is not compulsory to follow the news and, for the time being, I choose not to. Whether or not I care about events is my business.
Every now and then I try to engage in news coverage but on hearing certain references, I reach for the off button.
So, this week on the blog, I will be mentioning trigger words and phrases that force me to switch off the news and avoid buying newspapers. But, no fool me, I will not fall into the trap of assuming that we live in a world of free speech. There will be a lot of asterisks because a word or phrase can attract all kinds of antisocial media shit and it will be up to anyone who gives a damn to guess what those words and phrases are - without any help from me.
First words and phrases tomorrow........