Why You Should Permanently Stop Watching the News
I’m biased, but let me attempt to paint the most positive argument for why you should watch the news, why you should be informed, why you should stay up to date with the latest in geopolitics, foreign policy, election cycles, and the like.
You want to be informed. You don’t want to live your life in a bubble where you’re only concerned with your self-interested thoughts. The events that unfold in the political arena impact your life directly. Foreign policy issues can definitely reach home — we’re only a mere 81 years from it happening and 58 years from it almost happening. Heck, if you count terrorist attacks on U.S. soil both foreign and domestic, one could posit that we’re constantly under threat.
If you’re not informed, you won’t be able to make decisions that can impact your life. Being informed helps you vote for the right representatives who represent your ideals, who will vote for and pass laws that will positively affect your condition, who will ensure that nefarious actors don’t get too much power to cause the opposite to happen.
From healthcare to the economic impact of tax cuts to wildlife conversation policies (or lack therof) to the existential threat of climate change to impeachment to drone strikes to kids in cages to secret FISA courts to Boeing and Raytheon to the Fed to Ukraine to the debates and beyond, there’s a lot to worry about. There’s a lot you should know, right?
Wrong. I’ll tell you why.
When it comes to my decision-making process, I use some simple rules of thumb — What’s the upside? And what’s the downside?
I structure my life to be successful by making decisions that have high upside and a reasonably low downside. Let’s use that equation when it comes to being obsessed with politics.
What’s the upside of being compulsively obsessed with politics? You get “informed.” But what does that even mean?
Ok, let’s say you figure everything out. You get to the heart of a decade’s long proxy word filled with bad actors on all sides who switched sides all the time — sadly, I don’t think many people know Osama Bin Laden was a CIA asset for the United States, just one example.
You know exactly who armed which side of the civil wars, which dictators are propped up and which aren’t, who the good and bad guys are.
Say you’re able to somehow think in second, third, fourth, and nth order effects of war and come up with the perfect solution. Let’s say you knew exactly how to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Let’s say you knew literally everything about foreign policy and geopolitics.
You somehow cracked the code to climate change and know the perfect policy prescription to fix it all.
You’ve somehow managed to successful model an infinite number of variables and predict the future — you’re the sole macroeconomist with predictive ability in the history of macroeconomists.
You know how to change the incentive structures that lead to things like an oligarchical healthcare and pharmaceutical system, the student loan bubble, poverty.
You know everything there possibly is to know. You’re a goddamned oracle.
Tell me what your upside is.
You’re informed, that’s your entire upside. You can’t actually do anything about it. You can vote, sure, but I’ll get to the downsides of that shortly.
You can protest, which has worked successfully before. But let’s be honest, you don’t have that Selma energy. No one protests with that energy anymore.
Collectively, if all of the “correct” people were able to not only agree on the facts, but the problems, solutions, forecasts, and representatives to carry through the policy prescriptions, there would be a path to voting our way to Utopia.
Now, let’s look at the downsides:
You get overly upset about things and people you have no control over. You drink poison waiting for someone else to die — Trump Derangement Syndrome should be in the DSM-5. I’m not a fan of the guy either, but I’m not going to let him ruin my mental health.
You begin to see the world as a more dangerous and scary place than it really is. Yes, I’m aware that with nukes, climate, etc, we’re constantly sitting on a barrel of dynamite. Aside from that nasty tail risk, though, things are going great — net positive. You wouldn’t know that by watching the news. It’s not what they tell you. It’s what they don’t tell you. The cherry-picking aspect of the news makes you have a distorted image of the world.
It’s known that high arousal negative emotions create the most engagement, so there’s every economic incentive to make you as angry, outraged, and vehemently worried as possible. Some woman commented on my Facebook status that her 15 year old daughter is worried about World War 3. Why? She’s 15. Can’t fight in the war, can’t vote, can’t even stay out that late at night. My goodness.
But this is where we’re at in society. At this point, I know the collective consciousness is fucked, which is why I write for individuals. It’s on you to see through the noise and understand what’s best for you. As it stands, there are plenty of armchair geopolitical experts keeping watch at the gates for you. Let them do it.
Collectivist thinking slowly but surely robs you of your agency and creates learned helplessness. Your default state isn’t to…rely on the state. No, you were born sovereign, autonomous, and free. You’re taught dependence, indentured servitude, and whatever the societal brainwashing cocktail du jour happens to be.
Imagine thinking that who gets elected president is going to affect some of the most important things in your life like:
- Your income
- Your happiness level and contentment
- Your sense of meaning
- Your honor and pride as a human
- Your productivity level
- Your ability to create alternative routes to success
- Your erudition (something antithetical to being “informed”
Look. Trust me. I get it.
I come off as someone who doesn’t care about the events of the world. The exact opposite is true. I deeply care about the events of the world. I understand how many atrocities, injustices, and a plethora of things that don’t need to happen at all, happen regularly.
I know that the institutions of society have an impact on my day to day life, your day to day life, all of our day to day lives. Gosh, how many people don’t get to pursue the careers they want simply because of the healthcare mess. I get it.
Instead of turning a blind eye to current events, I’ve actually spent years going through them with a fine-toothed comb. I’d wager that I’ve read more about both current and historical events from multiple perspectives than you have. I’d bet my life savings on it. I love devouring information. And I’ve devoured it.
Exercise your civic duty when the time comes, don’t watch the news, understand that the big events will find you anyway, and otherwise focus on improving your own life.
I could go on forever, but let’s look at my top three reasons.
Politicians are sociopaths. All of them. To rise in political power, you need to have dark triad traits — narcissism, Machieavellianism, and psychopathy. I don’t care which side you’re on. Your elected representative is a nut job. To boot, they don’t care about you at all. They tell you what you want to hear so you’ll elect them again. That’s it. Think about it, when do they actually do anything they say they’ll do? Either side? Never. Zero times.
And if you look at the way they live their lives, you’d understand how little they care about you and how big of a walking contradiction they are — living in gated communities while their districts struggle and living handsomely off legal loopholes while convincing you that “the rich” are to blame but…they’re all rich.
Two. The government is bad at everything. The government is set up to be inefficient — layers of beuarocratic red tape, arbitrary barriers to entry and stupid regulations for industries, and even the way government employment is set up makes for the most inefficient process possible — it’s almost impossible to get fired from a government job, so the incentives to work hard are basically zero. It’s not very difficult to see that the people running this country are morons. Don’t waste a second trying to “analyze” any of them.
Three. Not to get all Alex Jones on you, but there is such a thing as the Deep State. Do I think some secret Kabal is running the world? Not literally. But when you look at incentive structures, money, and the players involved, it’s very clear to see that this train ain’t coming off the tracks anytime soon.
Eisenhower warned us:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”
It’s too late. The Monstars have infinite juice and Michael Jordan is retired.
Here’s the real moral of the story though.
And I’ll use a quote from one of my favorite books to illustrate the concept:
“You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study… Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it overstatement but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.” — Steven Pressfield. The War of Art
No, the moral of the story is not that you are Hitler. The moral of the story is that almost anything is more difficult than just focusing on…doing the ‘thing’ you’re supposed to be doing.
People would rather swan dive into nihilism and ruin their mental health in the name of “being informed” that just try to change their lives and find a purpose. Because that’s how difficult and scary finding a purpose is.
Once you find it, though, you’ll work on yourself with the full knowledge that, yes, the world can be quite a nasty place. But instead of focusing on that, you’ll do what you can to bring light to the world.