While I think the stakes for the upcoming election are pretty high, the past months of media coverage have only increased my conviction that there is something fundamentally wrong with our understanding of “the news.” I don’t follow “media studies” much, so the observation that follows may in some circles be a commonplace. But here it is: while we are to believe that there is always something new under the sun, and that an educated human being and a good citizen are to pay close attention to such developments in the news, in fact our fascination with the news causes us to spend a great deal of time and attention on things that are not very important. Within a week, a month, or a year, the vast majority of what appears on TV or in a newspaper will be rightfully forgotten, of interest only to specialists of one sort or another if to anyone at all. The news is for the most part not even the stuff that one will regret one day not remembering; it is the sort of thing that was not worth knowing in the first place.
What we call the news is really just the fractal repetitions of the human condition, the follies and triumphs that are experienced by individuals, communities, cities, states, nations, empires, each at its own scale. Those who are closely touched by these matters must for better and for worse attend to them to the appropriate degree. But our own affairs are just that; most of the time what the news tells about the affairs of others has very little to do with them, and our interest is the interest of the voyeur.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.