Last month, after ISIS beheaded American journalist James Foley and posted the video on the internet, I decided enough was enough. The parade of bad news was an anchor dragging on my sense of well-being. Besides the turmoil in Iraq and Syria, there was news that more than a thousand Russian troops had moved into the Ukraine, there were protests over the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and Congress left on summer vacation without addressing global warming or immigration (in fact, this Congress addressed little other than their own reelections). Throughout all this, the cacophony of arguments and counterarguments spewed forth on the television and the internet, never ending, rarely slowing, and devouring such cherished aspects of debate as ‘nuance’ and ‘facts.’ All of this served to foster in me feelings of anger, anxiety, frustration, and even a smattering of despair. This is something that had been building for a long time. Politics is nothing if not a soul-sucking enterprise. It never ends. There is never any resolution to the debates. Increasingly, it has turned into a zero-sum game. One side has to win and the other side has to lose. The greater the pain is for the losing side, the better.
I realized that I had been caught up in a media game. Everything I was seeing had apocalyptic portents, or was treated as such, and I just could not take it anymore. Paying close attention to current events was taking a toll on my quality of life, so I made the decision to step away. I decided that I would take a break from the news — a news embargo. For the last four weeks or so, I haven’t sought out national or international news. I have absorbed some news by osmosis, but only because it’s impossible to avoid all news while still frequenting the internet. But, since I started, the embargo has been a success. For the last month, I have not seen hide nor hair of the likes of Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, the Pauls (Ron and/or Rand), Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi, Rush Limbaugh, Rachel Maddow, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Paul Krugman, Thomas Friedman, S.E. Cupp, Al Sharpton, Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, Angela Merkel, David Cameron, or any other big name in the news other than President Obama (again, news by osmosis). I have not visited the New York Times’ or Washington Post’s sites. I have stayed away from the Huffington Post, Slate, and Salon. I have not watched This Week, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday, or The McLaughlin Group. I have lost touch with the good, sure, but it’s worth it to not have to deal with the hucksters and the assholes. I am ignorant of all significant world events since I began the embargo, and I do not care, because all those events seem to involve people I hate to some extent.
I had planned to only take a week or two before getting back into the news, but I find that the damage has yet to be repaired. The cursory headline I encounter still causes all the bad feelings to threaten. Until such time as I can see a bit of news and not feel flashes of existential dread, I don’t think I can go back. But, besides that, ignorance is bliss. I believe that it is a person’s responsibility to be informed about the world around them. For most of my life, I have taken on that responsibility with pride. I have liked having a sense of the world, of there being only a handful of issues on which I was uninformed. But the emotional rollercoaster became too much, and I have found that, for now, I just feel better staying ignorant. Every person who is responsible for current events can fuck off. This mind is closed for business.