It would seem that the news has become an increasingly frustrating affair to keep up to date on, whether that be because of the increasing amount of horrifying content or the intrusive ways that the media industry has come to force that content onto us. In response to this frustration, a growing population of people have begun to completely tune out the news. In order to avoid the anger and frustration often caused by appraisal of current events, they simply choose to tout their privilege and security by disavowing current events altogether. However, this mindset just perpetuates the injustices the news reports on in the first place.
News outlets play a vital role in a healthy democracy. In order for a democracy to function, its citizens need to be informed. The news serves as the liaison between the people and the government, an entity whose sole purpose is to serve the people. People who choose to ignore the news, therefore, are only doing a disservice to themselves. In fact, choosing to ignore the news because its contents are “too depressing” or anger-invoking is entirely hypocritical. If you truly care about contentious issues to the point that you become upset when hearing about them, then you should want to remain informed so you can hold your government accountable.
Whenever I go home and, inevitably, end up in a political debate with my family or knee-deep in a discussion about another terrifying Trump tweet, my sister proudly declares that she doesn’t look at any of that and is much happier for it. This always sparks a tangential debate as I argue with her about how I disagree with her attitude toward politics and the world around her. “How can you expect to vote with any confidence in elections if you have no idea what is going on in the world around you?” I ask her.
To remain ignorant of the issues that are pervading society is to allow those issues to continue. In a democracy, ignorance is complacency. I don’t want you to tune out. I don’t want you to be relaxed with the way things are. Pay attention. I want you to be angry. You say these issues upset you, yet you are unwilling to be upset by them. You would rather be comfortable and ignorant than continue in your discomfort until you see that these issues are resolved. So instead, you simply tune out. You allow these horrifying realities to continue without protest.
This is how democracies fail. When this mentality spreads and it becomes normal for people to “all [leave] the driving up to someone else,” corruption flourishes and rights disappear in silence (The Guardian, “My year of living ignorantly: I entered a news blackout the day Trump was elected,” 01.18.18). Don’t think for one moment that the United States’ dubious reputation as a leader among democracies can save it from slipping into the grips of corruption if its residents lose interest in monitoring and correcting its course. If you care at all about the future of your country and the lives of those around you—which I assume you do, considering how much of the news upsets you—then it is your duty to stay informed, to know the issues arising and to know what part you can play in those issues, however big or small they may be. And if you don’t read the news because you lack empathy and don’t care? Just fess up already.
The reason that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are such successful candidates, and frankly why Donald Trump was in 2016, is because they are able to tap into what makes people angry. They remind people why they are angry and why they should be angry. If you want to avoid the frustration of events found in the news, don’t selfishly tune them out, because there are people who do not have that luxury. The horrors you read about affect real people in real, unavoidable ways. Pay attention, see the terrible things that are happening and get fucking angry. Use that anger. Do something about it.