No news is good news

I have a friend who’s decided to unplug herself. No, not suicide. She is disconnecting from her television, radio and the Internet.

I have a friend who’s decided to unplug herself.

No, not suicide. The opposite, actually. She is disconnecting from her television, radio and the Internet. She will no longer read a newspaper, flip through a magazine or even answer a telephone.

She’s going to an unelectrified cabin in the backwoods of Oregon where she plans to stay for three years. She will greet the next thousand-plus days having absolutely no idea what Putin is up to, who’s been beheaded in Syria, why Kim Kardashian is divorcing or what Justin Bieber has been arrested for.

It’s too radical a move for me but I sympathise. So, I suspect, would Joel Gascoigne. He’s an online blogger who has analyzed news content and concluded that following the news is toxic to our health.

According to Gascoigne, negative news stories (coups, rapes, muggings, plagues and pestilence etc.) outnumber good news stories by a ratio of seventeen to one. He argues that real life isn’t that grim and that such a diet predisposes us to paranoid expectations.

That would help to explain the story about a driver in Maryland who recently dialed 911 to report an emergency. Five police squad cars sped to the scene where two children, aged 10 and six were…

…walking down the street unsupervised.

The police bundled the kids into the backseat of a cruiser and drove them home where they lectured the father for neglect.

Dad — bless him — responded: “What are you talking about? I dropped my kids off at the park and they were walking home.”

I hate to use the old geezer chestnut that begins “When I was a kid…” but when I was a kid I’d have been lucky to get a ride to the park in the first place.

Our parents turned us loose after breakfast and didn’t expect to see us until dinner time.  They didn’t give a thought to child molesters, kidnappers or creeps in stained trench coats — and you know what? Nothing bad happened.  We were fine.

Is the world more dangerous today? Emphatically not. Studies show that North Americans live in the most peaceable kingdom in history. You’d never guess it from the news. I remember when we got the news from guys who sounded (and looked) like your wise uncle (Walter Cronkite, Earl Cameron, Lloyd Robertson).

Now, CBC Radio employs a frenetic, hyper-excited promo guy who comes on before the news sounding like Alvin the Chipmunk on Benzedrine. I often miss the newscast because I hit the kill switch as soon as I hear his adenoidal “COMING UP!!! AFTER THE NEWS!!!”

Me and thousands of others. “The Sky Is Falling” approach to news is turning off readers, listeners and watchers in droves.

Mind you, it still works for some practitioners. The Harper Government is deftly surfing a wave of fear mongering and sabre rattling to what it hopes will be another election victory. Ottawa spent $16 million glorifying the War of 1812 but not a single beaver-backed nickel to address the problem of climate change. Are we as dumb as they think?

But listen to me — I’m scratching away at the very rash I’ve been complaining about. Ignore my moans. Listen instead to my friend who sent a message just before she headed off on her backwoods retreat. She invited me to keep in touch by snail mail, but:

“Just don’t tell me anything about killing, war and violence. That, I don’t want to hear about!”

— Arthur Black lives on Saltspring  Island. His column appears Tuesday in The NEWS. E-mail: arblack43@shaw.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: Learning continues in unique ways for SD 69 students

Youngsters find ways to excel while learning at home

PQBeat Podcast: Pro hockey goalie Connor LaCouvee of Qualicum Beach

Listen: Netminder talks BCHL, college, pros and training during a pandemic

Petition underway to get RDN to improve Sandpiper water quality

Campaign urges regional district to make issue a priority

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

COVID-19: Some gyms re-open in Parksville Qualicum Beach

Fitness facilities create space to allow appropriate social distancing

Island Health signs working agreement to turn former Comox hospital into a ‘dementia village’

Island Health has signed a project development agreement with Providence Living to… Continue reading

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Snowbirds jets will not be leaving Kamloops, just yet

The Snowbirds have been in Kamloops since May 17 when a plane crashed killing Capt. Jennifer Casey

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

COVID-19 checkpoints ‘up to them,’ Bonnie Henry says of remote B.C. villages

Support local tourism economy, but only if you’re invited in

Most Read