One of the first things which I can remember being instructed to do -in relation to my Sociology degree- was to keep abreast of current affairs. This, quite obviously, would involve watching the news on a regular basis (something which I had always done) along with making a habit of regular newspaper consumption. Not a problem, easy. Well, I got into the habit of watching news broadcasts whilst eating breakfast, watching Newsnight or Question Time whilst eating dinner. Along with this I’d be sure to scan over several tabloid websites in-between lectures, being careful to consume ‘the news’ from a variety of sources.
This exercise soon became extremely annoying, due quite simply, to the dam right depressing nature of global events covered by newspapers and the like. While I can see the importance of media consumption in the form of current affairs, it reached the point (for myself at least) where I could no longer bear to even glimpse at the newspaper stands in my local shop. So, this summer I thought sod it, leave the news consumption habits in Leicester, take a break and concentrate on what is in front of your own eyes, not the eyes of reporters and journalists. Sounds selfish, I know. But realistically there is very little I can do about the worlds social, political and economic problems, other than read about them and feel evermore suffocated by the terrible deeds and injustice which we, as human beings, inflict upon our very own for all manner of pathetic reasons.
So with a slightly clouded conscience I actively avoided all types of current affairs media and instead concentrated more and more upon work, friends, family and having a good time.
Anyone who has tried this will realise how easy it is. And to anyone who is, like me, at the end of their tether with all the worlds bs, TAKE A NEWS DETOX!
Ignorance really is bliss. The problem is that while being able to avoid prolonged consumption of the news, certain parts are unfortunately, utterly unavoidable. The odd front page catches the eye here and there; occasionally you’ll catch yourself reading off the television news rolling text in a kebab house or train station cafe; the single most drastic type of news leak however, comes in the form of conversation in enclosed spaces with friends and acquaintances; buses, cars and pubs all being good examples.
So while discussion and exposures to current affairs have a nasty habit of sneaking up on you, it is not necessary to become a complete recluse. In fact, after a while I began to realise that even without following each and every drip of news, it is possible to form an opinion upon current affairs, which while not being very well informed, can indeed be solid, thus not completely bewildered or lacking in originality.
One particular example of this involved a bus journey with a handful of friends. For one reason or another our conversation turned to the recent incident involving one of two ‘suspects’ accused of the murder of a member of the British forces. Apparently (and I’m going on complete word of mouth here, remember I haven’t been paying any attention to the news) one of the two suspects had his two front teeth knocked out, in prison, by a prison guard using perfectly acceptable levels of force. Again, going from word of mouth here, I was led to believe that certain sections of the popular press valorised this act of violence. Sat there on the bus I felt the critic perk up. “Surely” I said, “this sends out the wrong message”. Much of the media coverage of this particular story at the time was extremely damaging to all sections of British Muslim society. There was a spate of revenge attacks upon individuals and even Muslim institutions. The conversation then took a darker tone; “I’d do this to him”, “I’d do that to him” etc. “so surely that would make you just as bad as the accused perpetrator” was my reply in a nutshell. I could see that I had tripped a nerve and that, given the circumstances and situation we were in such a conversation/debate was unwarranted and did not fit the bill; we were on the way to a house party with a slip’n’slide not an EDL rally.
I guess that while my opinion on this matter might have gone against the tide of general opinion in the specific situation, it was never the less, perfectly plausible an opinion which was formed, importantly, without any prior consideration or consumption of the story.
The realisation for myself was that while I had been instructed to keep up to date with current affairs via a range of outlets and mediums, this request was not made in an effort to turn me into a complete nervous/emotional wreck or indeed, utter cynic. The instruction was given so that I could build upon my critical analysis abilities, whilst also learning how to form more logic and critical opinion from the deep, dark jungle of views and opinions which the press represent and communicate. The important thing is that we don’t take one set of opinions from the press and make such veiws the only acceptable ones to have.
As for all this royal baby stuff…