Adam Stoner

The News

Do you remember last week when one war criminal tried to march to Moscow to kill – or chat to, I don’t really know – the other war criminal?

What a bonkers Saturday that was!

I spent the whole day, a beautiful summer’s day, in front of the telly – and BBC were bloody brilliant, delivering half hourly updates of how far down the road the Wagner forces were… And then, by 7pm here in the UK, the entire thing was over.

The events of last weekend just left me with this horrid, empty feeling…

The most important stories in the world are non-stories because they happen over a period of time that most of us can’t comprehend. They’re slow, powerful movements.

The real news isn’t that somebody decided to bum rush the Russian capital one day in June. It’s a tale of private military companies like Wagner and their dramatic rise all over world right after the Cold War. It’s a tale of mercenary groups, of guns for hire and renegade soldiers. It’s the story of secret government funding, of switching allegiances and of the tensions that brings to foreign policy.

Sure, it might have bubbled to the surface for 24 hours last weekend, but it’s a story that’s 30 years in the making.

The real stories take decades or more to be told.

The world and what happens in it is not just a series of attention-grabbing headlines. It’s a huge tapestry of things that are deeply interconnected. These long-term stories are the ones that truly shape our world. They’re the threads that create the fabric of society. But by focusing solely on the immediate, rolling news headlines, we miss the bigger picture. We fail to see underlying patterns and deep-rooted issues that shape our world.

It’s like watching the two minute highlights of a football match without understanding the tens of thousands of hours of coaching, training and history that led up to those few goals or even the other 88 minutes where both teams try and fail time and time again to score.

And it leaves me feeling empty.

In a recent study with over 600 respondents, only 8% of people thought that following the news had no impact on their mental health. Most thought the effect was negative and I think this is the crux of why last weekend felt so bad.

I was caught in a vicious cycle, perpetually chasing the latest updates without ever gaining a true understanding of what was actually happening and why. It’s a situation I find myself in time and time again, this relentless focus on the immediate, an inability to see the bigger picture and the disregard for those deeper threads leaves me regretting – regretting the loss of my time, regretting the nice summer day I wasted in front of the telly watching BBC News.

Over four-fifths of respondents to that study that I mentioned just now had actively switched off from the news in order to protect their headspace.

And I’m one of them.

I’ve not read or watched the news all week.

I have no idea what’s going on.

And I like that!

It’s not ignorance or apathy.

It’s seeking a more considered approach. It’s hunting the long-term narratives and appreciating the gradual transformations that shape our society.

See news is to the brain what sugar is to the body. You can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, tidbits like jelly beans, but these jelly beans don’t nourish you. They don’t give you understanding. Events, news events are just things happening flickering on the world surface. But to make better decisions you want to understand what drives these events, what generates these events. And news stories don’t tell you that. News give you the illusion of understanding and that illusion is dangerous. I came to realise, the more news you consume, the less you understand the world.

30 Jun 2023

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