On News from the Seat of Seeing

The Breaking of the Fellowship


The endless stream of news (Source)

One of the gentlemen behind a podcast which I frequent (Hello Internet) has a general disdain and dislike for “the news” which resonated with me. Many of the reasons he gave against following “the news” – the manipulation by business and political interests, the need to “create” stories out of nothing within a 24/7 news cycle, the general philosophy to “report first, correct later” – checked off boxes of agreement in my mind. Then this post-modern, technology-minded Youtuber gave an argument against “the news” that I did not expect, not because I didn’t heartily approve but because I associated it with a very different cultural and philosophical group. His notion? “The news” tries to sell stories that have no relevance to you personally, either due to geographical or systemic distance.

I personally find myself strained in my interaction with the media. As a student of international relations who by faith feels a strong connection with globalized (think “Catholic”) community, I am naturally interested in news from distant lands and follow it accordingly. At the same time, I find “the news” exhausting and frustrating with which to engage, more often as an outlet for boredom and a temptation towards distraction than any enlightenment or solidarity. The modern news apparatus further antagonizes my subsidarian localism. The stories that really influence me and that (importantly) I can significantly engage – town-level politics, local schools, nearby happenings – go unreported by a society that finds such news parochial and uneventful. National and international circumstances, where my vote has insignificant impact, the vast majority involving people I will never meet, a signification portion of which will never impart a single effect upon me, consume the airwaves.

Now, to be fair, I understand the arguments for appreciating the results of national elections, or recognizing the growth of problematic transnational issues; I further am resigned that such a media direction is perhaps inevitable in a globalized world. We sit now upon the Internet as Frodo saw upon the ancient seat on Amon Hen, and with our amplified power we look east, north, west, and south. Like Frodo we can view plains whose names we either do not know or will not remember; like Frodo we can witness the activity of the world; like Frodo we can be privy to the secret movements and hopes that are hidden from our unaided eyes.

Yet, there is a danger in such sight, in having news from all corners of the earth. Certainly, Internet and its news structures can give us information about evils and dangers, but they can also misconstrue them for our eyes. The images we see can be manipulated, and (like – spoiler alert – Denethor) we can lose hope in that despairing knowledge. In seeing the whole world, we can lose connection to that little piece of earth for which we truly love and care, for it is much easier to defend one’s small home than to rally behind the whole earth. That is the wisdom of hobbits, who love the Shire dearly; that is the wisdom of God, who loves everything as a particular.

In short, from Amon Hen we see the the strengths and weaknesses of “the news”: we recognize the necessity for information, but also the burdens it can place upon us. There is a balance that must be struck between know-nothings and global citizenship, for neither extreme possess true knowledge. While being aware of the world and its turnings, we must come to know our local communities with their joys and sorrows. Only then will we find something relevant, something meaningful, something worth fighting for.

2015’s Reflection: “On Sundering


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