Why I’m not watching the News any more

I’ve reached the point where I can’t watch or read mainstream news reports. I’ve had difficulty with them throughout the pandemic with their incessant reporting of Covid cases and deaths completely devoid of context (how many cases were serious enough to cause hospitalisations? How many deaths were ‘of’ Covid rather than ‘with’ it? How many of the deaths were excess deaths; how many people die in any given period normally?) Ignoring context, the media became intent on fostering anxiety and panic. Their reporting was not independent; in the UK at least they parroted uncritically and relentlessly the government’s position. This, in turn, was shaped by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and in particular the predictions of computer modeller Neil Ferguson. Ferguson, regularly interviewed on BBC news programmes, was, as he now admits, wrong on every occasion. Very wrong. The pandemic was nowhere near as drastic as he repeatedly said it was going to be (I’m not disputing how serious it was. It was not, however, anywhere as near as bad as he kept predicting it would be). Yet the government and the media continued to rely on his predictions as if they were fact.

All of which is the reason I reduced my watching, listening and reading of the news to a minimum. Headlines only. Early in the summer of this year, the UK government felt the need to restore some normality to society, it asked the mainstream media to reduce its reporting of Covid statistics. All media outlets immediately complied. Conservatives can never say again that the BBC in particular is biased against them; it has done their bidding throughout the pandemic.

This is not, however, the reason I am abandoning the news, giving up even on headlines. I am tired of predictions, conjecture, speculation, forecasts and extrapolation. None of these is news. They are attempts to see the future, something that we are incapable of doing. Of course we need to be aware of potential consequences of decisions or actions, our own, governments’ and society’s. But reporting those possible consequences as fact, as outcomes that are inevitable, fait accompli, like Neil Ferguson’s hopeless predictions, is not what news reporting should be about. Its job is to tell us what has happened, how, where and possibly why (analysis). That it extends itself well beyond this by determining for us what a particular development means ‘for the future’ or ‘’in the long term’ is nothing more than supposition. It also, dangerously, leads to some self-fulfilling prophecy, such as we’ve seen in the reporting of recent supply chain difficulties. That these were restricted to specific areas was not reported but the possibility that these difficulties could, possibly, maybe, result in food shortages was. Result? Panic buying and food shortages in some areas. The same happened with supposed fuel shortages. Christmas is now in danger according to the UK media.

With Covid largely off the agenda, the news media find themselves in need of something else with which to fill schedules; some alternative source of doom and gloom. The mainstream (in the UK, at least) has opted for climate change, replete with forecasts of catastrophe, destruction and extinction. Of course it’s possible that if we do not act collectively to reduce the human contribution to climate change, that these outcomes will come to pass. It’s possible but it isn’t certain to be the case. Who remembers the media reporting that by this point in the 21st century we would be living in an ice age because of climate change? (This speculation is still about and has traction in some quarters).The news is that climate change is happening. That’s it. What we might do about it is for some other source that doesn’t claim to be delivering news.

I am tired of the narrative of the day, be it #MeToo, Brexit, BLM, Covid, climate change. Tired of its promotion by the media, of the prediction and conjecture that goes along with it, but only while it attracts sufficient viewers or readers. When something more ‘newsworthy’, sensational and alarmist comes along, what was once narrative of the day is dropped. There’s a new bandwagon to jump on! This time though, I’m doing the dropping first.

 

Is It Me?

Is it me?

Has the world gone completely mad during the pandemic?

It’s one of the two. In the UK, we have panic buying of fuel because of a shortage in some areas of delivery drivers and the consequent closure of a small number of petrol stations. According to a leading motoring organisation, we have over 5 times the usual number of people putting the wrong kind of fuel into their cars (diesel instead of petrol or vice versa.) There have even been some fights. The would-be German chancellor, Olaf Scholz (not yet, Olaf!) blames Brexit, which is a rather curious thing to do when Europe too, as well as the US, is likewise suffering from a shortage of delivery drivers. Perhaps it’s Covid, with some foreign drivers having returned home at the start of the pandemic, never to return. Perhaps it’s the poor working conditions for drivers in the UK or the fact that some companies have driven down their wages, making the job less attractive.

We have civil servants, who, despite their title, are neither civil nor cognisant of their duty to serve the public. Rather, it is, apparently, the public’s duty to comply with all of their demands. I’ve been dealing today, for example, with the DVLA, the agency that handles driving licences in the UK. They want my son, who lives in Australia, to renew his UK licence. He has explained to them by email why he won’t be doing so, only to be instructed to send his explanation in writing. You might think an email is in writing, but you’d be wrong. An email simply won’t do. It must be a letter in the post. Explanations are unacceptable in any other form.

Is it me?

Many civil servants are still working from home following the lockdowns and are reluctant to return to the office. A number of services are unavailable as a result, including queries about tax and pensions, as well as applying for various government permits. Perhaps I’m being unrealistic or unreasonable, but are these people, all of whom have been on full pay throughout the pandemic, working or are they not? Is ‘working from home’ now a euphemism for ‘avoiding dealing with the public we’re meant to serve’?

I don’t know. Maybe it is me.

I’ve been collecting together some of posts from this here blog into book form, as I’ve done several times in the past, using Amazon’s Kindle Direct. (What a splendid Christmas present it will make when it eventually goes on sale – I’ll be sure to let you all know when it does.) Amazon, however, emailed me a couple of hours after I submitted it yesterday, asking me to confirm whether the author of the book (me) is alive or dead. Apart from the pointlessness of this request, I do wonder how, if I were dead, I would confirm the fact.

Doctors (GPs) are now diagnosing people by phone, with many resisting the efforts to get them to resume face-to-face appointments. It took me three weeks to secure an in-person appointment with a doctor recently. I almost put ‘my’ doctor there, but as I’d never seen this particular doc before and am unlikely ever to see him again, I’m not sure ‘my’ really applies. Meanwhile, the Labour Party, the only serious opposition to the UK government, is currently embroiled in an argument about whether only a woman is in possession of a cervix. Many members of the party are reluctant to say and those who have, have been subject to verbal abuse. It is, obviously, the burning issue of the day.

It must be me. Perhaps I’m just getting old and grumpy. Maybe I’ve been locked up (let’s call it what it is) too many times during the last 18 months and, like my fellow Brits, am now facing the possibility of being locked up again this winter because successive UK governments have failed to get to grips with an ailing health service.

If it’s not me, then quite possibly world really has gone mad.