How to know less without really trying

There’s a sort of anti-wisdom in news broadcasts and the speeches of politicians, such that when you’ve listened to them you know less about The Real than you did before.  I could have consumed unreality this morning by pausing for a moment to watch President Obama lie to American Jews in his speech to AIPAC or by listening to the news liars bloviate about their religion of politics, but instead I nourished myself with The Real: I helped our 7-year-old daughter open a new gallon of milk and pour some on her cereal, and I helped clean up the spilled milk with a paper towel.

So, here is White’s Law: the more you listen to the news, the less informed you are.

Later: C.S. Lewis makes a similar point in Letter I of The Screwtape Letters:

At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning.  But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that.

Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences.  Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it “real life” and don’t let him ask what he means by “real”.


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