Not so long ago, I mentioned that in terms of television, "I watch basically nothing anymore except basketball and ponies." This implied to some that I wasn't a major consumer of television news, which is absolutely true: I have no idea which overstyled anchor is on at what time, nor do I pay any particular attention to the cable-pundit shows, inasmuch as what somebody else thinks about an issue seldom has any effect on what I think about that issue. Nor do I torture myself by sitting through some of this dreck "so you don't have to": I believe, generally, that no one actually has to, but inasmuch as the Ruling Class is making plans to finish off the rest of us, once in a while I probably ought to track their motions.

That said, I avoid some stories because of their sheer emetic effect. What I wasn't expecting, however, was that some reportorial types would do the same. Megan McArdle, on the trial of Pennsylvania abortionist Kermit Gosnell, which isn't exactly hitting the front pages of late:

To start, it makes me ill. I haven't been able to bring myself to read the grand jury inquiry. I am someone who cringes when I hear a description of a sprained ankle.

But I understand why my readers suspect me, and other pro-choice mainstream journalists, of being selective — of not wanting to cover the story because it showcased the ugliest possibilities of abortion rights. The truth is that most of us tend to be less interested in sick-making stories — if the sick-making was done by "our side."

There was a time, you may remember, when news media claimed that there was no such entity as "our side," and further that they are far more trustworthy today as a result. This would be laughable were it not so blatantly false. Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds quips:

It's not surprising that when journalism started recruiting from the apparatchik class, it became part of the apparat. Or maybe it's the other way around....

I suspect McArdle's declaration might have carried some weight had she suggested that "it makes me ill" was more than mere metaphor. Rolf Dobelli would have backed her up on that:

News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High glucocorticoid levels cause impaired digestion, lack of growth (cell, hair, bone), nervousness and susceptibility to infections. The other potential side-effects include fear, aggression, tunnel-vision and desensitisation.

This appeared in an actual newspaper — well, in the Guardian, which meets some of the basic criteria for being a newspaper — and Dobelli said later on Twitter that he was "[s]urprised that they had the courage to print it...."

I spend enough time out in the social-media universe to notice how utterly bent out of shape people become over the Issue of the Moment. I carry no brief for characters like Gosnell; were it up to me, they would be sectioned into pieces that would fit a waffle iron, and then — well, you get the idea. Since it actually isn't up to me, though, I keep my emotional distance. Better for my limbic system, you know.

The Vent

#817
  15 April 2013

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