It’s been 10 years exactly since I signed up for Twitter. Until recently I was spending a bit too much time arguing on the internet, which is like playing chess with a pigeon.
Twitter has been a great resource for me, but it’s a massive source of confirmation bias , and I’d be naive to think it hasn’t narrowed my views in some ways. Consuming opinions about current events on Twitter goes one of two ways:
1. Unbridled joy at a positive outcome, followed closely by the mocking of those who disagree, and retweeting of what racist thing Ann Coulter said about it.
2. Despair and outrage over a poor outcome, followed by apocalyptic predictions of “what this means” and retweeting of what racist thing Ann Coulter said about it.
This isn’t healthy. If there were prizes handed out on Twitter, they would go to the person with the quickest hot-take, joke, or take-down. It’s fun but it’s not news, and it’s not good for us.
I had already been working on limiting my use of social media, but the political dumpster fire currently burning in the United States pushed Twitter over the edge for me. It became painful to see what people are willing to believe. I started by deleting the Twitter apps from my phone, and blocked the site on my laptop for a week. That was a couple of months ago. I still check Twitter a few times per day for news, but stopped contributing for a while. The Earth still rotates without my opinion. If I believed it was good to have a hero, one of mine would be the late Christopher Hitchens, who once chiselled an old saying to perfection, “Everyone has a book in them and that, in most cases, is where it should stay”.
Twitter is a good place to be alerted about news, but a terrible place to become informed. I’ve compiled a short list of some of the publications, from new to traditional media, which I read and listen to regularly.
Things to Read
Please pay for news, even just to line a bird cage. Paying for journalists is important. We elect politicians once every few years. Journalists do the hard work of letting us know if they’ve done what they’ve promised to do.
To determine if a news source is following good journalistic principles, look for an apology they’ve made about anything at all. Good journalists inevitably mess up sometimes. If they’ve never admitted to making a mistake, and published a correction, they’re not reputable.
Try to read articles from sources that are not too politically skewed, and are not too optimistic about any politician. Good news sources are critical of both sides of the political spectrum. They make biases clear, and point out even the most benign conflicts of interest. We all tend to read news from sources that already reflect our political views. I read The New Yorker, and have for years. It’s certainly left-leaning, but it’s good smart writing from diverse perspectives, and it often prompts me to challenge my opinions. I enjoy it, and it’s important to read enjoyable things. You should read it too.
I’ve recently subscribed to the print version of The Atlantic. It’s vitally important that you find a smart person on the other side of the political spectrum to help you understand a different point of view. David Frum is the senior editor at The Atlantic, and really pisses me off sometimes. I gave him a chance because I used to watch his Mom on the news in the eighties, and when you know someone’s Mom, they always get a bit of a pass. He’s smart and he’s honest. He’s willing to go against his party on principle. He wrote a brilliant article on Trump, and I look forward to disagreeing with him again when the Trump era is over. The Atlantic is not all politics. It offers a great range of writing and will make you smarter.
Your Local Paper
Local papers are losing money and laying off some of the only people that attend your local parks and school board meetings. They are important. There are local politicians who get elected by default because nobody runs against them. A politician who runs in an election unopposed cannot possibly be doing their job. Your local newspaper, provided they’re still in business, can let you know where your tax dollars are being spent with far more accuracy than the cable news networks. If you know what they’re doing in city counsel meetings, you can show up to those meetings, and can actually make them change their minds.
Things to Listen to
Run by Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor, all former Democrat staffers. Crooked Media is an unapologetically liberal-slanted media company. They run several podcasts about politics in the US, and take an honest and humble stance on the recent political developments. It’s a refreshing and calming take on how to live within the Trump administration from people who actually worked in the White House. While they make me more scared of the current Trump inner circle, they are optimistic that the people who do the work in Washington are human beings with actual hearts.
The National Public Radio Politics Podcast is labelled as left-leaning pretty much everywhere, but I find it to be a good short summary of what happened in the week, and what it means. They take the outrage down a notch, and do a great job explaining policies without buzz-words.
Are you a conservative who thinks my sources are bad? Do you have a reading or listening suggestion for me? Do you want to give me and my family a spot on your rocket-ship to a world without turmoil? I’m leaving comments open on this post.
Be nice, or at least be funny.