Volume of News and Consequence

“If you want to make people accepting of the status quo, give them no news at all, or give them so much they’ll drown in it. Then, nothing will ever have to change.” — Alain de Botton

During a drive home, CBC radio was playing an interview with the philosopher Alain de Botton. I only heard about fifteen minutes, but Alain made two very interesting points.

The first point, which was the quote above, sounded like it was a major thesis from one of his books.

While totalitarian states tend to do the former, he thought that our glut of news was an unconscious consequence of the system. As a consumer of news, since I want to be an informed citizen of the world, I can attest to my sense of being swamped by the volume of sheer trivia.

While I was listening, nothing was said about the changes brought about by the internet. Since anyone can say anything these days, the volume of information has grown many-fold. But has the quality of that information kept pace?

We need the synthesis and analysis by people trained in those skills to keep up with the volume. Is that happening? Given the new systems of news dissemination through the internet at the expense of professional news media, can that happen?

Alain’s second point came out out of the volume of trivia about celebrities, which in terms of being knowledgeable about world affairs is useless.

So my question is: what caused the shift away from expert celebrities towards sports and entertainment celebrities? I have no issue that we have sports and entertainment celebrities but being good at sports or acting means nothing about skill with politics, the environment, science, economics, health, etc. — the things that really matter. Why don’t those leader’s abilities get the same coverage in the popular press? Why do we care whether some actor owns a dog and takes it on holiday?

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