When I was in my early twenties, I used to watch a lot of cable news. I was very interested in politics and being on the right side of what was “best for our country.” But, I found that every time I watched a cable news show, I walked away feeling angry. I was angry at the direction our country was going in and I was angry at the “foolish” voters who kept putting the wrong candidates into office. Any time I was in a political conversation, we either agreed and complained about all the people who didn’t “get it” like we did, or we disagreed and found it difficult to have a civil conversation.
Then one day, I felt God telling me that perhaps these shows weren’t good for me. Perhaps there was a correlation between the media I was ingesting and the effect it was having on my heart. So, I dropped them cold turkey.
And I’ve never looked back.
In Death to Deconstruction: Reclaiming Faithfulness as an Act of Rebellion, Joshua S. Porter appeals to a generation abandoning the faith, urging them to choose a more nuanced faithfulness instead of outright rejection of orthodox Christianity. He structures his book around five “great predators”: biblical illiteracy, the problem of evil, a politicized Christianity, hypocrisy, and self-denial, laying out paths forward within orthodoxy avoiding each.
Having gone through all five of Porter’s great predators, I want to spend my last six posts in this series reacting to the book and suggesting my own path forward. Today, I want to consider politics. The solution to this one is easy: turn off cable news.
The business of media is not to deliver the news; it’s to sell advertisements. The more people that tune into the news, the more money that is made off advertisements, and media companies know how best to get you to tune into their programming: by generating rage. The marketing strategy of news media is to generate rage. They are making you angry on purpose, and they are profiting from it.
Growing up, I was warned by my church not to consume media with sexual content in it. I was told that sexual content would get into my head and it would change me. I believe this is true and I am grateful that my conservative upbringing largely protected me from exposure to explicit sexual content. But the same wisdom needs to be applied to media that seeks to enrage. Watching cable news will make you into an angry person. Turn it off.
“But Matt,” you might say, “How will I know what is going on in the world? How will I know the pressing issues of the day?” Part of the lie you are being sold is that the stories curated by multi-billion-dollar media companies are the stories that matter.
The stories that matter are the things that are happening in your neighborhood and in your town. You will not find these stories on cable news. Go outside. Talk to your neighbors. Volunteer in your community. That’s where you’ll hear the stories that matter.
Other than news media, how do we best hear the local stories that really matter?