to news and not to news

A couple days ago, after waking up and showering, I slipped into a half-hour wormhole of scrolling through coronavirus quarantine memes on Instagram and regretted the loss of time but, to be honest, I laughed a lot, so it wasn’t a complete waste–and, to be more honest still, I think that, if you’ve just woken up, it’s probably more constructive to spend a half hour scrolling through memes and people’s personal posts than it is to spend a half hour scrolling through news about the virus and its development.

But I do understand the impulse to spend fuckloads of time watching and reading the news, though.

What I’m probably free to mention at this point is that, at some point in my not-too-distant freelance days, I was tangentially involved in the development of a book that was marketing “alternative” cancer treatments. I didn’t read all of the material that was going into the book, as I was mostly just formatting the proposal, but the passages I saw were telling cancer patients that they could dramatically improve their chances of beating cancer, any cancer, by adding a ton of this or that vegetable to their diet, or rubbing its (generally expensive) extracts on their skin, or with things like breathing exercises and certain workout regimens.

It was, in some respects, preying on an audience that’s desperate for hope, people who’ve been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. It was offering some or other cooky treatment, there was a shady industry that would benefit from the purchase of some or other juicing product or workout tube–my participation in this thing is not the pride of my writing life.

But I was also seeing in my research that, for people who get that awful diagnosis, one of the worst things on earth is the helplessness of just sitting around and waiting for test results, waiting for the illness to make its move.

So, yes, the book would supply little and/or dubious research to back up its promise for the cancer-beating benefits of thai-chi, for instance, or a complicated vegan smoothie–whatever. It was stuff that was healthy, more often than not, and that, more importantly, allowed the sick person to feel proactive against their illness.

And I think that 24-hour news is serving that same function for people who are potentially gonna be sick during this crisis. It lets a worried idler feel proactive int he face of something unpredictable and life-threatening. It isn’t changing the situation, but it does create the illusion of a developing story, and if something is developing, well, surely it’s proceeding to an end.

Spending the same amount of time scrolling through reddit or Instagram and giggling about the crisis as opposed to panicking about it is probably not all that much better, and I’m sure there’s some Goldilocks zone of judicious news-reading and news-distancing.

But anyway. I’m focusing mainly on movies.

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