The art of crazy-making

On some Saturday evening recently, I gently suggested what I believe to be the most effective meejah strategy: “Don’t watch.” I was writing, of course, mostly to myself, as I often am. Since childhood I have been addicted to “the news”; by age ten was gobbling down the contents of two or more newspapers every day, engaging anyone fool enough to listen, in debate on “current events.” (Truly, I was an insufferable child.)

Though I mostly missed participation in the TV generation, I fell right into the Internet trap. This was on the 4th of December, 1999 — I remember and grieve the day. It has been downhill since.

Now, in the olden time, I also read magazines, to the point of subscribing to several. I also visited library periodical sections. I was a little policy wonk — many young things used to be. Though already leaning to the “conservative” side of the policy spectrum (absence of bias may be a sign of brain death), I read the “facts and arguments” from both sides. This is essential, to have any idea what is going on, for each side has an interest in telling only half of the story. But this was old-fashioned, as I admit. The Internet search algorithms quickly deduce what side you are on, today, then feed you only what their programmers think you will want to see. This they imagine to be good business: for when a contemporary sees anything he does not agree with, he tends to have a wrang.

Whether you are hooked into CNN, or Fox, you will be made crazy. Each selects and packages its “fake news” to provide a constant diet of wrath, and direct it to specific demonized targets. This is not exactly new in democracy — the daily newspapers were once party-aligned like that — but the son-et-lumière of technology has magnified it.

Canada is slightly different, for as David Frum once observed in the Idler: “Canada is a country where there is always one side to every question.” (And this was apparent in last week’s “great debate” up here in Greater Parkdale, when he took this side against the much-demonized Stephen K. Bannon, while our local Antifa types rioted against Mr Bannon’s having been allowed to speak at all.)

As the USA is progressively Canadianized, we get the same sort of thing down there: the Left casually adopting Brown Shirt tactics, to enforce the fluctuating decrees of “political correctness,” in the spirit of the Sturmabteilung (in the days before they “evolved” into the Schutzstaffel). Though on the other side, the Trumplings have mastered the Kundgebungen, or huge political rallies.

This is what the Scholastics predicted, when they considered the arguments for democracy: that while it looked plausible enough on paper, it could only lead to gang warfare, pulling apart each nation where it flourished. They could not, however, imagine the contribution of mass media. They were more concerned with the effects of politicization on the individual human soul, thus instinctively defended Church and Crown (or Republic, so long as it was not democratic).

Unlike us, they cared about freedom; but about “equality,” not at all — the concept itself being too ridiculous to consider.

My belated advice (to myself), not to watch “the news,” now that it has become a largely pornographic horrorshow, might be taken “literally.” It is the occasion of sin, but not sin itself. More vital, whether watching or not, is to be unmoved by it; to not let its crazy-making make you crazy. If there is nothing one can do about what is “breaking” — whether in Pakistan or around the corner — do nothing and be content with that. (Petitions and commenting campaigns don’t work, and are a pointless distraction from important household tasks, such as darning your socks and washing the laundry.)

Of course, should God suddenly provide something one can do, to defeat obvious madness, just do it in a calm and reasonable way. For He isn’t interested in your opinions, either; only in what your opinions are doing to you.