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10/24/2008: "#131:A Moratorium On Political Noise, Part II"

Music: Marty Robbins
Mood: day off

Earlier this week I declared a personal moratorium on political noise in my life until the election. I decided to stop consuming media in any form that talked about politics in any way and instead adopted an austere media diet of only the Washington Voters Guide, the official position papers of the candidates and/or their parties, and conversations with my friends. This has been harder to do than I imagined.

When I log onto the internet, I usually have a set of news sites that I scan for interesting stories. Even though I am trying to only limit my reading to stories about the economic crisis and local/world news, it is nearly impossible to go to a news site without glancing at the title of a political article. I have this same problem when I read an actual newspaper like the Seattle Times that we have delivered at work.

This involuntary consumption is even more acute when I am driving. Normally when I am driving I tend to listen to newspinion from the right or left perspective, changing from NPR to the local right-wing AM radio station every time there is a commercial or it gets boring. Now that I am changing the channel every time I hear the name of one of the major party presidential candidates, I find myself switching to a commercial on a music station or turning the radio off completely. The only news on the radio that tends to rise above the fray is the BBC World Service which is on overnight when I am usually driving home from work. As for television, I am proud to report that I very rarely turn it on anymore, and so tuning out talking head newspinion wasn't difficult at all. This is a marked switch for me as compared to the period from 9/11 through the summer of 2004, when I watched the news literally every night trying to make sense of what was going on. Then again, there is no longer a television news station like the late and lamented News World International.

Despite my best efforts, however, I have occasionally drifted and found myself reaidng a political article. Once I identify what I am doing I am able to stop consuming the article, but it is fascinating to realize how often I find myself doing this. It is scary to think how much information is involuntarily flowing into my head. I have not even been doing this for four full days and I find it to be a pretty refreshing change. This is not to say that when this little social experiment of mine is over I will stop paying attention to the news, but I hope that I will be a lot more critical and think before I choose to consume it.

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