For the past decade, there has been an increased focus on good nutrition and “real” food. Most people understand that while a treat at the ballpark might be fine in moderation (who can resist the cotton candy), a diet of cotton candy will not lead to a good physical outcome. Neither will a diet that consists only of fast food and processed food items.
Michale Pollen, author of “Food Rules,” wrote that we should avoid “edible food-like substances. They’re highly processed concoctions designed by food scientists, consisting mostly of ingredients derived from corn and soy that no normal person keeps in the pantry, and they contain chemical additives with which the human body has not been long acquainted. Today, much of the challenge of eating well comes down to choosing real food and avoiding these industrial novelties.”
This same challenge confronts us in the news arena. News is now packaged to be entertaining, to be fluffy, to be compelling. Let’s call this the choice between real news and industrial news novelties that are newsish.
So what is news? Is it factual? Yes. Does it reveal something new? Yes. But real news does more than provide information; it is relevant information that is important to us and worthy of our attention.
The challenge is when everything is news, nothing can be thought about properly. This funnel needs to be reworked.
This week’s example is the focus on President Donald Trump’s comment regarding Sweden this past weekend, when he said, “what’s happening last night in Sweden.”
While cable news and the internet erupted with disdain for the lack of a specific event the prior night — the thoughtful discussion that could have happened — about refugees, assimilation and potential outcomes, was lost in spectacle.
Over a year ago, James Traub wrote, “The Death of the Most Generous Nation on Earth: Little Sweden has taken in far more refugees per capita than any country in Europe. But in doing so, it’s tearing itself apart,” which ran as a feature story in the February 10, 2016 edition of Foreign Policy magazine. Traub visited the refugee center in Malmo, Sweden, on the Danish border. Sweden took in 160,000 refugees in 2015, a large number for a country whose population is 9.5 million. The question he focused on was Sweden’s ability to absorb and assimilate the large number of refugees, and the resulting impact to Sweden.
“The fear is that the recent generations of refugees have become isolated from Swedish life, as has happened with North Africans in the French banlieues, the slums that have become incubators of alienation for many North African immigrants,” Traub wrote. “[Thomas] Gur [a widely published critic of Sweden’s open-door policy] says that 20 years ago, Sweden had just three residential areas where significant numbers of citizens did not work and did not have access to good schools — the indispensable instrument of social mobility in Sweden’s high-tech economy. That number, he says, has now reached 186.”
Traub wrote that due to the high numbers of refugees and low assimilation, Sweden was changing it’s open door policy to be more restrictive.
“Something even greater is at risk,” he ended. “The Europe that rose from the cataclysm of World War II understood itself not simply as a collection of peoples, white and Christian, but as a community of shared values. The refugee crisis has forced Europeans to choose between the moral universalism they profess and the ancient identities they have inherited…
“Now the Europe where the Enlightenment was born may well be making the same choice. The Muslim influx threatens Europe’s liberal, secular consensus; but rejecting the refugees also shakes one of the great pillars of that consensus.” Traub closed by warning Americans of complacency regarding refugees and immigration.
Now that was real news… a year ago, and worthy of serious discussion.
In an odd juxtaposition, CNN reported Wednesday morning, “riots broke out in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood of Stockholm Monday night, as residents clashed with police officers and set vehicles on fire, Swedish police say…More riots erupted later in the evening, causing damage to shopfronts as well as instances of looting. A police spokesperson said 10 cars had been torched, but that order and security had been restored by midnight.”
As news outlets reach out, via the internet, newsstand, Facebook or twitter — pause for a second and think — is this real news or just an industrial news novelties that is newsish. What you consume and comment about is up to you.