Why the News Is Still Mostly Pointless

1. Pretty much all all news sites have some sort of ulterior motive, whether to advance a certain agenda or to push advertising. True ‘impartiality’ is far and few between.

People read Reason, Pathos, Zerohedge, Unz Review and other ‘alternative media’, because they think they are getting the ‘full story’, but often they aren’t. These views are often missing important details, intended to promote a specific agenda, or just flat-out wrong (like autism and vaccines), leading readers astray, herding readers to bad investments (overpriced gold and silver), or enticing them to click spammy advertisements filled with malware. ‘Alternative media’ is often just as carefully crafted as ‘mainstream media’ and does not represent some spontaneous, grassroots uprising. They care more about generating ad-clicks than any higher calling of ‘truth’.

For example, here are some crappy ads on the homepage of Reason.com, some of which are disguised as news stories. Clicking any one of these will likely trigger a barrage of pop-ups and malware download prompts.

Like how fire needs oxygen, the media needs outrage and your attention, to generate ad-clicks and pageviews. Without the ads interspersed between the stories, print media has no reason to exist. The whole point of TV media is to fill the 8-12 minute space between commercials.

2. The news never ends. Here is a partial screenshot of the front page of Unz Review.

In about a week, there will be a whole new batch of opinions and stories. It never ends, and trying to stay on top of the pile can be likened to a Sisyphean struggle of futility. It’s like a never-ending pile of paperwork, but unlike a job you’re not getting paid.

3. It won’t matter anyway. Yes, had in 2006 you heeded media warnings about a recession and housing bubble and sold your stocks, to repurchase them at the market bottom in 2009, you would have done well. But the vast majority of the time, whatever the latest ‘crisis’ is – Brexit, European debt, Ebola, Greece, etc. – it will blow over. About 95-99% of the time, what is supposed to be a crisis is, in retrospect, just noise:

4. Time spent reading the news can be better spent improving your own life and those around you. Let’s assume Hillary goes to jail. You’ll feel good for about a couple hours, and then it’s back to the daily grind. Unless you make a living from the news (as some bloggers and journalists do), nothing changes. Time spent reading about the ongoing developments with Hillary or the election can be spent learning a skill that can yield dividends long after the latest outrage fades from memory. Do I want Hillary behind bars? Yes. But is worth a large time commitment on my part in keeping track of the day-to-day developments? No.

5. You cannot influence the outcome. No amount of ranting and raving about Hillary emails will put her behind bars, just like no amount of ranting and raving by the left will result in a ban on automatic firearms.

6. Following the news can be perilous to your financial health. Had you sold your stocks in 2008, at the depths of the crisis when the media had nearly everyone convinced capitalism and America was doomed, you would have not only sold at the bottom but missed out on the 2nd-greatest bull market ever – a bull market which continues to this day. The S&P 500 is up 80% (including dividends) since 2005, despite the crisis. Had you sold your stocks following the Brexit vote, you would have sold at the bottom and missed the 4% rally that immediately followed. Had you listened to the media and sold stocks in 2013 on fears of QE ending, you would have missed out an additional 25% gains in the S&P 500. Other examples include numerous predictions since 2008 of hyperinflation and dollar collapse, neither of which happened.

7. A lot of it is just wrong. For example, the supposed link between autism and vaccines, while widely disseminated by the media, was later debunked by experts. The purported existence of WMDs in Iraq (the Times Judith Miller scandal) is another example. Although the ‘alternative media’ was right about the absence of WMDs and the futility of spreading democracy in the Middle East, it was wrong about inflation, the US dollar, the stock market, gold, and treasuries.

Inflated college rape statistics, rape hoaxes, and so-called ‘rape culture’, are other examples of the media being wrong. For example, the statistic that 1 in 5 women are raped on college generated a media firestorm, but only later after heat had died down did it get debunked (to less media fanfare), but the damage had already been done.

Because initial stories have a non-trivial likelihood of being wrong, you have to follow-up for corrections, which means more work. Maybe it’s easier to just ignore the news altogether.