I Was A Cable News Addict
At 8:40 PM on November 8, 2016, as the presidential election results were pouring in, I turned off the television and have not watched broadcast or cable news since. While I would not equate this to quitting drugs or alcohol, it’s pretty damn close.
Once upon a time, I had an unhealthy addiction to cable news. I’m not talking about a few hours in the evening or on the weekends. I mean from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep, the sweet sounds of CNN, MSNBC, and my beloved Fox News filled the room with noise — filling my head with often times unnecessary information. This was what made working from home both a pleasure and a curse.
My day would start with “Morning Joe,” where I’d watch Mika and Joe fight and flirt their way through interviews with members of Congress adept at staying on message, while neglecting to answer a direct question. Sometimes, I would switch over to the not so subtle racism and misogyny of my buds at “Fox & Friends,” where the most challenging question they might ask a guest would be, “What role does God play in your life?” When I got bored or wanted something less toxic, I would veer over to CNN’s Chris Cuomo, the most news-y of them all. Once or twice a week, I visited C-SPAN, where nitwits and imbeciles from all over this once great land of ours called into the broadcast just to prove how uninformed and illiterate they were. When 9 AM rolled around, I would land on Fox News’ supposed “straight news hours” to see how cleverly they would insert opinion into virtually everything. “Today, a homicide bomber killed 24 in Yemen…” or, “President Obama placated his liberal base today by…” I was fascinated by how they did this — sometimes blissfully unaware it was even happening. By late afternoon, I’d stick around FNC just to see Shepard Smith (mostly a good foot soldier) let his liberal tendencies slip through the cracks. This would give me a smile, before someone on the upper floors of the network pushed a button reminding Shep who he worked for and to return to doing what was expected of him. I was even stuck around for the catheter commercials. Frequently my wife would catch me singing, “At Farmers only dot com. City folks just don’t seem to get it.” Once or twice I even debated ordering from the MyPillow.com because, hey, they’re made in America!
At 5 PM, it was “The Five,” where the hosts of the FNC anger-fest could convince viewers that Blueberry Pie was part of a liberal plot. Kimberly, Dana, Greg Gutfeld, and Bob Beckel (before prescription pills took him down) gave me the most entertaining 45 minutes any demented news junkie could ask for. So all-present was my addiction to FNC, that friends occasionally called to ask if Bill O’Reilly really did say: (insert ridiculous and incendiary statement here). As my addiction took hold, I found myself so desensitized to the bickering, the screaming, the misinformation and the outright lies that the cable news format even started to seep into my life.
“Where should we have dinner?” my wife asked one night, to which I replied, “Let’s have a fair and balanced debate about it.”
So on election night, as the results of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin started to roll in, as did the realization that Donald J. Trump would become our 45th president, I turned off the news for the very last time.
In the days that followed, I went through serious withdrawal. I really missed the reporters and anchors who had become not just daily companions in my life, but good friends. I often wondered what Campaign Carl Cameron was up to, or guessed to myself what war-torn region Anderson Cooper was reporting from that night. I missed Megyn Kelly yelling for no reason. I even yearned for the self-righteous smirk Rachel Maddow sported while telling me how God-awful everything was. One night, when my wife came home from work and I was watching not “Hannity” but “House Hunters,” I told her about how I quit the news cold turkey. It was, according to her, the best gift I have ever given her.
Being informed these days is pretty important. I get my news from a variety of print sources: The New York Times, The Washington Post, Mother Jones, and others who get my monthly subscription money. So I know what’s going on. I just choose to read the news rather than watch it delivered to me by slick, well-coiffed talking heads with an agenda. I am now the envy of my friends who either don’t have quite the addiction I did or just can’t quit as easily as I did. In the weeks that followed the election, I debated going back. I mean, Brian Kilmeade is that reliably idiotic friend you keep around for entertainment purposes. But, that feeling went away pretty quickly. If there was an AA-type chip for getting this far away from my addiction, I’d happily show up to a meeting and proudly scoop that sucker up. Don’t get me wrong, avoiding televised news doesn’t mean I’m not scared to death for where we are and what lies ahead. I just sleep a little better now that the screaming and yelling is out of my life.