“True Believers”

I was 15 in 1967-68; old enough to know and enjoy the revolution going on in this county, and too young to do anything about it. I think about that because I just finished “True Believers” by Kurt Andersen, which is an excellent read. The main character even has an uncle who ran the family department store in Greensboro.

But that’s not what this post is about. I was struck by the perfect way Andersen described one form of news today.

“In the last forty-five minutes, I’ve listened to a dozen different anchors and experts and commentators and have learned absolutely nothing I didn’t know from reading the story in the newspaper this morning. For a few months last year, when I stopped watching cable news altogether, I think I felt slightly mellower and happier, like when I gave up cigarettes and Diet Coke, or when mosquito season ends. And as with cigarettes, I’ve come to believe cable news is slowly killing us, giving us intellectual emphysema, cancer of the mind. After all, people smoked for the better part of a century before they really knew it could be fatal.”

And, this, later:

“Bill Ayers finally became famous when he was a harmless sixty-three-year-old professor, because now our proliferating electronic media are free to focus on the irrelevant, obliged to fill air time and keep viewers and listeners riled by any means necessary. We’ve given the bad guys — a radical group calling itself al Qaeda — an unprecedented opportunity to scare us silly.”