The News – A User’s Manual by Alain de Botton

The news is everywhere, we can’t stop checking it constantly on our screens, but what is it doing to our minds?

the-news

“The news occupies the same dominant position in modern society as religion once did, asserts Alain de Botton – but we don’t begin to understand its impact on us. In this dazzling new book, de Botton takes 25 archetypal news stories – from an aircrash to a murder, a celebrity interview to a political scandal – and submits them to unusually intense analysis.

He raises questions like: How come disaster stories are often so uplifting? What makes the love lives of celebrities so interesting? Why do we enjoy politicians being brought down? Why are upheavals in far off lands often so… boring?

De Botton has written the ultimate manual for our news-addicted age, one sure to bring calm, understanding and a measure of sanity to our daily (perhaps even hourly) interactions with the news machine.”

Inspired by writing the book, he created a news outlet: www.philosophersmail.com.

I would say this is the best of de Botton’s books, and I think the least well known, though it is only recently published (2014). I think the news is something so fraught with assumptions and spurious rationales that it would have been fair game to a number of such books in the past. But de Botton’s book does set the whole problem up very well: what is the news, how is it decided, and how does it shape the way we see the world. It’s pretty frightening when you think about the power of the news: just think of the infinite number of things, or ‘stories’, it choose not to tell us, then you’ll begin to understand the way it blinkers us, steers us and makes us think a very certain way… and then to have us always wanting more!

 

Mr A

 

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