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Imminent CollapseNo News is Bad News

By Bill Andrews

Good for you!

I commend you, sir or madam, for what you are doing right now. No, not simply being, you Cartesian surrealists, but reading a newspaper. Not that my humble column is the most edifying or informative and unless you’re my fianc e odds are you picked up this newspaper (or went to its website) for other reasons, and it is these I applaud. You see, there is a growing movement on campus which refuses to read newspapers at all, let alone this one.

What I would most like, after a million bucks, is for the student body to read real, professional newspapers. Imagine, a school full of the smartest kids in the world (and, let’s not mince words here, we’re pretty damn smart) who are actually informed about current events and other non-academically useful knowledge. How free we would be to discuss things other than p-sets and all-nighters (freshmen: if you think I’m kidding, just wait). How varied our perspectives would be, to know what’s going on outside our dorms and lecture halls. How nice, yet how unlikely.

Oh, I can hear you now. “But, Bill! (I’m/I’ll be) a busy MIT student! I don’t have time to read the news!” To which I offer this pithy rejoinder: “Pish.” If you can spare 15 minutes a day, you can at least scan most headlines and have a vague notion of what’s going on in the world. Don’t try to convince me you don’t have 15 minutes, I see all those Facebook profiles being updated and Livejournal online quizzes being taken (because apparently I have too much time on my hands).

But perhaps you say, “Oh, Bill, I’m not going to read the news, it’s so hideously biased to the left/right.” In this case my pithy rejoinder is: “So?” News is news, and as long as they’re not just making up crap you’ll still be better informed, which is my basic goal here. Be sure, however, not to confuse punditry and commentary for news; the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh are not there to inform but to entertain. They’re pretty much in the business of making crap up (though they really shouldn’t). Still even the people who get all their news from The Daily Show know more of what’s going on than someone who spends all day in lab, so at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Ah, but I can still hear the third chorus, frantically waving their hands in the air until I call on them. “Whatever, Bill, I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me, and it’s so boring. I have better things to do with my time.” Since there is a legitimate possibility that a reader here could instead be, say, curing cancer, I won’t argue the last point. But, if you think the news doesn’t affect you, then I can only say you’re part of the problem (a very specific problem, but still). It’s because of such folks that people believe MIT to be a place of book smart nerds who couldn’t function in the real world, the kind of scientists who would build the hydrogen bomb without thinking about the consequences. Now, is that fair? No, of course not! But it’s true, a lot of folks do think that way, and it’s because a lot of MIT kids (and nerds in general) can’t be bothered to glance at some headlines once in a while.

I’m sure there are other objections to being knowledgeable out there, but these are the biggest concerns I’ve heard. And again, I’m not holding my breath for newspaper readership to soar on campus. I mean, I didn’t start reading the news till my sophomore year here when a certain big event happened (on 9/11) that brought my attention to the news.

And of course, I do realize that there are a few others who like me, who enjoy keeping up with the world and do their best to stay informed. A few noble souls who appreciate knowing how the world works, being able to draw connections between the president’s actions and daily life, for example, or why it’s important to pay attention to the latest crisis in the middle east, lest we be forced to see it in person.

It’s all we few can do, to spare a few minutes a day; maybe sometimes splurge and buy a Sunday paper. But the fact is we’re trying, and that’s the most important thing. The news starts to grow on you, like a good soap opera or anime; even if you don’t understand it all at first, you’ll get the hang of it after a while. After all, if you’re doomed to repeat history you don’t know, imagine what awaits us if we don’t know the present.

Which is why you, dear reader, merit a pat on the back. You’re taking the initiative to learn something outside of the classroom, just for the sake of knowing it. You’re one of the lucky few who read for pleasure. Either that or you’re bored, and this was all that lay nearby. Whatever the case, I urge you to read on and keep it up.