Someone the other day asked me if I was a “news junkie.” Like this: “Are you a news junkie?” I wasn’t concentrating, and sort of forgot that this is a phrase that people sometimes bat around and so instead of being normal I said “AM I A WHAT.” I said it much too loudly and angrily, so that the other people at the table whipped their heads around in expectation of perhaps a small argument arising from my being falsely accused of a dreadful crime.
The innocent woman who had brought the phrase “news junkie” to my renewed attention looked a bit startled and sad and said “you know – a person who is interested in current events and that.” I said that yes, I guessed I was, and then I released her from my pointless and weird scrutiny, because it had already gone on long enough. I imagined her going home to her incredibly loud boyfriend (I met him once – it’s not that just she seems like the type of woman to have a very loud partner, although please note that she does seem like that) and saying “Rosa fully sucks. ‘News junkie’ is a popular expression,” and then him saying “YES IT IS” really just insanely loudly.
Maybe they had that conversation and maybe they didn’t, but either way, the two of them have certainly moved on from the “news junkie” ordeal. They have put it behind them, and I obviously haven’t, because what does that actually mean, to be “interested” in “current events”? I wouldn’t describe myself as “interested” in “the news” so much as unwillingly and wholly consumed by it, to the extent that I had forgotten that there was an alternative. To the extent, really, that I can’t tell if this is a stupid or banal thing to say.
I read an article called “26 Signs You’re Addicted to the News,” a title which made me laugh for a really long time, and the indicators of news dependence were things like “you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t know what’s going on” and “you have random facts stored in your brain” and “you form an opinion on most topics.” This seems like a very low threshold for diagnosis. It seems more like a description of everyone who has ever lived, but perhaps that is the News Junkie in me speaking.
I once had a housemate whose real name was Nick but who everyone called Hugsy Malone because he gave long and disgusting hugs. He was what my mother would describe as “an acid casualty”, which I know is sad, but it was very difficult to feel sorry for him because he was also what my mother would describe as “a bad egg.” Hugsy was one of the worst people I have ever met, and an iconically bad housemate. He played scary trance music all the time and watched Loose Change on repeat and said extremely unsettling stuff, constantly. He claimed never to have heard of Jacob Zuma, the president at the time, or Prince William, or the country of New Zealand. He had all kinds of things to say re: Jews and international conspiracies. He was always putting his hand down our tops and was an all-round supreme pervert. We eventually had to kick him out because he didn’t pay rent for four months (he spent all his money from his organic soap business on psychedelics and all these different bodyboards), and after he left his mom phoned and called me a bitch. This all sounds made up, but I have multiple witnesses who will back up every word.
Hugsy has been the source of many treasured anecdotes for years, as you can imagine, but the one I have been thinking about in the wake of the News Junkie incident was when he said he “didn’t believe in the economy.” The Finance Minister had just delivered the budget speech, and my cousin was talking about it while Hugsy looked on with this dead-eyed expression, and after she’d finished speaking he said “I don’t believe in the economy.” Hugsy what on earth. My cousin said, “Hug – Nick, what do you mean?” and he said, “Money is a social construct.” She said, “Okay, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist… ” and then kind of tailed off and walked into another room. She knew what she was up against. I was completely maxed out on all Hugsy-related matters by that point, and so I didn’t get into it further, but I really wish I had because Hugsy, what do you mean? What do you mean, “you don’t believe in the economy”?
You see what I am driving at here, I hope. Just as I was driven insane trying to work out how someone “didn’t believe” in the relationship between production, trade, and money, I am completely nonplussed at the idea that it is even possible not to be “interested” in “the news.” It’s the main thing going on, no? There is also so much of it.
A part of me knows that I am being absurd, and that all around this world there are people who do not care about the news and are bodyboarding right now. There are also people who just can’t care about the news because they are fully preoccupied with the circumstances of their harrowing personal lives. It’s just that I can’t imagine what that would be like, to be oblivious or indifferent to the news, and it’s making me worry that I haven’t fully conquered the cognitive milestone where you understand that other people have beliefs and desires different from your own. You’re meant to get that out of the way when you’re about two. I thought I had, but it seems the ravenous News Junkie in me has eclipsed all alternative points of view.