Define Relevant

“News is irrelevant”-Rolf Dobelli

I like Rolf Dobelli’s essay against news. I too have long been arguing that news is irrelevant. But, read this excerpt:

A car drives over a bridge, and the bridge collapses. What does the news media focus on? The car. The person in the car. Where he came from. Where he planned to go. How he experienced the crash (if he survived). But that is all irrelevant. What’s relevant? The structural stability of the bridge. But the car is flashy, it’s dramatic, it’s a person (non-abstract), and it’s news that’s cheap to produce. 

I can imagine this making sense to people who are not very smart. But, is this true? I think not. Why? So many reasons:

We live in a division of labor society. Every day, we consume countless products and services. It is humanly impossible to understand these products. When we use soap, we often do not know the chemical composition of the soap. It is wise to rely on some statistical generalizations when we use products that we do not understand. It might be important information to people involved in the production process. But, it makes little sense for a typical consumer to really understand the products he use.

A bridge is no different. I am not curious about the technical aspects of the problem. Very few are curious about that. I certainly would not want to travel through a bridge if the engineers had relied upon newspaper articles to gain perfection over the technical aspects of their job.

The structural stability of the bridge is relevant, but not to the average reader. 

What is relevant here? The flashy car and dramatic nature of the crash is relevant to the audience—-It might be good entertainment. If you think that it does not matter, I would like to hear good arguments to support that position.  I do not think that such sound arguments exist.

What else is relevant? It matters whether people have the freedom to choose. People do not vote on the mode of construction of a bridge, but people do vote on the political framework we end up having. It matters whether the roads and highways are private or public. Many accidents happen because the roads and highway bridges are publicly owned, and poorly maintained. When we have the right system in place, things will more or less fall into place. 

PS: I will be writing a series of blog posts to demonstrate the importance of clarity of thought.  I have been hearing for long that I spend my time poking fun at idiots who do not have a fraction of my IQ. So, I have decided to persuade people to rethink their position on things that matter.  Perhaps, this might work. Let us wait and see. 

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