If you google “Alain de Botton” you will find a plethora of news articles belligerently criticizing his thoughts, beliefs, and, um, existence. There are headlines that read “Why de Botton is total moron” or “Stop Calling de Botton a philosopher”. His latest book The News: A User’s Manual has yet again sparked controversy from various journalists, writers, and commentators across the globe. He polemically claims that news has lost meaning and purpose, and that it is never truly transparent to its audience. You can see why this provoked a lot of journalists.
But a lot of the statements in The News are true. Some news casters exaggerate certain type of news over others because it is more interesting to the public. Sadly, in some societies, it’s more stimulating to read about a twisted incestuous family than a cross-country wild fire that burnt down hundreds of homes. De Botton makes strong claims and scrutinizes how wrong and lacking news today has become. But critics berate he never defines or standardizes how news should be – but this isn’t actually the point. The book isn’t about how to answer what news is, but how to question and evaluate news. He’s challenging the entire institution – this, I absolutely LOVE. Similar to all devoted thinkers, de Botton merely addresses the issues and invites his readers to collectively think and assess the details in our lives. Do you think Socrates was easily accepted by people? Everyone thought he was annoying! (You know who is more annoying than de Botton or Socrates? Malcolm Gladwell. Boy, do I think every word that comes out of his mouth is a joke. But people love him because he’s so good at feeding us with information that we want to hear.)
We should challenge everything. We should question everything. In this day and age where multiple sources of media are all up in our face 24/7 – and we accept it all so willingly – we should critically analyze what kind of news and stories we absorb. Because, the way we think correlates so directly with how societies are shaped.
I wish de Botton had delved deeper into the issue. His book is intriguing and is a good thought-starter but it was a tad bit shallow. Perhaps he wanted the discussion to extend outside the book, or he thought it was sufficiently profound. Either way, if The News was published just ten years ago, everybody would’ve shown more acceptance to the ideas. But ironically, much like the news today, his critics are so busy forming opinions that is neither here nor there.
dee’s recommendation: 3.75/5