David Bertelsen
David Bertelsen

How To Read A Newspaper

In an imperfect world, here's a hint to keeping your sanity. When you pick up the daily rag, you can make the experience a great deal less taxing - and even, in some cases, enjoyable. You see, the editors of the average newspapers and most of their staff are, like the majority of the world that reads them, either unabashedly left-wing, or at best philosophically muddled. And each day when they sit down to draw up their layout, they prioritise based on their own bastardised view of the world. As a happy corollary, the stuff they think is important is likely to be the almost complete opposite of what you think is important.

So, armed with this insight, here's how best to confront the Daily Marxist, or your local version thereof. Pick it up, and turn it over. Yes, right to the back. Don't read the back page - that's just the "really good stuff" that they couldn't fit on the front. Turn the page backwards. Usually (in maybe 90% of the world's newspapers) you'll find the television section. A fantastic place to start. Utterly objective. Such-&-such a channel puts on such-&-such a programme at such-&-such a time. No ifs, no buts; nothing but pure, clean facts. Suppress that urge to get depressed by the politically correct offerings of the state broadcasting channel. Instead marvel at the amazing diversity of programmes showing today. Most of them created, produced, and delivered by the free market system - each finding a following, or, in the case of those that don't, failing. Thanks to the enormous offering (and the freer your country, the bigger that offering), there'll probably even be something for you to look forward to seeing.

Suitably fortified, march on backwards to the next page. Sports! Love them or hate them, sports are, to my mind, a magnificent demonstration of the value of Objectivism. Almost all of the core virtues of living one's own life as a primary value are reflected in our diverse range of leisure activities. It is the enormous wealth created by our "capitalist" world, and the labour-saving devices that come with it, that make sport a near-universal activity, unlike in the past and in many parts of the world today, where it remains the exclusive domain of the rich or the powerful. Today, thankfully, most of us only "need" to work 40 hours a week or so, leaving us with time and money to invent all sorts of weird and wonderful games to entertain ourselves. And weird is an extremely apt description - from synchronised swimming to kick-boxing, to bungy-jumping to jet boating there's an enormous range of activities out there for us to get into. And for those of us frustrated by the world we live in, the mini-systems that are games, can be a wonderfully pleasing abstraction. In many ways, each sport is its own, mini, free market system! Don't believe me? Think about it. Take soccer. There's a basic set of rules of what is allowed and not allowed. There is a referee and umpires - the government - who are strictly bound by the objective code of the aforementioned rules, which also play the added role of defining the rules of the realm in which the game is played - the "real world's" equivalent of meta-physics. Tired of the "Tall-Poppy Syndrome"? Well, within each game, winners are celebrated, and even encouraged (if a player’s good, he gets given the ball more!). All lots of good stuff to dwell on as you follow the objective results (and sometimes we may not like these results but there's no government agency to appeal to!) of your favourite team.

And onwards, backwards we continue. Next up, the business pages! Most true capitalists need no encouragement here. These are "our" pages. Here's where we celebrate the creation of wealth, the productivity of man. They are filled with magnificent success stories of profits in the billions, employment for the world's population, and great, new innovative products and services that will enrich our lives. Also, advice on keeping our money away from the Department of Legalised Theft. A moment’s brief silence to reflect on the millions of opportunities killed by governments’ sticky fingers taking our money and spending it less cleverly than we could have, and bravely, we march on in our brave new world.

Well, to be honest, that's about as far as I usually get. On a good day, you'll make it as far as the "World News". Don't let the pictures of the starving African children get to you. Remind yourself that you haven't personally caused the misery - most likely it's warring amongst the tribes, funded by clumsy, but well-intentioned rich-country governments and aid-agencies that keep the poor kids in hunger. Pause to dream about the possibilities for enormous improvement in the living standards that could and will eventuate when the impoverished finally kick out their dictators or mumbo-jumbo chiefs and get themselves a decent constitution.

After that, you're really getting into the thick of it, and the battle to contain yourself can be a losing one. If you're strong, you'll make it to the front page. Nasty pictures dignifying visiting "statesmen". Stories of suffering, disasters and tax increases. Petty arguments between petty politicians. Really, there's nothing I can say to indemnify the front page - unless the nation's in celebration over some sporting victory.

So that’s it. The Japanese have been reading the paper backwards for years. Unfortunately, the editors soon clicked on and re-jigged the layout to confront the readers head on. Maybe, one day, the press will be more objective, and favourable to a free-market world. Until then, I'll keep on reading backwards.

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