When I moved to Miami for graduate school ten years ago, coming from rural West Bumfuck, it was something of a sensory overload, as you can imagine. The realization that Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry are, essentially, humorous true-crime writers was something of a shock.

I’ve also been told I have a brain tumor on three separate occasions in my life. At this point, it’s the norm, not the exception. You would imagine I’d have some sort of coping mechanism that would allow me to quickly adapt and adjust to my new, horrible situation, but it’s the same each time — it’s like some switch is flipped and I don’t really come to my senses until a day or two later. And this week, two of my cancer friends have had recurrences. This has not been my week. Or month.

I bring this up because we’re now reeling at multiple mass shootings, the realization that the wealthiest 1% are, apparently, a secretive ring of sexual predators, the president’s continuing melt-down, and the reemergence of Anthony Scaramucci from his subterranean lair to predict that the president will resign within a year, and constant political in-fighting… Welcome to North Bay Village. The management is not responsible for any lost or stolen items.

Many years ago, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert decried the concept of 24/7 news channels, pointing out that, apart from events like 9/11 or Columbine, there really wasn’t enough news in the world to warrant that amount of coverage. Now, if feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to keep on top of just the racially-motivated violence. That’ll happen if you’re in Denmark in 1941. The most asinine sentence I’ve seen this week was in an article about an interracial couple’s home being bombed ( https://www.huffpost.com/entry/possible-hate-crime-interracial-ohio-couple-home-explosion_n_5d4c8c8fe4b01e44e4779445), the sentence in question being, “ A massive explosion that leveled the home of an interracial couple in Sterling, Ohio, this week is being investigated as a possible hate crime after officials found a crude swastika and misspelled anti-Black slur spray-painted next to the scene.” I realize I’m not a lawyer or cop, but that strikes me as a pretty cut-and-dried case. Meanwhile, Tommy Lee is on Twitter with a very weird alternative set of policy proposals that are designed to rile up the liberal base, while simultaneously being hilariously impractical.

We’re living at a very weird intersection of Brave New World, 1984, and the Andy Warhol quote, “In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” Which means that you’re being constantly bombarded with highly-selective news, with no context or explanation. It would make anyone go into shock; and I think that’s the concept to hang on — when you’re divorced from your senses, you’re extremely vulnerable. Case in point, after the second time I heard, “I’m so sorry, it looks like you have a tumor,” I almost walked in front of a bus. It wasn’t a suicidal thing, at all, I just didn’t really see or hear it coming. Thankfully, I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be that day, so I got to sleep it off; but, imagine a whole society that might unintentionally wander in front of a bus because some unhinged lunatics came up with something clever in 280 characters or less at 2 am.

Just like in that initial shock period, after it’s worn off, the very best physicians will put your diagnosis and prognosis in context, and why they’re recommending this treatment course. I’d urge everyone in society to do that with any news tidbit — start at Snopes, look at respected newspapers or journalism groups, look at fivethirtyeight (but read the stuff on how to interpret the numbers, first), avoid talking heads (I realize I might now count as one, in which case, feel free to ignore me), or, at least, realize they’re not analysts or historians, they’re salespeople. And, for God’s sake, start viewing Twitter the way most of the Internet views Reddit: a cesspool without filters. If you wouldn’t take anything in the Penthouse Forum seriously, you probably shouldn’t take Twitter seriously. We’re in a collective state of shock and confusion, and that’s what the more predatory elements of society need to stay at the top. In the meantime, document every single wrong around you; thanks to cell-phone photos, the corrections officer who plowed through anti-ICE protestors the other night has resigned. If we’re not going to have some sensible grown-ups in the room, we’re all going to have to assume the role.

Written by

Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store