Does ‘no-news’ mean good news?


The modern press is a funny thing. One minute it’s trying to shock us, then scare, frighten, threaten, intimidate, persuade, appease, and any other word for influence you can think of.

In a concerningly short amount of time, we’ve read provocative headlines and appalling scandals – from England leaving the EU to our former Prime Minister allegedly molesting dead livestock. The next week, there’s a feature on Prince George starting nursery – but we’re clearly too busy worrying to read it. Good thing it’s mostly pictures.

There are two types of news: the serious news (the things you are ashamed of not knowing at dinner parties), and the trivial news – the ‘no-news.’ And it’s in defence of Prince George’s photo shoot that I am writing.

This ‘no-news’ is made up of all the non-essential tidbits that fill in the gaps in conversation with that friend-of-a-friend. You know that one who you don’t really get on with, but with whom you’re infrequently thrust together at gatherings, and forced to make light conversation with. You know you have to say something, but can’t realistically mount an inquiry into their political persuasion, or family life – or simply don’t care enough to ask. So, Brangelina it is.

The wonderful (yes, wonderful) thing about Brangelina or Piers Morgan or Katie Price, is that our opinion of them is almost always unanimous. Whereas, people’s opinions of Jeremy Corbyn or Hillary Clinton definitely divide us.

Consider a scenario in which a group of friends meet for their weekly poker night. A few hours into the game, the alcohol starts to kick in, tensions are high now. Mark’s gone all-in, Sarah’s spilt her wine over her cards and Terry is certain they left the backdoor unlocked. Amidst all this, a conversation about Thatcher sparks up and a debate ensues. All of a sudden, Mark’s lost everything, Sarah’s hurled her glass at the wall and Terry’s gone home to rip the back door off.

Perhaps mildly hyperbolic… but I think I’ve made my point: serious news is divisive. I’m not saying that it isn’t also a good thing (of course it is), but simply that a bit more ‘no-news’ might do us some good amidst all the chaos.

For example, consider the same scenario, but the conversation now revolves around mocking the Kardashians. It would more likely unite them, would it not? How could it not?

In the same way that cracker jokes are intentionally designed to be rubbish, trivial news is designed to be superficial enough not to be controversial. Just think about how we all slouch around the table at Christmas, united against those pitiful punch lines. Have you ever felt closer to your family (even the ones you don’t like) than when you hear that rancorous ‘Uuuuuuh…’ at the big reveal? I thought not.

If you’re still not convinced, I had a look at the ‘Most Popular’ section on the BBC website. And, right on cue, at number two – after ‘Trump Defiant After Healthcare Ban’ – was ‘The Man Taught to Have Sex By Lesbians’. Now, I don’t know about you, but, out of all the articles on the BBC’s website, that one doesn’t cover particularly pressing issues and yet, clearly, sometimes we need a respite from reality. Further down the list were articles on Douglas Carswell and the Belarus riots, so at least there’s a balance.

All I mean to say is that, whilst we’ve got Donald Trump running the States, Theresa May activating Article 50, Scotland wanting a second referendum, reports of Russian intervention in American politics, and military action being taken against the so-called Islamic State in Syria, would it be so bad if we spent a little longer relishing Piers Morgan’s hiatus from Twitter for Comic Relief?

Photograph: Eva Rinaldi via Flickr

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