In his book Addicted to Distraction, Bruce Charlton accuses the mass media of a semipurposeful agenda of permanent revolution, permanent hysteria and permanent chaos; of being a roaring, grinding attention-grabbing machine that just grows and grows, progressively taking over control of all functionally useful social systems, from politics to religion, education to the arts. Whether or not that’s true, Charlton does draw attention to a few things that do ring true: that the mass media provides most of the “facts” and the “reasoning” by which we talk with other people; that it provides the framework within and by which this large volume of material is filtered, prioritised and interpreted. “Step outside the mass media bubble,” says Charlton, “and there isn’t much space to stand; you find you have little to say to anybody. Step outside the mass media and you become boring, annoying.” Other aspects of Charlton’s warning on the destructiveness of the mass media are silly and easily refut...

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