|My work station|
But even when it comes to world events, I usually avoid the opinions that flow forth from the press. Again, the sight of rush hour travelers on the subway reading the opinion pages of the Times induces the same weariness as I feel about the arts pages. The past two years have been full of world events that, however horrible, are nevertheless, when viewed historically, not really out of character (so to speak) for humankind. Have we become so secure in our way of life that we can no longer fathom that there are bad people out in the world, especially bad people who want to destroy it?
I did follow the coverage of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015 because of my interest in the issue of freedom of speech. (See my volume on the history of this right in the West: Freedom of Speech: The History of An Idea.) Otherwise, however, the reporting, along with the opinon-mongering, following such events is tendentious and finger-pointing. And everyone, literally everyone, in New York always has an opinion, especially on the causes. After the Orlando shootings, I vowed never to utter my opinion on events that dominate the news cycle. And from what I have observed, simply from glancing at headlines in passing or when I open my internet browser, the press, including newspapers, has really been disgustingly tendentious in its current political coverage. It is all opinion, all the time.
|Eisert at home|
The volume includes several fascinating pieces, but the one that most caught my attention at the moment is by Hansjürgen Koschwitz, “Sag’ mir, warum dich keine Zeitung freut? Goethe als Kritiker und Leser der Presse.” Herewith a few observations.
|Goethe Girl takes a break|
Freedom of the press does not mean simple reporting of the news; it is the freedom to publish "opinions," to "speak truth to power." Goethe held, however, that such freedom of the press would lead to everyone having the same opinion (Gleichschaltung der Meinungen) and thus a collective state of mind, the end result a kind of repressive purpose. As for the first, keep it in mind the next time you read about the "97 percent consensus of scientists" on global warming.
Nevertheless, Goethe did read newspapers regularly, for "the news." As Professor Koschwitz writes, newspapers informed him about foreign affairs, especially politics, and kept him in touch with "das Wogen der Welthändel." Many entries in his diaries indicate that he read newspapers daily. In the 1820s one of his favorite newspapers was a French one, Le Globe.
Goethe wrote in a similar vein to Zelter at the time of the Parisian events, namely, that knowing what is going on does not make one smarter or better ("man [wird] durch die Kenntnis dessen, was der Tag bringt, nicht klüger und nicht besser").