It’s No Use Watching the News

A Cold Warrior’s survival skills for the 21st century

L.D. Burnett
5 min readMar 6, 2022


Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

My grandmother was an impassioned person with strong political views (surprise!). She subscribed to news magazines, she religiously watched the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour, she clipped articles from newsletters and newspapers about current events or current political debates and pushed them like drugs on family members, trying to make one brother or another, one daughter-in-law or another, see the light — seeing the light being to see the world as she herself saw it.

I was a little surprised, then, and a bit confused, the first time I witnessed what struck me as rather odd behavior on her part: turning off the TV news if she found it upsetting. I probably didn’t notice this habit of hers until I was in high school or maybe even college — so, the 1980s, when there was a lot going on at home and abroad but you had to watch the evening news or read the morning paper to know about it. And my grandmother, who prided herself on being informed, would see something that upset her or angered her, and she would just get up and turn off the news.

I asked her why.

“Well,” she’d say, “it’s just too upsetting.”

Now I know that was something of a dodge. She was plenty upset about all kinds of things happening in America and the world — upset enough to save articles from magazines for other family members to read, upset enough to argue about the issues over dinner. Never heard of the Social Security “notch years”? Clearly, you never met my grandmother. She was plenty impassioned about everything, from her outrage at “damn, thieving hippies” to her hatred of Communists bent on destroying America to her visceral contempt for Ronald Reagan. (She voted for John Anderson.)

So it wasn’t that she didn’t want to be upset by the news. She thrived on being upset by the news — as long as the news was about domestic politics. Because domestic politics was something that she was convinced she had a hand in shaping, as an informed voter and a persuasive (read: relentless) interlocutor.

What she didn’t like was making the leap from domestic politics to international conflicts, from anti-Communism at home to proxy wars abroad, from national defense to regime change…



L.D. Burnett

Writer and historian from / in California’s Great Central Valley. Book, “Western Civilization: The History of an American Idea,” under contract w/ UNC Press.