At the local Planet Fitness where I have a gym membership, a line of eighteen TV monitors awaits me when I arrive for my early morning workouts.

It’s hard to keep your eyes off those flashing monitors while working out at that gym because they hang right there at in front of the long line of cardio machines. Often I as I’m doing my workout, I look around and see people’s eyes trained to the line of monitors, soaking up the morning news.

From my vantage point in the cardio section, I am able to see nine of the eighteen monitors. The monitors are always set to the same stations, which gives me certainty in my viewing choices every morning. One of the stations shows nothing but paid infomercials, which I don’t pay attention to because, being a Scot by blood, I have a constitutional aversion to being sold to.

That leaves me effectively eight stations to choose from. Of those, four are tuned to local network channels, which I will scan to check out the weather forecast and see how my local sports teams fared overnight. Two other channels are dedicated to sports, which I will sometimes check out depending on what teams they’re showing.

The final two news stations, representing 25 percent of my effective viewing choices, are Fox News and CNN, both of which I have trained my eyes to avoid at all costs.

I avoid Fox News and CNN because I don’t trust what they are saying. I hesitate to even call them news channels. It’s not news they’re providing. It’s propaganda, not far removed from the manipulative stuff that Chinese state television feeds its people.

Fox News and CNN are dueling propaganda machines. They churn out carefully tightly scripted narratives in support of the causes and positions of their respective viewers at different sides of the political spectrum.

Fox News’ narrative is pro anything about Trump and the administration. Any messages that put the Trump train in a positive light find their way on that Fox News-dedicated TV monitor hanging at the front of the gym. Anything that doesn’t fit that narrative is conveniently left off or, at best, given a brief mention before returning to the regularly scheduled program.

At the other end is CNN, which reports only stories that bash Trump and put the president and his administration in a bad light. Admittedly, the president gives CNN lots of fodder to work with every day all of the stuff that comes from his mouth and Twitter feed over the course of a given day. Still, those bad-light stories will get an inordinate amount of screen time, to the exclusion of other pressing breaking news.

I was trained in the old school of journalism. I was taught that my job as a journalist was to report the news in a factual, unbiased and balanced way, so as to give readers and viewers the information they need to make their own conclusions. Opinions should be relegated to the Op-Ed pages and labeled as such.

That’s not what Fox News or CNN are doing. What they are doing, or trying to do, is to manipulate people’s viewpoints based on their own narratives. They’re trying to sell me on something, much like the people on the infomercial channels trying to sell me on pillows and knife sets and workout tapes.

All of this is as obvious to me as the nose on my face, and I want nothing to do with it. Why would I want to fill my head with propaganda, along with all of the commercials that come with it?

So I look the other way. Peace inside, peace outside.

Our human heads have only so much mental space to work with. Every time we allow a media source into our living rooms or offices or gyms, we are yielding a precious part of that mental landscape to potential manipulation. It’s hard enough filtering out all of the internal noise in our heads without having to add manipulative media messages into the mix.

This is particularly problematic in our media-soaked, monitor-cluttered age. There’s so much disinformation out there. So many untrustworthy sources trying to get into our heads. We have to be exceedingly careful about where we allow our eyeballs to wander.

My inner space is precious. I treat it that way. I have no interest in having it disturbed and polluted by political agendas.

I want as much as possible to experience life directly, unfiltered by biases and prejudices and propaganda. Which is why I my news intake to a handful of sources that I know to be reputable and written by the best, most ethical journalists in the world: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, National Public Radio, BBC, Reuters, and a few others.

None of these is completely impartial, of course, being that there are human beings behind them. But generally I can trust them because I know they have high standards for how they gather and report on the news.

Outside of this rarefied list, other information sources don’t get my eyeballs. Sorry, you’re not allowed in.

Peace inside, peace outside.

Have a peaceful day!

– Peaceable Man