The Republican straw poll in Ames is an excellent example of a story that serious people should ruthlessly ignore. For Republican political operators and people trying to figure out which candidate to back in order to get a government job in 2013, perhaps Ames matters.But for most of us, following the Iowa straw poll is as big a waste of time as watching reality TV. We don’t have time for it because so much else is going on that actually matters: the economic turmoil, the Middle East upheaval, the Great Game in Asia, the break up of the blue social model on both sides of the Atlantic, the euro crisis, the drift of American politics back toward the right after 2008.There are people who follow political news for the same reason others follow sports: it’s a hobby and they want to root for their team. I’ve got no quarrel with that in itself, but young people trying to figure out how the world works and what news to follow can be seriously confused by the press’ self-indulgent over-coverage of non-events like the straw poll.Learning to tell the difference between fluff and news is one of the most important skills you can develop if you want to understand the world and change it rather than rush around aimlessly in a state of futile excitement.Our society controls access to power in part by scattering useless information so widely. People waste their time learning stuff that doesn’t matter, and invest their energy in causes that are bound to fail — or will fail to have much impact even if they succeed. People who really want to make a difference need to learn to screen out the idiocy and the chatter and invest their attention and their study on things that actually count.The press has an inordinate love of contests and process. Most of this doesn’t really matter and can safely be ignored. If you want to understand the world, ignore the torrents of slush coming out of Iowa this week. Scan the headlines when the winners emerge; then move on.