The title of this post comes from the personal blog of former MSNBC producer Ariana Pekary, who quit recently over frustrations with the network’s obsession with ratings over informing the public and the serious negative effects this has had on the national discourse. She believes this to be a systemic problem across the board with most mainstream news entities.
Shocking, I know! Not really of course. I’m sure many of you are fully aware of the media’s long deathward spiral down the ratings toilet bowl in their never ending quest for eyeballs at the expense (and exhaustion) of the general public. Take a partially true story, spin, tweak, edit and then spin again until the desired narrative comes about, then push it through the network channels and social media feeds until peak fear/outrage levels are reached. Voila, instant ratings boost.
This got me thinking. Not so much about the horrid state of the news media, but on the simple fact that each day we have a variety of choices on which narratives to live by and that a thoughtful dissection on what they’re bringing to the table might be in order.
By narrative I mean the reality of what’s going on in the world and who is defining it. For some it’s cable news, the internet or social media, for others it’s the daily paper or a favorite magazine with a cup of Joe ( my personal favorite, but who has the time!) and then of course there are those who avoid news all together. For most of us it’s probably some combination of a few, but make no mistake, they all lay down tracks in our brains on what to concern ourselves with and why.
In this video, a woman named Lorie Ladd goes deeper in to how our predefined labels about things can unconsciously create emotional knee jerk reactions that lead us to places of either fear or freedom. “Oh that’s coming from FOX, I’m gonna respond this way, or oh that’s coming from CNN, I’m gonna respond this way.”
While she gets a little too whooey hooey for me at times, she did get me thinking about ways I allow outside forces to mess with my emotions. We all do this and unless you live in a cave it can’t be helped. The important thing to do, according to Lorie, is to continually question what you’re listening/watching/reading and ask yourself,
“How is this message making me feel and why am I choosing to believe a program, a system or a paradigm that is making me feel fear?”
Good questions! While it’s important to be informed, it’s even more so to understand that the media is not our friend. They employ reams of people whose jobs are to position “the news” in scary ways so headlines are clicked, people become fearful after reading the ensuing articles and then come back for more because the anxiety/outrage they now suffer from and the brain chemicals released from this drive a compulsive need to know more.
InsanityBytes 22 explains this well in her excellent post, The 12 Steps and Screaming Panic Porn:
“If you don’t know what Screaming Panic Porn is, it is click bait, it is propaganda designed to manipulate you into taking a peek, triggering an emotional response. The mainstream media and advertisers are absolute experts at it, professionals. They know how to hook you. They are wayyyy bigger and badder than you are.”
A reader of that post named HAT referenced an also excellent article called Coronavirus is Serious, but Fear is Optional which gets in to the nitty gritty on how news copy is created (hint, not for our benefit) and why it only matters that you open the article, not that it’s accurate or informative. It’s a great read all around, but this one line sums up the gist.
“When you read the news, you’re not actually becoming well- informed, you’re being emotionally exploited.”
I can think of no better example of this than the media’s hysterical coronavirus coverage,
with their daily drumbeat of positive case counts and continual showcasing of the saddest of sad outlier stories of young, seemingly healthy people dying from it. No caveats on how daily stats are meaningless, no corrections made when numbers turn out to be wrong, 0 discussion on who really is dying in large numbers and no focus on recoveries, just one horror story after another.
Yet this charts paint a very different picture. Yes, case #’s have exploded (brown line) but daily deaths (black line) have remained relatively flat minus a few upticks in very localized hotspots.
This second shows Covid death have trended downward dramatically since its April peak with details broken out by age, which tells us who this virus effects most and where resources should be directed.
Yet color coded graphs and dry virology basics don’t sell very well, so the panic porn will continue until at least November 7th.
What’s to be done? It’s important to be informed, but this involves work. Consume news but just enough to know what’s happening and question everything, especially if it’s triggering fear/outrage and is too comfortably in line with your thinking.
Just as important is to seek outlets that provide information but with the context needed to get the full picture. This takes time but brings perspective, which helps to better pinpoint what’s truly important amidst the daily barrage of garbage headlines thrown our way.
This leads to making rational decisions about how to or even if to respond to current events based on our personal assessment of things, not someone else’s whose agenda goes against our self interest.
Freedom over fear & empowerment over outrage leads to smart personal decisions made based on what works best for our own unique situations. How quaint.