In the midst of an ineptly managed pandemic and ineptly managed civil unrest and economic fiasco people try to make sense of it by reading everything they can. Scrolling through post and news story after news story is called “doomscrolling” and it destroys your mental health. Sadly, much of the bull shit is not from random social media posts but from actual experts who spew nonsense.
No, the world is not going to end. This a bad headline designed to strike fear in the reader. It’s based on conspiracy theories and people seeking to find arbitrary patterns in randomness. But – time for some media scary headlines!
Back in 2016, fake social media posts from fake social media accounts were used to incite fear and hysteria, with attempts to start riots. I documented this in detail back in 2016.
Today we again have fake social media posts being used to incite violence, looting, arson and anarchy – none of which leads to productive solutions to bona fide injustices and societal problems. Social media is playing a central role in this non-productive destruction of our society – and is not providing a platform for problem resolution.
A fake study cherry picks the start date of the pandemic to make a false claim that billionaires became far richer due to the pandemic. The actual purpose of the “study” is propaganda messaging using the methods of cherry picking, appeal to authority, and emotion. The errors made are large enough to be treated as lies, as well.
Why I left Nextdoor.com, largely left Twitter, have left several Facebook groups and even marked most of my own blog posts about Covid-19 as private – what happened?
The media focuses on doom and gloom based frequently on rampant speculation. No one “reports” anymore. Instead, they prognosticate and speculate about the future with made up gloom and doom, most of which makes no logical sense. The reason for the gloom and doom is due to an odd bit of psychology. Negative information always takes precedence over positive information – it is a basic survival mechanism to pay attention to bad things. The media know this. And strangely enough, news consumers seek out more bad news to validate their feelings of anxiety.
The news headline says Oregon ranks high in natural disasters, which the text explains, is wildfires in the State.
This claim comes from a press release from a small, little known online Internet insurance sales web site. This type of press release is put out in hopes of garnering free publicity – and it certainly worked for them – in large part because the media, like all of us, is more likely to succumb to a fear-based scary headline.
However, if we practice factfulness and look at the long term trend in Oregon fires we see that a small rise at the right end of the chart has been translated into a crisis and a catastrophe. The chart above is the official chart from the Oregon government’s Fire Statistics page, and shows actual acreage burned and total fires burned in Oregon since 1911.
The slight increase at the extreme right edge is the basis for the scary headline. By leaving out all historical context and by focusing on large percentile increase in a tiny number at the right edge of the chart, the media creates unwarranted fear and hysteria in viewers.
We all have “frames” of reference that describe various life scenarios. When we walk into a restaurant we have a “frame” that pretty much explains how we expect the restaurant experience to go. We each carry around a lot of subconscious “frames” about how we think the world works. Effective propaganda messaging links to the frames we expect the target to already have. This is not all that surprising but what is old is now new again 🙂
Active propaganda messaging has persuaded Americans they are living in the darkest hours of history and life itself will be wiped out within 10 years. In reality, we live in the best of times in world history as measured across a wide range of critical metrics. Yet the constant barrage of negativity and hostility motivates individuals’ stress response.
The Guardian announces that it requires their staff to use pejorative propaganda terminology rather than the facts of atmospheric CO2 levels rising, sea level ice and temperature changes, ice mass changes and so on. Anyone who does not 100% adopt The Guardian’s perspective is to be labeled a “denier” (name calling, transference from “Holocaust denier”, get on the bandwagon). The word “climate” should be associated with “crisis”, “emergency” or “heating” (transference, fear). Shrill terminology designed to inflame and create emotional outrage is a turn off and causes readers to tune out from the issues.