A new book discusses our focus on negative news – and how negativity in all aspects of our life is not where we need to be. I’m buying the book.
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.
The media’s focus on scary, fear-based propaganda messaging – and avoidance of discussing workable solutions that are already underway – leads to intense negativity and anxiety. The result has been a majority of young people believing humanity may be extinct in ten years, even though there is zero evidence to support such nonsense. We are literally scaring people to death via false and inappropriate propaganda messaging. Some journalists are looking to “solutions journalism” moving away from the whining negativity of current news reports that focus on problems and seldom examine workable solutions,. This new approach offers hope and a positive way forward.
We are faced with a constant bombardment of negativity – yet most of it is flat out false. We live in the best of times in human history, and even our environmental footprint is improving dramatically, contrary to the constant drone of fear mongering.
News headlines that end with a question mark are signaling the story is bull shit, click-bait or propaganda messaging. Is this what the experts say? (Heh)
Reports of a polar bear spray painted with “T-34” on its side were greatly exaggerated. The tagging was done by scientists, not pranksters. The bear had been rummaging a garbage dump and scientists wanted to see if it was returning. They tagged it with a short duration ink; this was not graffiti by pranksters as initially reported. Typical of this type of report, the original source for the video was unknown, the back story was unknown, and the video was shared on social media by an environmental activist. Media then used social media as a primary source. What could possibly go wrong?
As has become routine, the media’s pre-election coverage was a bit disconnected from the reality on the ground.
The day before the election, British media said the “election too close to call” but the day after, we see that the election was not even close, but decisive.
Newsweek reporter caught having manufactured a fictional news report, then calls it an “honest mistake” and keeps her job. Newsweek has a history of publishing fiction stories masquerading as actual news. This is not how to inspire confidence in the news media. (Update: Newsweek confirmed the report about what Trump did on Thanksgiving was written during the week prior to Thanksgiving. The reporter has been fired and the editor has been demoted.)
If you do not trust mass media, then you are unpatriotic. Interesting assertion unsupported by evidence. But its in the Washington Post, so you can trust it.
The headline comes from a survey finding consumers are concerned about a future recession. Public opinion polls, particularly when asking people to express an opinion on subjects of which they have neither expert nor first hand knowledge, are primarily measuring the effectiveness of prior propaganda messaging. In this example, 2019 has been filled with a stream of news reports predicting a recession. In fact, these predictions have been underway for years. And they have been wrong – particularly since no one has demonstrated any skill in accurately forecasting future recessions. But they are effective at shaping public opinion, which could result in consumers changing their behavior in ways that reduce economic activity.
The headline story is itself followed by a sequence of upbeat economic news. In fact, 2019 holiday sales are running 15% above the prior year, to date.