WHY I DON’T WATCH THE NEWS

I have this weird fetish where I…don’t watch the news.

When people find out, it’s as if they have pity for my soul. It’s the same reaction if you’ve ever traveled to a religious country and tell someone there that you don’t believe in god. They don’t get it. As if I’m an incomplete human. A troubled soul. It’s true, though. I do not watch the news. Not ever if I can help it.

For me, whether or not I watch the news….(as well as, whether or not I believe in god) I live my life the exact same way.

The reason is very simple.

 

I prefer to spend my time on other activities.

I, like you, have 24 hours in each of my days. I sleep for 8.5 of those hours. For the remaining 15.5 hours of my days, I have simply made a conscious decision to spend that time maximally enriching my life.

And news watching does not accomplish this.

I read. I learn languages. I explore. I go to the gym. I write. I dance.

I have 24 hours in my day. Watching news adds no value. Thus, I don't watch the news. It's that simple. Click To Tweet

 

The media is a form of mind control.

If you can get someone to think a certain way, basically it’s mind control. Persuasion is mind control. However, done with malintent, it becomes dangerous and counterproductive. Let me explain.

Humans are designed to take information as if it’s true. By default, we confirm the information received. Where do you think the saying ‘don’t believe everything you read in the paper’ came from?

It’s why palm readers exist and thrive. They tell you one thing and, by default, you search your brain to confirm it.

In his book Pre-Suasion, Robert Cialdini demonstrates this fact amazingly well.

He learned palmistry as a young man as a way to break the ice at social gatherings. At one of these social gatherings, he told the same person two opposite readings during the same party. Both times, the recipient confirmed the reading.

At the beginning of a party, Cialdini bent the recipient’s thumb back and declared him stubborn due to its curvature and stiffness. At the end of the party, the recipient wanted to know more. Cialdini bent his thumb forward and declared the recipient to have a rather flexible personality due to the flexibility and curvature of the thumb.

The recipient was amazed. Admittedly, some details are missing from this paraphrase, but the point is that we tend to believe what we read, see, and hear.

In fact, most of you reading this are going to agree with me. At least, you will think it makes sense and may even think to a time when the news misled you. The point of the article isn’t to get you to stop watching the news. Rather, its to make you more critical.

 

There are two sides to every fact.

Or, more. “Facts” are a funny thing. They don’t really exist when it comes to the news. If you haven’t watched the movie Vantage Point, I recommend it. It documents different witness perspectives of the same assassination. While each perspective has commonalities, they are all wildly different yet the same.

Just look at how World War II is taught to students in America versus students in German versus students in Russia. You wouldn’t even know they’re teaching the same historical event!

Now, I’m acutely aware of the myriad of valid reasons as to why it is a good idea to watch the news. For anything (whether or not to watch the news, the death penalty, limiting fats in your diet, etc.) there are usually going to be extremely valid reasons to oppose and support it.

“Facts” are a funny thing. They don’t really exist when it comes to the news. Click To Tweet

 

The news used to be respectable.

I believe that the news was started with the best of intentions. A few years ago I read Call Me Ted, an autobiography by Ted Turner, the creator of CNN and inventor of the 24-hour news cycle. He had the purest of intentions: to inform.

 

The news has a two-fold goal: entertain and push an agenda (read: to inform is not listed). Click To Tweet

 

But today at the larger news companies, it looks very different. Their goal is two-fold: entertain and push an agenda (read: to inform is not listed). There’s nothing innately wrong with having an agenda, I should add. We all have an agenda. But the large media corporations have too broad a reach which leads to malintent. As for entertaining, they use the following formula:

  1. Find an extreme case (an outlier, something that doesn’t affect most people)
  2. Broadcast it to make it seem common (this can be police shootings, taxicab rapists, shark attacks, anything that is entertaining)
  3. Find an equally extreme reaction to the broadcasted event in #2
  4. Broadcast #3’s extreme reaction making it seem like a common reaction
  5. Repeat

 

The above commit the all-too-common fallacy of “anecdotal reasoning” which compares an individual case (an outlier) to what generally happens. You can always find counter-examples of generalizations. Instead, statistics should be countered by statistics rather than individual cases. Herein lies the malintent. In general, if I book an Airbnb, I can assume with a high degree of accuracy that there will not be a hidden camera. Let’s take a closer look at this example.

 

News has made an industry out of the fallacy “anecdotal reasoning” which compares an individual case (an outlier) to what generally happens Click To Tweet

 

An example(s).

The Amazon is burning! 84% increase over last year! Based on the news in mid-2019, you’d think we’d be without an Amazon in a few months. This would be terrible and a lot of people were activated to speak out. But, what’s the whole story? A question that should be asked with any big news media story nowadays. First, the Amazon burns every year. Last year (recall the 84% increase this year) was a record low number of burns. In fact, 2019 shows an increase of only 7% over the past 10 years.

In the beginning part of 2019, I read about hidden camera’s in Airbnbs. I do not dispute this fact. However, hidden camera’s will be found in a tiny fraction of total Airbnb listings. To the media, this is insignificant. Remember their two-fold goal above. They must entertain. The media reports on all of these small instances making it seem like a bigger problem than it actually is. This is malintent and misinforms the viewers.

Or, how about the insanely racist tweet that Uber sent out: “We’re so sorry about that, Nigger! Please send us a DM with your phone number with additional details of your concern, so we can connect.”

If you click on the account that tweeted Uber you will find that it was trolling the internet to create exactly this kind of scenario. In fact, its all the account is used for. Nevertheless, Uber had to make a public apology and many people were offended. This is malintent.

 

Did you hear about the apology Uber has to give because they were trolled and the news covered 1/2 the story? Click To Tweet

 

Or, how common police shootings are and the true stories behind how these tragic events unfolded. A single police shooting is bad. But, in reality, they’re extremely uncommon. And, most of the time, the victim is not a helpless bystander who simply took a wrong step and got shot. And, if you know me, I’m not one to defend the police, not in the slightest.

This is their formula and it works amazingly well just like The Hero’s Journey movie script. It’s a form of entertainment and its priority is to make a profit.

I don’t watch the news.

By and large, the news has no effect on my life.

 

I don’t watch the news. By and large, the news has no effect on my life. Click To Tweet
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