If you feel overwhelmed by recent news, you're not alone. Today I felt as if the vast quivering mass of our civilization had begun to tumble toward chaos. It's not just the maddening storm-on-a-tin-roof news cycle pace. It's also the number of variables - on top of each other - that feel out of our control. 

  • Climate Change's narrowing window, exacerbated by its total coverage absence by mainstream news.
  • Rising xenophobia, transphobia, atheist phobia, racism, anti-feminism, inequality,

    militarism, and fascism.

  • The crazy guy ready to declare a national emergency because his treason and corruption are almost unveiled and he doesn't have dictatorial powers yet.
  • Heightened threats of nuclear war.

image sources: woman, burning trees, Thomas Fire, pyroclastic flow, text from headlines

Jeremy Sherman describes the way current mass media exacerbate our bias to pay attention to the extreme, which I see as a large scale push on our failing civilization into further dysfunction and madness.

The re-emergence of totalitarianism — and why some extremists prevail

“News” means two things, what’s happening and what’s surprising. In information theory, it means surprise.

By information theory’s standard, it’s no surprise that news reporting is all about surprise, shock and the extreme versions of everything. Extremist trolls are surprising and therefore newsworthy, dominating subtler interpretations of what’s going on.

There’s a fundamental human bias toward “trolltalitarianism,” domination by the extreme, trolling version of any idea. There’s a strong bias toward extremism built right into our powers of attention. We ignore what’s subtle, we perk up about what’s extreme. Even when an idea originates as subtle, what makes the headlines won’t be.

... ideas insulated from all possible challenges. Absolutism is often the means to extremist ends a way of making an idea shocking, new and threatening enough that it turns heads.

The term “extremism” is useful but doesn’t speak to the appetite for it, or its tendency to dominate the news. Hence, we need a term the way extremism prevails, for which I’d suggest trolltalitarianism.

Advances in media technology don’t cause trolltalitarianism; they exacerbate it. [emphasis mine]

I get irritated by CNN, which ignores hundreds of thousands protesting climate change, and climate change itself, to mention "the wall" a thousand times per hour. Controlling what even most liberals pay attention to. TV news is dragging our Overton Window into crazyland, and we don't even feel the gravel scraping our brains. That media mind manipulation is what makes me feel as if "everything" is our of our control.

As Greta Thunberg says, climate change should dominate all of the news. We're letting ourselves be distracted by politician-manufactured fears, in the face of actual existential threat. 

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This cartoon captures how even in ordinary times, news reporting tends towards the extreme...

THE SCIENCE NEWS CYCLE [Jorge Cham © 2009] Your research [young man at laptop: “Conclusion: A is correlated with B (ρ=0.56), given C, assuming D and under E conditions.”] ...is translated by... University PR Office (yes, you have one) [herald trumpet and headline: “For Immediate Release: Scientists find potential link between A and B (under certain conditions)] ...which is then picked up by... News Wire Organizations [reporter in trenchcoat and fedora with press pass, writing in notebook: “A causes B, say scientists.”] ...who are read by... The INTERNETS [“dingding” web page, with excerpt “Scientists out to kill us again - posted by Random Dude - Comments (377) - OMG! i kneeew itt!! - WTH???????”] ...then noticed by... CNC Cable News [newscaster pointing to “A=B” chart, detail of chyrons: “We saw it on a Blog! A causes B all the time - What will this mean for Obama? - BREAKING NEWS BREAKING NEWS BREA”] ...and caught on... [Channel] 4 Local Eyewitless NEWS [“A: Killer Among Us??” “What you don’t know about ‘A’... can kill you! More at 11...”] ...eventually making it to... your grandma [older woman wearing tinfoil hat with antennae, telling the facepalming original scientist “I’m wearing this to ward off ‘A’”]

(click to enlarge)



Your highlighted section explains a whole lot of it. What makes the news seems to be the extreme and often the bizarre. Aren't we focusing on the wrong things? News is becoming a sort of click bait item where those reporting networks seem to be paid by clicks or views. This idea has to be stopped and we need to go back to news reporting for factual reasons.

In other forums I see more and more people wanting to cling to Infowars, Breitbart, and Alex Jones. Since when did any of these report news? Does anybody fact check? Trump says he is now happy with his early claims of "fake news." Of course he is. We have always had areas of fake news but Trump wants to bring this to a new level in which you believe him and what he says. How gullible are we? This brings people back to the question of where does he get his news? In the meantime more news outlets spring up because they want to get in on the bizarre and the new twist on truth. Rather than expose it all standard media outlets go a little more off course just for ratings and to keep up.

If Trump declares his scheduled and planned national emergency (how's that for a contradiction!) to divert funding for his wall, the next Democratic president who actually upholds the Constitution, provides for the "General Welfare", etc., etc. could declare things like gun violence and climate change to be national emergencies!

Finland and Italy realize that the only way to combat a dysfunctional media full of "Fake News", is to educate the population to bother to fact-check everything.

Because they noticed that Finish people appear to be immune to the constant barrage of Russian misinformation. 
Education on critical thinking or rational skepticism should be considered as important as teaching math and English, it should be the primary core of education. 

Imagine a well educated, fact checking society where media is constantly being analysed and fake news automatically gets scrutinized and ignored by the majority of citizens. 

News media would be constantly trying to give the most rational and logical take on the facts to attract viewers.
Hmmm, maybe that would just be another utopia. :D 




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