So, for example, the media reports that there are "dangerous levels of arsenic" in our wines! People fly off the handle without bothering to check other sources. And other sources note that these levels of arsenic, while higher than drinking water, are less than half the maximum allowed in Canada and 1/4 that allowed in Europe (the US has no arsenic standard for wine, only water). Further, the person "peddling" the story is a guy running a chemical lab in Denver who is trying to sell arsenic certification services to the very wineries being sued. Now you know the rest of the story(tm).
Or take this story about a lady who was put in a mental hospital "because she claimed Obama was following her on Twitter!" The outrage is, we are told, is that Obama was actually following her on Twitter! Such an outrage! Oh wait.
Turns out, if you use this newfangled "Google" thing, and read some other version of the story, that the reason she was put in a mental hospital was that she was freaking out when her BMW was towed away, and the Police thought she was behaving irrationally. And of course, President Obama wasn't following her on Twitter. He doesn't even have a twitter account. Rather, the fundraising arm of his political PAC was sending her SPAM messages.
I get them all the time in my e-mail inbox. They are addressed "Dear Robert..." and are "from" President Obama. But I don't harbor any delusions that the President of the United States has sent me a personal message - but rather a 'bot has sent me SPAM.
In other cases, the other side of the story can't be told or isn't told by the media. Someone goes on television and blathers on about an injustice being done to them, which is the source of a lawsuit. The media asks the opponent in the suit for comment, and they wisely decline to comment on a lawsuit in the media. So you get a one-sided story. What you have to ask yourself is, what is the likely other side, and why is one side trying their case in the media instead of in court?
Even when there is no other side to be found online, you can kind of guess what the other side is. This NPR story, for example, is entirely one-sided. A former magazine "publisher" and "Golden Gloves" boxing contender trips while at work and she claims she can no longer walk because of a localized pain problem. Of course the mean old insurance companies are to blame here, denying coverage after 17 years of treatment. The other side of the story remains untold (which is typical of NPR). I wonder what that other side could be? It ain't hard to come up with some scenarios.
Once you hear the whole story, or think about the other side untold, suddenly it seems less outrageous. But outrage sells and the media is in the business of generating clicks and capturing eyeballs. And evenhanded stories, even "fair and balanced(tm)" are not going to get ratings or click-through revenue. You need to outrage to get people's attention, it seems.
There is a bumper sticker you see in Ithaca that says, "If you're not outraged you're not paying attention!" Sadly, I think the reverse is true. If you are outraged all the time, you are just destroying, literally, your own life, to make your media masters happy. If you really pay attention and do the research a lot of what you think is "outrage" is really just sort of ho-hum kind of stuff that is hyped by the media into the outrage du jour to get ratings.
The reality is this. If you are reading this, you own or have access to a computer. That immediately places you in the top 30% or so of the planet, in terms of wealth and income. Chances are, you are well-fed, if not a bit overweight. You have a place to live, some sort of job, likely a car (in a nation with more cars than people) and a number of electronic appliances in your home (microwave, television, refrigerator, maybe even a washer/dryer).
You are, in short, fat and happy, although the media wants to make sure you are not the latter. They want you to be outraged, depressed, and a helpless victim of circumstance, even if the circumstance is that you don't have granite countertops or a BMW.
The reality is, you are among the luckiest people on the planet, and yet you are squandering most of this on these fake outrages, depression, and feeling sorry for yourself. And it is a dead-end game, too. No matter how much money you make in America (or how much you collect from the government) it is never enough, as there is always someone else who is better off, and that is, of course, another outrage.
Unplugging from the media is really important if you want to get ahead personally, emotionally, and financially. If you simply don't watch the news for days on end, you will miss most of these "gripping stories" that are conveniently forgotten by the masses within one "news cycle" anyway. And if you do hear about some raging outrage, think about it carefully and ask yourself whether there is another side to the story and Google it.
Because chances are, there is.