Monday, October 13, 2014

Selling FEAR again

Fear is never an emotion to be trusted.  When someone tries to sell you fear, back away!

The media is at is again, hyping fear as usual.  You should be afraid, they tell you, because all sorts of horrible things are happening:
The Stock Market is crashing and investors are panicking  The stock market has been doing very well over the last six years - since Obama took office. It is to be expected that after a record bull market, there will be some bears.   A 1% drop isn't great, but neither is it the end of the world.   Companies that continue to churn out earnings and dividends will continue to hold value.  Companies that are speculative will continue to fail.   The DJIA and other indexes are, in my opinion, too heavily weighted with the latter, with tech stocks making up too much of these indexes.  When the price of Apple and Facebook are used as indicia of the health of the market, you might think the market is sick.

The Ebola Virus will wipe us all out in a matter of months!  Well, again, not exactly.  One person has died, in America, after returning from Liberia.  This is out of a nation of over 300 million people.  Meanwhile, 40,000 people die every year in car crashes, yet even a gory wreck hardly makes a headline.  Put things in perspective.

Islamic Terrorists are taking over America and beheading people!   Well, OK, one person.   Hardly a Jihad, just a crazy person.   On that same day, dozens of other crazy people shot others with guns, and it hardly makes the news anymore.

Internet Hackers will hack into your smart thermostat or light bulb and take over your home!   And do what?  Turn up your thermostat?   The article on CNN hyping this fear has a link explaining the "shellshock" virus is actually no threat at all - unless your smart lightbulb is connected directly to a server.
And so on and so on.  The media loves to sell FEAR and this month, they are having an orgy of it.  Between Ebola and ISIS and "stock market crashes" they hype the fear on top of fear.  Oddly enough, many of the articles - if you bother to read them - say there is little or nothing to actually fear.  But the headlines are another story.  "Should you be afraid of ISIS?" and that sort of thing.   People read the headlines, but not the last paragraph of the article.   Fiberglass Horses.

You can sense the media's frustration, too.   Why aren't we are all panicking?   CNN laments that despite its best efforts, Americans are still happy.   Keep trying CNN!   Eventually we will all be on Prozac, if you just keep up the drumbeat of bad news!

Yes Americans are still happy.  Funny how that works - that people living in the wealthiest country in the world with the highest standard of living in the world, would actually end up "happy".   ISIS and Ebloa are far more serious threats to folks in Syria, Iraq, and Africa.   Seriously - just read the box scores.  America:  1 beheading.   Syria:  1,000.    America:  1 Ebola Death.  Africa:  3,000.

A lot of what is screamed in the headlines is indeed tragic - for people in other parts of the world.   And we should be concerned about these tragedies, of course.   But there is something obscene, in my mind, when Americans posit themselves as "victims" or potential victims, of these international events.   Even the events of 9/11 - as devastating as they were - pale in comparison to routine violence, death, and destruction which visits the rest of the planet on a regular basis.

Why does the media sell fear?  Because fear sells.  People are far more likely to "stay tuned" for a fear-based TeeVee segment or click on fear-based article.  And the media people know this, as the Internet monitors what we click on and the Nielsen people know what we watch.   So they know that people will go for "everything's awful!" but not for "Gee, things are swell!"

It is human nature.  Every story has to have a crises or drama.  Man against Nature, Man against Himself, Man against Man.   You don't have a "story" that goes, "Once upon a time, everyone lived happily ever after."   There has to be a story "arc" - right?   Or so we think.   Happily ever after is very underrated.

Even when things are going swell, the media sells fear.  If the market is going gangbusters, they tout "Will the market crash?" headlines.   If terrorists haven't struck recently, they tout, "Where will the terrorists strike next?"  

How do you avoid this sort of nonsense?  The simple answer is: UNPLUG.   Stop watching network television, particularly network news.  It does not "inform" you of anything.   Stop clicking on fear-based articles on the Internet, and stop believing in them.

Perceive reality for what it is, not what the fear-mongers want you to think.   As Americans, we live in a very safe and comfortable and prosperous place.   The world isn't about to end, just yet.   Being afraid all the time does nothing for you, personally.   But as I noted before, cowed and fearful people (depressed people) do make excellent consumers!

This segment of "Terrorists are all out to kill you with Ebola" is sponsored by Exxon!