20 Minutes - Fear is Stupid

Hi. It's Joe.

The thesis of this post is that fear is stupid.

The school shooting a couple of weeks ago was very tragic.

But it was also very rare, statistically speaking.

It seems like gun violence is going up in America, but the numbers don't lie.

It is actually going down on a per capita basis.

What is going up is mainstream media sensatioanlism and hype.

Not to downplay the tragedy of young children dying, but several 747 loads of children die from totally preventable (and human perpetrated) poverty all over the world every day.

These are not suburban smiling blonde haired and blue eyed white children, but why that should matter I don't understand. Apparently it does though...too close to home.

But those foreign dark skinned kids have devastated parents too. They also had dreams and futures that were cut short for no good reason.

Flying in an airplane is about the safest way to travel, statistically. You are far more likely to die in a car accident than a plane accident. Yet many people are terrified of flying but will get behind the wheel of a car without a thought.

The reason for this is psychological. When someone dies in a car crash, the mainstream media doesn't make a big deal out of it. It might get some local news coverage, but that's about it. It won't be on the front page of any newspaper anywhere.

But when a plane takes a digger, it's front page news, in part because it is so rare and takes so many lives at once. By putting such disasters in the forefront of the mainstream media (front pages and top stories), people are much more aware of it, and psychologically they are led to believe that such disasters are more prevalent than automobile deaths.

But the only thing that is more prevalent about it is the media coverage. Nothing more.

Remember that war thing called Iraq? American soldiers shot up a lot of women and children over there. The media didn't cover it because it made America look bad. As a result, people think only terrorist baddies died in Iraq and we were over there protecting the women and children. But collateral damage is unavoidable in war. Those innocent deaths are no less tragic than the ones in Connecticut. Where was the outrage then?

And while we are on the subject of terrorism, here's some more math for you.

Instead of a War on Terror, we ought to have a War on Lightning Strikes, because your chances of being killed by lightning are a lot higher than your chances of being killed in a terrorist attack.

Again, you can thank the mainstream media for that. But you can thank mathematics for the truth of the matter.

Humans are social animals. Any social psychologist will tell you that your behavior is largely a result of social cues. You behave socially responsibly only because your peers do. You are more likely to break the rules when no one is looking. You learn good behavior by watching it in others and you learn bad behavior by seeing the absence of good behavior in others.

For a long time in history, social cues came from other human beings, friends and family and society. People were more violent and thus it was contagious. In today's information world, human social cues have been replaced by media cues. The mainstream media is, psychologically speaking, a proxy for social cues that guide human behavior. More violence in the media means more violence in society. But more good news counteracts that. More puppies, for example.

In spite of the violence prone media coverage, violence in society is actually going down, per capita. So to end on a brighter note, we are doing something right (probably, more people are turning away from the mainstream media, because it sucks goat balls and people see it for the corporate propaganda that it is). But we should do more.

Also, I am going to make a prediction. America will not go over the fiscal cliff. It will be averted at the last possible second on Monday 12/31/12, allowing the mainstream media to string us all along in suspense, for ratings and advertising dollars. But no one wants to go over it. The politicians have to bicker and argue and put on a good blustery show until the last possible second, to make it look like they did all they could to protect their charlatan grafting special interest groups.

But mark my words, they will mysteriously reach an agreement before the year/day is done. You'll see. It is so predictable. This is the way it goes down every single time, but people still fall for it.


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