Who Watches TV News?

I can’t remember the last time I watched TV news. It is certainly more than three years ago. Do I miss it? I don’t think so. Individual stories that I come across in areas I know something about are so confused as to be meaningless. I don’t like working that hard to gather information. I saw a cartoon with two older people watching TV News. The wife says, “The news is coming on, we will need our glasses.” She returns with two large glasses of wine.

Where it leads

Gell-Mann Syndrome is evidence of a communication failure. It is named after the late Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Murray Gell-Mann who once commented that he found most reporting in areas of knowledge he understood, to be near hopeless. On the other hand, when he didn’t know much about the field of the reporting, he thought it was believable if well written.

It is difficult to know enough to sort out the propaganda from the kernels of useful truth.

My defence has become to mistrust everything unless it comes with objective evidence. Show your work! Even then I have had to refresh my understanding of statistics. It is remarkable how many stories are based on flawed statistical studies and manipulative analysis.

When I am paying attention I am hard-pressed to decide if reporting is still a profession. Most of what I can see is short story writing. More like O. Henry than journalism. They look like “Here are some details that support the narrative.” We live in a media-driven post-truth world.

Where should it lead

The search for truth and meaning is a natural human want.

Much of life is factual. Objective reality. It would be useful to have reporting that conformed to the shape of reality. You must work to find people who have fact-based positions.  Most of them hold opinions and supporting facts positions that do not support the accepted narrative and so are made near invisible.

It is not wise to overlook the people who disagree with conventional and popular wisdom. Mark Twain warned us, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

How to address the problem

I was taught to present the facts as I know them, with reasons for why I think they are true and meaningful. I think lying is a gross affront to communicating. I think believing one-dimensional thinking leads us to perdition. Given some new law, how many politicians can tell you, or will tell you, what secondary effects are likely? Few can, almost none do.

Critical thinking is a disappearing skill. Think like a trial lawyer. Here is my case as best I can explain it. Here is my opponent’s case as best I can understand it. If you cannot argue both sides you are not finished thinking about the point in question. 

Lawyers use evidence to find truth. Learn how to evaluate evidence. Look up thinking mistakes and decide how you can defend yourself. Everyone telling you a story knows them and uses them against you. As an example think about recency bias (sometimes called availability bias) This is the one politicians and many others use. Talking points. Repeat over and over again. Speak louder and louder still. Eventually, everyone will believe whatever you say because it is heard so often, and the contrary evidence is buried. You can see that every day.

Some people will show their work. They don’t begin with having to be right. They begin with curiosity, looking for meaning and truth. Up until just the last few years, that discussion, seeking to share knowledge instead of unsupportable opinion, has been how we grew. This thinking flaw is confirmation bias. People ignore everything but what they believe. That works until they have to defend it. Opinion is not evidence and they feel personally attacked. If they knew how to communicate they would see it as a chance to grow. Their common defence is to attack the person with contradicting evidence.

The first person to attack has run out of support for their purported position.

Finding reasoned opinion outside the taking points

I have time for Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, Thomas Sowell, Michael Shellenberger, Dave Rubin, Robert Barnes, Douglas Murray, Ben Shapiro, The Good Fellows at The Hoover Institute, Bjorn Lomborg, the Weinstein brothers, (Eric is a bit pretentious) Bari Weiss, Glenn Greenwald, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, and a dozen more at least. The thing they have in common is they can present a point of view without making it personal. They can explain why they believe what they do and show evidence and how the pieces connect.

They do the gathering and organizing for me and give me the pieces to test if I want to do so.

Talking points work because:

People are busy

Finding objective evidence is difficult.

Thinking is harder than believing. George Bernard Shaw, “I suppose that you seldom think. Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.” Don’t expect that to change in the whole of society. You can minimize the problem within yourself though.

People think it is impolite to challenge others. Learn to be less agreeable.

The point to take away

The world is the way it is because we let it be the way it is. Learn to recognize nonsense and shout it down. Nicely. Consider a thought from my mother. “Be polite when you’re right.”

Help me, please. Please subscribe. If you have found this article helpful, forward it to others.

I build strategic, fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways to achieve spending and estate distribution goals. In the past, I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning. I have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email at don@moneyfyi.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: