An open response to Hank Green, and his insightful Response to Cable News

Written in response to Hank Green's

Holy Shit, I Interviewed the President

Yes, but there’s a little more to it…

Like most things in life, if you scratch the surface of understanding, you are frequently engulfed in the complexity of even the simplest of issues.

Your points are valid and easily verified. Your concerns are as well. News content has a powerful impact on politics, with ideologically diverse content producing socially desirable outcomes. According to the U.S. Supreme Court (1945),

“One of the most vital of all general interests [is] the dissemination of news from as many different sources, and with as many different facets and colors as is possible. That interest presupposes that right conclusions are more likely to be gathered out of a multitude of tongues, than through any kind of authoritative selection.”

Yeah, we were going great there for a bit, and then that presupposed idea kicked in there and …

The trouble is that today’s market is filled with consumers who will rarely go out of their way to educate themselves. Even with your viewers and your platform of educational videos (which are great by the way) after your viewers perceive the news as being false, do they then seek out primary documents to educated themselves on the issue? Most of the studies I’ve seen suggest strongly the answer is no. No they don’t. This causes a supporting argument for the News Media, to continue doing exactly what they are doing.

First the demographic of the extremes (Fox, MSNBC) are around 65 years of age. Either close to or actively retired with limited skill at engaging in deep research on the Internet, and much less interest in doing so. Marketing research tells us accurate information on this demographic They want stability, they want to believe their views, and values are valid and supported by the nation at large. They want to understand what is going on with expert opinions agreeing with the information they are consuming.

These are more than simple preferences. They border on biological need. The belief that recovery from calamity at this stage in the game is grim. That’s not a paranoid thought either. Getting back into the work force at 69 isn’t easy. Feelings of paranoia, depression, loss, detachment are all equally a part of daily life a that stage. So, the News Networks are playing to their viewers. And, as you point out the tendency of your generation, even if Fox did change formats, and play to a younger, more detailed and discerning generation like yours — you still wouldn't go to the TV for your news. Not when Netflix just got that series listed, and there are only three days before that other series is pulled off the available list. You can get news any time.

So, that’s a strong motive for staying as they are. Stronger still is that they ARE in fact reaching your generation, and they ARE affecting political alignment, as well as stances on issues.

Novelists like myself use to call it “The Willing Suspension of Disbelief”, and most still do. It was/is likely to be the most important aspect of fiction writing. The idea is that I’m going to create a world for you, where things are a certain way, and the environment has some details, which aren't altogether “factual” or maybe even “impossible”. You as the reader are going to ignore these details — and as long as I remain plausibly inside the physics and environment I've described, you’ll continue to remain unhindered by your disbelief, and enjoy the story, and then after the show, you’ll return to reality, were oceans aren't acid, and cows don't fly. This is the basic description, which has been passed down from storyteller to storyteller and given consent and active participation from reader to reader.

It doesn't happen that way.

What actually happens is that you “Believe.” Yes, you believe instantly everything you see, read, hear or experience. The brain doesn’t judge the reality or validity of information presented to it’s matrix. It just takes it into memory and processes. (We’re talking about the brain, as in the organ, the meat). An easy example demonstrating this was given on the show “What the f$^%k do We Know”. If you lay in your bed and begin to imagine an attractive, vibrant and willing sex partner, in short order, your brain is going to respond by releasing chemicals, peptides, raising blood pressure and heart rate to get muscles ready for a strenuous encounter.

There is no one else in the room. The willing vibrant partner is a lie. Fiction. Not reality, but this isn't reading like before — your brain is physically altering your body for real live action. In fact, if you continue this line of thinking for a while, your brain will force you into action, and demand that you do whatever it takes to make this encounter as real as it can get.

The paper I linked to up there is well written and well researched with several publications creding his description.
“People automatically accept what they perceive, get ready to act on it, and only on second thought, with a little extra effort, ‘unaccept’ it, according to Gilbert. He cites research showing that ‘people are particularly poor at ignoring, forgetting, rejecting or otherwise failing to believe that which they have comprehended’ (Gilbert, Krull, and Malone 1990; Gilbert 1991; Gerrig 1998 [1993], ch. 6).”
But.. what happens if you don’t add that “little extra effort” to unaccept? Just a few lines later, we’ll be told that even if we do “unaccept” the brain won’t fully unaccept the information. It will hold on to a tinge of “I believe”. This is because the brain believes itself. If it can “remember” an event or fact, then it must be true… it exists.

What happens is that your decision making matrix is affected by this information. You, your “self” your Mind, will not address the information directly again, because you have already decreed “I don’t accept that” but your brain is still going to slide it in there as a weighted value of related information, so it will influence future decisions.

So, what do you suppose is going on with this guy and his viewers? His intent is for humor, but he is fully engaged in “believing” as well. So are his viewers. In fact, the comprehension level is far deeper and imbuning than it normally would be — as it is encased fully in the aspect of humor. Studies show that information gathered in a state of comedic reaction breach into the long term memory much easier facing much less resistance.

The only way to counter the “belief” is to “believe” couter information, with a stronger connection to your previous experiences. Comprehension of debunking information with strong detail will both help to remove the recall value of the false and likely out-weigh the value in decision making.

“The Big Lie” is a propaganda tactic — amazingly effective as it is not hindered in any way by the level of intelligence it is up against (in fact some studies have indicated that the more intelligent the prospective victim the more likely it will succeed in creating the desired bias and loyalty) — is very similar to what the cable news has the opportunity to engage in with your generation. And, your generation is returning engagement.

Jon Stewart (and I love him, and I’m so very grateful that it is Jon Stewart who holds the position of his platform, comedian or not) brings out for us some funny stuff happening over there at Fox and some serious errors being committed… some so far off base it has a brazen feel about it, as if it could only have been done by intention and script — but fails to introduce us to counter information most of the time. Your generation has a surprising lack of interest in finding that information for itself, believing that knowing the Fox info is false is enough.

This is the foundation of how a congress with a 7% acceptance level, procures 94% of the victories.

So, yes I agree that it is disagreeable that the news has degraded by such a degree as to be 67% inaccurate or misleading most of the time. I also am concerned about the possibility of a generation lacking a credible, well informed, trusted news source. I just don’t think you realize just how disagreeable and concerning it really is.