The media tends to emphasize bad news. They sensationalize infrequently occurring events and focus on negative stories. In the news: if it bleeds, it leads. They rarely ever cover good news or educational subjects. This can be considered a form of bias. When Trump says the media is biased, he is correct. Just not in the right way. I’m not defending Trump – he is part of the problem. However, the media is not completely innocent either. I feel that the media has fueled xenophobia and Islamophobia, and in general placed an irrational fear into the hearts of all media consuming Americans. Because the media sensationalizes bad news, rare but horrific events such as an airplane crash gets extremely heightened media coverage. The statistics bear out that air travel is extremely safe. But one wouldn’t conclude that because it seems whenever we turn on the news it is a cavalcade of robberies, shootings, bombings, accidents, fires, and all sorts of chaos and mayhem. I stopped watching local news because I grew tired of the negativity. The media seems extremely negative and drums all of the bad news into everybody’s heads day after day. And bad news sticks. But why emphasize bad and sensationalized news? Because it draws eyeballs and clicks – and that draws ad revenue. It’s all about the Benjamin’s’!
The human amygdala, part of the brain responsible for emotion and memory, is designed to remember dangerous things like bad news, more so than all other events. It’s evolutionary psychology at work. Our ancestors needed to remember things that were dangerous. It helped them to survive. However they were exposed to unfiltered reality and not subject to the media’s negative bias. Nothing was cherry-picked. They saw all the good with the bad. Today the media will filter what you see, emphasizing the bad over the good. The bad news is dramatized and repeated across all the different media Outlets. You’ll see it, hear it, and read about it constantly. You learn so much more about the bad news. Our brains are nearly identical to our recent ancestors, so when we hear the bad news we remember it more so than any other type of information. Bad news sticks more.
I don’t blame the conservatives for being fearful of potential terrorist attacks and immigrant riots. It’s clearly their amygdala reacting to the negative news in the media. What concerns me is that they greatly overestimate the threats. Based on how our brains work it makes total sense. But we have to override this propensity for fear because it is not a rational fear. Banning immigrants and refugees, building a wall, and deporting non-legal people is not necessarily the best use of our resources. We already vet people coming to America, we have laws on the books for handling deportation of people who break laws, and we currently have security along our borders.
What we need to do is rationally and logically analyze all the threats and allocate resources proportionately based on the statistical likelihood of the threat. If cancer, heart attacks, and automobile accidents are most likely to threaten your life, then we need to allocate resources to those threats in greater proportions as compared to something that is highly unlikely to happen. If your chances of being killed by a terrorist act are very remote, but nonetheless possible, then we need to allocate resources to that threat: but proportionally so. Do you prepare more for things that are most likely to happen, or do you prepare for things that are very unlikely to happen? We can prepare for both, but if your resources are limited, choose wisely. Remember we do not have unlimited resources. Please make rational choices. That is all I ask.
Americans seemed to have developed a lottery mindset, where they think the long-shot will pay off. This paradigm is drilled into our minds every time we read a fictional book, watch a TV show, or go see a movie. Almost invariably, the underdog wins against all odds. This skews our judgement. We begin to think that the unlikely is what will most likely happen. Americans obsess over terrorist attacks and Ebola outbreaks. In the meantime they overlook the insidious killers that take many more lives: the common and ubiquitous sources of death that quietly do their work in plain sight. You are much more likely to die from a heart attack than a terrorist attack. The resources in place to protect our borders from inbound terrorist attacks are working well. Rather than blindly throw more resources at a system that already works, we are better served to take a step back and think about how to most effectively save lives. Other areas I would recommend focusing on includes reducing gang related violence, improving healthcare, and advancing technology (increasingly, technology is saving more lives than ever before).