Gavin de Becker: Turn the News Off
Published: Jun 3, 2022
Updated: Jul 2, 2022
In this video Gavin de Becker and his colleagues make compelling arguments for turning the news off – now.
Some of the issues highlighted are:
- News stories based entirely on anonymous sources – something which a couple of decades ago was rightly considered unethical in journalism.
- Visual media has a different impact on people than reading text.
- The fabricated sense of urgency which corrodes trust and amplifies negative emotions can also prevent you from making sound decisions.
False alarms and the drawbridge of perception #
This video brought to mind something Gavin de Becker wrote years ago in his article “Apocalypse Not Now.” He points out that hyped threat warnings can cause us to “raise the very drawbridge of perception that we must cross in order to make successful predictions.”
Here’s that full passage:
Alarming words—whether spoken by some angry extremist or by our own public officials—cause people to react by going into a defensive posture, psychologically speaking. Though the words themselves can’t put us at any actual risk, uncertainty about risk causes alarm, and this causes a problem: When we are stunned or distracted we raise the very drawbridge—perception—that we must cross in order to make successful predictions.
And here are some related quotes from the same article:
Fear is the currency of the threatener.
Politicians and newsreaders often use the word threat as if it is interchangeable with hazard. Threats and hazards are two different things.
A lot of the warnings we’ve received from public officials might as well be threats themselves, for they have the same effect.
The Twitter Outrage Cycle #
The video made me think about the seasons of threat-hypes our nation experiences, which unfortunately now feed into what I call the Twitter Outrage Cycle.
On Twitter the alleged threats (often based on a faulty first draft of current events) are digested by individuals and immediately turned into micro-slices of contagious rage, where even the most admirable and delicate of people – including the well-educated with PhDs – descend into name-calling, ‘screaming’, and even calls for political violence.
Soon news stories appear – about the Twitter reactions. The cycle goes on. Eventually, once most the facts are in on a story, the audience has long moved on, and the more reliable reports get comparatively little attention.
I think it’s worth asking periodically:
- How much news and political discourse is engaged in catastrophizing?
- Why? Who benefits?
About Gavin de Becker and the Gift of Fear masterclass #
de Becker is a security expert, renowned for his work with the CIA, the Supreme Court, and many other agencies and institutions. His firm, Gavin de Becker & Associates provides security for heads of state and famous persons. He is also the author of the fascinating book The Gift of Fear.
Recently de Becker launched a masterclass on the book’s princples. The masterclass is available for free on YouTube. As you’d expect, it’s top notch. The episode on news is part of this masterclass series.