Improve your understandings !

Enjoy being informed about our exciting and ever changing world !
The news doesn't have to be confusing, irritating, or depressing.


        Guide To This Website:
Technology and the news media cause problems for us. Use this website
as a multi-purpose tool to help discover and deal with those problems.
Problems created by technology:
  1. too much screen time is bad for our health. [So, after reading through this, take a break.]
  2. in our complex world, people struggle with information overload. Many fail to realize that they can sometimes miss key understandings.
    [ Find reminders in "B. Key Concerns Often Ignored" (top left). ]
  3. some people fail to piece together adequate understandings from the disconnected daily news stories.
    1. some struggle with this, and so develop flawed understandings.
      [See the list under "A. Better Understandings of the News" (in top left corner).]
    2. some people choose to guess in order to understand daily news updates. Some are too busy for facts, and feel that facts lack value, so their guesses can be highly irrational.
      [Use news summaries to stay connected to reality and the facts. ( See "D." on left).]
    3. as more people develop irrational thinking habits, we get more extremists. Plus, as our thinking falls apart, our lives fall apart; so as a whole, our society gradually moves from being civilized to being more barbaric.


Experts Complain about Technology (Key Quotes)

  1. Marshall McLuhan said "the media is the message." So it isn't the content of the message, but the actual media which has delivered a continual adverse training program over the last hundred years. As a result many people have developed weak and flawed ways of thinking.   From the 1964 book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.

  2. Lewis Lapham said "the attitude of mind," suggested by McLuhan, accounts for "the triumph . . . of Rush Limbaugh" [So the media helps create an attitude of mind which results in irrational behavior. People gradually learn to respond to their feelings and to be less concerned with facts. This behavior can explain Ezra Levant and his extremely biased supporters, and the 4000 likes made by the angry followers of the Facebook page "Canadians against immigrants trying to change our way of life." [That hate site was shut down in June, 2015.] In the United States they have Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Alex Jones, the Tea Party movement, and their millions of wingnut followers].   In the introduction to the 1994 MIT edition of Understanding Media.

    But now, 50 years after McLuhan and 30 years after Lapham a lot has changed. So we need to use their insights as we focus on what is real today, on what makes sense, and on what rings true.

  3. Einstein warned about technology, he said that we must not allow it to "grow up unsupervised if society is to benefit from it."   From the Dec. 6, 2014 Globe and Mail: Inside the mind of Einstein: 44 years of writings released online. Volume 7 Page 194 The Berlin Years: Writings, 1918-1921.

  4. Tom Friedman said "We have not developed the norms, habits ... and behaviors to actually live in the world we have created in the past few decades." [This website can help you improve your habits and behaviors.]
    Thomas L. Friedman is the foreign policy columnist for the New York Times
    (and a three time Pulitzer Prize winner).
    [He also spoke of the need for regulations, which some would find controversial.]
    was stated in a December 17, 2014 interview on the Charlie Rose program (near the end).


Technology is creating problems for people which need to be addressed:
Our lives are being shaped by technology. Whether it is excessive screen time, information overload, or the media training people to value guesses more than facts, the impact on a troubling percentage of people can be dramatic. This can become disruptive and damaging to our society.

But since it is a huge issue, similar to global warming or the unsustainability of growth on our planet, it is not something that one person or one group can tackle. Unfortunately, decision makers are removed from many of the issues and the problem people, so most lack insight. Also, the problem people don't like experts, so researchers find it difficult to study them. So there has been a tendency to discount or ignore the problem.

Maybe the CBC will be willing to recognize the problem. They could use this site as a template, to post and promote news story summaries as a supplement to their daily broadcasts. CBC needs to learn about this website and make use of it. The CBC has made improvements in how it presents the news. But all media outlets need to be concerned with the lessons we can learn from McLuhan. In this day and age of dramatic change, reality and facts can be interesting and fun. Frustrations with excessive, confusing, disconnected facts are not necessary. Those media outlets which ignore the problem, are responsible for adding to it.




Gain a Better Understanding of the News

(Sharpen your opinions, improve your understandings on important issues.)

Billions of people deal with news sources by forming summaries and understandings in their head. Some are fast learners, so don't have any problems. But many struggle with the nature of the daily isolated news stories in the media. Some don't want to spend a lot of time, so they create weak understandings which are sometimes flawed.

But current events do fit together and can make sense if they are presented properly. They don't have to be irritating or confusing. They don't have to leave us with flawed habits of mind, irrational thinking, and a poor sense of reality.


A quick and easy review can be done:
If we are too busy to build a decent understanding, we can check a table of contents to remind ourselves of the nature of what needs to be understood and what we might have missed. It is an optional activity, but it can be quick and easy. Simply look at A. in the top left corner of this page and read each item. We can ask ourselves if we recognized the processes, saw the sequence, appreciated the background, and became aware of the causes. In this way, we will gain some understanding and also know the limits to our knowledge.

Gain a thorough understanding:
With some issues it is important to understand things thoroughly, to know the facts and to take everything into account. The table of contents (see "1. Better Understandings of the News," and a. to f. in the top left) can be used as a reminder, to ensure that everything that is relevant was considered. Then you can handle the issue in the same way a well written book handles things, in a well thought out, reasonable, and organized fashion.

Avoid angry and extreme beliefs:     (Learn to "think of the opposite.")
This site allows you to gain understanding and to diffuse your anger over issues. Normally, researching views that are opposed to your own can be difficult and frustrating. But here, you can refer to the opinions of both left wing and right, to understanding both sides. The information is handy to explore, you can pick and choose. It is user driven, so you can view opposing viewpoints without experiencing a lot of agony. Usually the opposition also has a valuable point of view, and they don't normally have evil intenstions. So “think of the opposite” and in so doing realize that your feelings don't have to be extreme, and you don't have to feel angry.


This site is only a supplement. Combine it with your preferred news sources
so you can create your own reasonable and informed opinion.

Choose your preferred version of a news story (all focus on the same basic facts).
If you want to broaden your understanding, simply select a different version.

  • N   - neutral (trying to avoid obvious bias).
  • P   - positive (seeing a positive slant and stating the negative without elaboration).
  • L   - left wing (an increased concern for caring and fairness).
  • R   - right wing (an increased concern for loyalty, sanctity, and the authoritarian).




The media helps create jihadists and wingnuts:

This website is about dealing with external and political issues. It does not focus on the people who respond to a personal issues by using their intuition. Intuition can be effective with issues in which a person has direct experience. This site focuses on external issues and political issues which are presented in the news.

Jihadists and wingnuts have the most irrational response to issues. They don't need facts, don't need to think things through, don't need experts, and don't need to gather facts. When they have strong feelings about an issue, they take their feelings as an indication that their guess must be totally right. But with political issues, having strong selfish feelings does not mean you are right. It is extremely important that our understandings come from the facts and from what is real.



Popular American Books Ignore the Impact of the Media.:

In 2008, Farhad Manjoo wrote True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society. He does mention the media, that television leads to people talking less with each other. So, his analysis of a Canadian philosopher is superficial. This isn't surprising, because apparently even Canadians have failed to evaluate in depth, the thoughts of McLuhan and Lapham. In an interview given after writing the book, Manjoo states that 'we are apt to believe things these days that aren't true, that feel true.' So he is refering to a major flaw that some people have. They find something to believe which matches their strong inner feelings. For them it isn't about evaluating facts, it is about finding a belief that matches their own selfish feelings. This process needs to be recognized as a major flaw. It can lead to highly irrational people.

Also, in 2012, Jonathan Haidt wrote: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. So Haidt does verify that the United States has problems with excessive extreme behavior. In his book, since he is a psychologist, he seems to focus on only psychological causes for the extreme behavior. The processes he discusses are mainly about the ways in which the extreme nature of the beliefs tend to become more extreme. But there is a difference between extremely strong beliefs and highly irrational beliefs. Haidt does not address this. Why do wingnuts remain committed to beliefs in spite of being obviously wrong? Why do they avoid facts and information which proves they are wrong, and deny they exist? These examples of behavior are extremely irrational, almost psychotic. Why do followers also embrace the extremely irrational beliefs and behavior of the presenter? The explanations need to ring true. Haidt's position is flawed (weak and inadequate) because he assumes he offers reasons for extreme behavior and solutions without evaluating the impact of the environment, the impact of the media on people.

Similar observations are included in another book, Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide published in 2011. It is noted that when like-minded people gather in groups, they tend to become more extreme in their views than they were before. He also notes that it has been proven that when you separate individuals from society physically or psychologically, they tend to take on extreme views. But again, while this helps us understand extremely strong views, it fails to explain why the views are extremely irrational.

There are also a few books on wingnuts. A book written in 2010 by John Avlon, Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America has given rise to his new 2014 book Wingnuts: Extremism in the Age of Obama. In both books he talks about people who lose touch with reality, and says they have become unhinged. In his 2014 book, Avlon does mention that many people in the United States are getting tired of extremism. However, the 2015 Primaries and the words of Donald Trump tells us that we need to continue to be deeply concerned.


This problem really is serious:
Some Wingnuts have contact with children, and their irrational and toxic behavior can cause harm. These wingnuts don't get feedback by being on television, so they don't realize they are abusive, that they are not normal. The late night comedy shows realize that wingnuts and their irrational behavior are great entertainment. It is more than just wrong, their behavior is so irrational that it is hilarious. Yet people lack concern with this issue. When children are being mishandled and abused by their wingnut parents, there is no face to point at. When they only hear a statement or a statistic, they lack empathy. So, I like to quote Joseph Stalin who said that "one man's death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic."

When I talk of society falling apart, irrational decisions, and wingnuts, it really is something that requires our deep concern. I am also talking about child abuse around the world, on an enormous scale. While we can see this as abstract, it is real, and it is massive. Our schools need to respond, everyone needs to respond. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times says our changing world needs to develop norms, habits, and behaviors. It should be easy to convince people that we all need to work to avoid extremely irrational behavior, its impact on society, and its impact on children.



Lapham suggests: we are moving towards dreams, magic, and legends.
This creates an environment which
encourages jihadists and
mass murderers

In the introduction to McLuhan's book, Lapham suggested that due to the media, society is moving from one extreme to another, from being civilized to being barbaric. On the civilized extreme, he included quality art, history, and science, and then suggested we are moving towards the other extreme: more dreams, legends, and magic respectively. This is creating a problematic environment for people to live in. There has been a recent trend to value facts, experts, and reality less. This is reflected and enhanced by the media which in recent years has tried to offer less negative news and more entertainment. Also, in the past few years talk radio has criticized survey people and scientists. So there are some people who thrive in this kind of environment. They can enjoy their own dreams, think up magical and real video game action, and then act it out so they become a legend. So as more lose touch with reality and rational thought, we have more jihadists and mass murderers.

For both jihadists and mass murderers there is something really attractive about it. It fits their feelings, is a dream they like in which they have a magical experience, and at the end of it all they become a legend. Many jihadists have turned out to be educated Canadians, well informed and concerned about society. So becoming a Muslim may be only a start. They can take it a step further by simply finding material on the Internet to read which agrees with their unsettled emotions. There are short glitzy videos with messages that have a big impact with the youth. So this can help in recruitment. Fighting for a black flag and an Islamic state is an exciting commitment that they like. My theory is that some are not brainwashed, they simply find and accept ideas which agree with how they feel inside. When they dream up action which is like a video game, it suits their dreams in which violence is fun, attractive, and an exciting adventure. Some projects are irrisistable, almost addicting, so some will respond to their plans which remind them of dreams and magic, something that can turn them into a legend for their online friends to admire.

In the case of Justin Borque, the 24 year old in Moncton person who killed three police, he wasn't angry at the police he had contact with, or the ones he killed. His background didn't include contact with abusive police. Instead, he just focused on anti-establishment issues that fit with his pro-marijana beliefs. He did post strong statements on Facebook in which he made innocent police the logical target. His irrational assessment felt good, so he had a strong committment. Afterwards, in an interview with police, he said that the police who were killed just happened to be on the wrong side. He also responded to his boring life by telling a friend about his magical dream, that "he wanted to go out with a bang and bring people with him." It would make him a legend. No doubt he fell in love with his project. When Borque sacrificed so much, was it due to the issues he was concerned with, or due to the attractiveness of his actions? It was probably both. So when certain people deliberately select extremely irrational behavior, the explanation that rings true for me comes from McLuhan.

Thomas Friedman has recently suggested that society needs to develop habits, behaviors, and norms in order to live in the new world that technology is helping to create. The term "wingnut" may be an effective sanction, discouraging people from engaged in extremely irrational thinking. While North Americans will emphasize that it is important that everyone be free to hold an opinion, there is a need for society to discourage wingnut thinking, at all levels. It needs to be labeled as highly irrational, as being a factless opinion which borders on the insane. Should we politely stand by and value the opinion of a lunatic simply because we carry the outmoded belief that all opinions are valuable? With the introduction of the Internet in which radical people can connect with each other, in which someone can become famous with their radical friends for doing perverted actions, we need to respond. The Internet environment requires awareness and action, from everyone. We need to encourage rational thought and a focus on facts and reality.




Responding to the Problems: Technology and Wingnuts

The Role of this Website:

There are disturbing trends in society which are a challenge:
Excessive screen time has proven to be bad for our health. It is also bad for children, because they should be out enjoying free play. Many parents will model the wrong behavior, then ignore the known fact that their children should be engaged in free play. It is preparation for life, a necessity which allows for proper childhood mental, physical, and emotional development (it can effect their ability to concentrate, to relate with other people, to engage in a job interview, to work on a job, etc. ).

Also, while our behavior is being impacted by technology, our diverse global village gives us information overload and presents us with a wide variety of issues that need to be understood. But some find it overwhelming, so are unaware of key issues and what needs to be done about them. Many of the challenges are difficult, so it is easy to find lame excuses and brush them aside. If we don't become concerned and take action, then who will?


These problems are not unique, but in this decade they have become excessive.
In the past, when people struggled with the news, the media adapted by providing entertainment and searching out positive news to report without taking into account the impact this could have on society. People gradually valued serious news, facts and reality less. But even if all media sources adapt the news so it is easier to handle, the Internet is complex, so the average person will still struggle. There is still a hodgepodge of diverse information on the Internet that needs to be organized.

So it would help if libraries around the world found ways to adapt, ways to help their members to gain understandings. Libraries don't have to all work by themselves. They can work together to help create a more user friendly environment. Gaining understandings can still be a user driven experience. But people need options so they don't lose the will to live while trying to develop an adequate understanding. It can be made quick and easy. Summaries can help us to tie things together, to make sense of it all, and to make facts and reality easy to handle. As an option, some people may enjoy creating understandings with a group of others, so it can be a warm and friendly experience. Technology has been creating problems which directly and indirectly impact everybody. It has control over the lives of many people, people who spend hours on their computer and smart phone, every day. It is time for us to take the initiative, so we all have better control over the kind of lives we lead.





back to the start.


©2015 Brian M. Brown All rights reserved.