The Problematic Process




The Problematic Process


Chart A.     The Long Term Media Training Program:

Our connections
          to the news:

- through TV newscasts
- the old newspaper format

News stories are:

- disconnected
- often incomplete
- without sequence
- isolated stories
- fragmented

Produces a long term averse training program.

    People respond in different ways:

a) some thrive, are quick to learn and understand.
b) some accept weak understandings, are able to keep a realistic perspective.

        (But others struggle with the media):
c) the apathetic: details can be negative, hard to learn, and don't make sense.
d) the guessers: guess and select an answer that feels right.
e) the dreamers: use their imagination to invent an understanding they like.


The modern news media has been influencing people for decades. When television news presents a story, it is up to each viewer to put the information into context, and to recall a variety of facts and related information in order to gain a proper understanding. When a newspaper presents a story, sometimes the writer assumes that we know things we don't, that we read yesterday's explanation, that we recall the sequence of events, or that we know how it all started last month. The information we are presented with is not designed to suit each person's unique needs. Sometimes it is fragmented and incomplete, quite often there is too much, and sometimes it is a waste of time. So when people have difficulty gaining a proper understandings, it amounts to a long term averse training program. This training doesn't dominate or replace the weaknesses of people. But it does make a difference when key decisions are made, it makes extremely irrational behavoir seem acceptable. The repercussions are major.
Since working to understand is an optional activity, different people respond in a different ways. Some are quick learners, so they can take it all in and gain a good understanding with ease. Others respond to the various difficulties they have with the media by withdrawing and becoming apathetic. Some find that many of the facts which come without explanation, make them angry. So when the news makes them angry, they have good reason to also withdraw.

Gaining a proper understanding is difficult, because many people are too busy to do extra research, some experience information overload, and some have minimal interest. So some people respond by guessing at the facts, and at the rest of the story. Their guessing can often be flawed. But these people do wind up with understandings that they like, that match how they feel inside. For them, this seems better than dealing with facts they don't like, facts that are negative, or facts that are irritating and make them angry. Unfortunately, guessing and ignoring facts can become a bad thinking habit that can have an impact on other decisions, and their life, and the lives of people who know them. These people not only become more irrational, but they tend to gradually lose touch with reality.

The dreamers are similar to the guessers. But they tend to take it a step further, and so wind up with extreme and irrational behavior which is hard to explain. Their response to the difficult media sources is to dream up an explanation to an issue which they like. So it is an explanation that they feel strongly about. Their strong feelings on an issue are believed by them to be a strong indicator that they must obviously be right. So, in spite of only knowing a few facts, they feel certain that they are right. The late night comedy shows love this kind of behavior.



Chart B.     Why are all of these becoming worse?

Arab spring, terrorism, jihadists, racism, the Tea party,
fanatics, extremists, and polarization.

  d)   guessers
  e)   dreamers

When facts and reality are not respected; and guessing is acceptable, this is the result:

  • have bad thinking habits, so are irrational
  • have flawed understandings
  • fail to face reality
  • conversations are fragmented
  • thinking processes are fragmented

All of this impacts everything about their life. Their lives are gradually falling apart.

These people and their part of society are moving from a generally "civilized" way of life to the "barbaric."


In the last decade or so, the news has been seen by many as being too negative. So the media responded by making the news more positive and by adding entertainment. So while we saw less emphasis on facts, the media seemed to give us permission to value facts and reality less. Some talk radio found it popular to criticize experts, statisticians, polsters, and scientists. When people choose to guess and use their imagination at a time when facts are not valued, it isn't surprising that we get extremely irrational behavior. As a result, we now have more extremists all over the world (a 2015 report says that Arab Spring is getting worse), including jihadists, wingnuts, the Tea party (which is temporarily sidelined), fanatics, riots, polarization, radical radio talk shows, and the "alternative media" with their huge audience. (EG. Alex Jones with 470,659,000 hits on his youtube channel.)

What is presented here explains why the beliefs are not just really excessive, but rather they are extremely irrational. We need to ask, how can people choose to follow a leader with wildly irrational ideas when, with the click of a mouse, they could listen to the best and the brightest from anywhere in the world? Also, how can people learn only a few facts, then become totally convinced they are right even though facts are easy to find which prove they are completely wrong? How can they assume that what they dream up reflects reality? While we laugh at these people when they become popular, our society needs to recognize how damaging this kind of thinking can be. The irrational thinking of these people can damage themselves, people they know, and their own children.

When a significant part of our population has developed bad thinking habits, then their irrational behavior tends to have an impact on all of society. So this corresponds with the thoughts of Lewis Lapham in the introduction to the 1994 edition of Marshall McLuhan's 1964 book Understanding Media. He suggests that generally the media is gradually moving our society from being "civilized" to being "barbaric." In Lapham's list of antonyms, he sees society moving from the belief in gray areas, from doubt (which allows for arguements) to certainty, which of course leads to violence. This may be part of the reason why, after four years, the 2015 report is that Arab Spring is getting worse. So the stakes are high! The contents of this website must be taken seriously. Somebody needs to take the ball and run with it, and there is a strong need for it to happen now.

It is true that when making decisions and judgments about yourself, most people can rely on how they feel and their intuition. But when making a judgment on an external issue, people need to deal with what is real and to deal with the facts. People need to learn that how they feel about an external issue should not influence their understanding. The world is complex, so we all can't be selfish enough to think that the world can and should be shaped in a way that suits our own inner feelings. We need a more mature approach, we need to work at facing facts and at gaining a clear sense of reality; so we can have a better chance of dealing successfully with the real world.






Notes being polished: (February 2, 2015).

Speculation on how this applies to recent violence.

How does this explain mass murderers?
Violent video games set the example, provide heroes and violence, and they train the mind into knowing what is fun and acceptable. The player can't enjoy the game if he is repulsed every time he kills someone or something. While gaming didn't cause the mass murderers to go to the irrational extreme, it did help create a dream-like environment. There are copycat murders because those who are susceptible to that kind of behavior only need to be reminded that it is a good idea, reminded that it is something exciting that they would love to do.

Justin Borque who was convicted of killing three police in Nova Scotia can be easily studied and analyzed. The youtube interview with police after the shootings is an eye opener. He was living a dream, certain that police were the evil ones. He had it figured out that the police who died had simply chosen the wrong side. He stated in the interview that he was careful to not kill any citizens. It seems that he felt he has strong and noble morals. In the same way that Sarah Palin thought she could become a good President, Borque formed an opinion about what needed to be done, and didn't show any doubts. In the interview, his words are nonchalant and matter-of-fact. When killing police he says "I took one out" and "he got hit" as though he was playing a video game. At the end he said that "I actually felt pretty accomplished." So that reflects his reality.

So Justin Borque appears to be a nice guy in the taped police interview. He didn't like authority, so he took action. His Facebook page did show that he had strong, extreme beliefs. But when the media says he rants against authority, that doesn't fit his personality as seen in the interviews and as described by his friends. Another source said he lacked sleep. But he didn't complain about it in the interview. He had formed his own views with the help of a heavy metal band Megadeath. So, he had a dream (a real life battle against evil), and he wanted to become a legend (he could make his point so the world would hear). So just like in the video games, he went out to create magic (I sense that after he decided what he thought needed to be done, he was focused more on the magic, the excitement and spectacle). This seems true even though, in the interview, he says he was aware that the police that he killed had families who would suffer. According to him, they had simply chosen the wrong side. Instead of dealing with facts and reality, he created his own beliefs, beliefs which fit his experiences and feelings.

The media didn't cause what happened, but it is molding society so we like dreams, legends, and magic, so more of this will tend to happen. More people will be attracted to living their dreams out, making the magic in video games come to life, and then they can become a legend.

How does this explain Canada's two 2014 jihadists?
Those men operated in an environment which was conducive to a heroic fight. Fighting for a black flag and fighting so followers of Isam could have their own state is an easy and simple concept that is like an attractive quest. They could sacrifice their life for a noble cause. So the jihadists ignored reality, the accepted version of Isam, and the complex nature of the situation. Instead, they focused on information that made them feel good, it was like fighting for a dream, they chose to become a legend, and they could do it in a magical way, by using powerful guns. My guess is that the promise of heaven did not dominate their motivation, otherwise they would have been more concerned about having the correct beliefs.

The jihadist from Calgary who was killed in Syria has an outspoken mother. She said that he struggled with life until he was converted to Islam. Then he was happy and appeared to be more settled down. But soon he ran into radical ideas, which he probably found appealed to his emotions. My guess is that he didn't follow the widely accepted religious beliefs because they didn't feel right. He didn't feel like a peaceful person. After doing a little research he found some exciting ideas. They were like his dreams, like magic. He felt he could do something that would give him a feeling of importance, and he could then become a legend. So I suggest that the jihadists were going through a natural process.
[This theory is much different compared to what the Calgary police chief recently described: that becoming radicalized was due to manipulation, praise, and promises from a converter.]



A good time to "think of the opposite."
It is true that in today's world many will claim that when you need to improve your understandings, you simply have to watch more videos. Others will make use of news sites like (which I recently ran across), which make it more convenient to get the information they want. Also, I recently bought a smart phone which gives me good news summaries. In my busy life, I can stay informed while riding the C-train. All of this makes it a lot easier for the public to create proper understandings. So for many, news gathering is no longer a problem. However, many people are still left with bad thinking habits. Some get important news from all over the world, so globalization has brought them information overload. Also, society still prefers entertainment rather than reality and facts.

What can be done?
It is understandable that escapism is preferred over the brutal and depressing nature of reality. There is a need to convince people of the need to value facts, reality, and quality understandings, and to undo the trends of the past. Also, for those who don't have a framework of understandings, previous knowledge with a sense of how it fits together, then the new facts are still hard to deal with and hard to remember.

So for some, they could be encouraged to get back into enjoying the news. Carefully constructed news summaries can help. Our class handles the disturbing nature of the news by focusing more on impersonal statistics (EG: 2,000 were killed), and avoiding the gruesome details and the comments of suffering victims. Some of this needs to be taken in small doses. A website in Calgary which focuses on a positive approach to the news would probably be appreciated by a lot of people. Some who approach life with positive philosophies and using positive psychology would still like to keep informed, and to maintain quality understandings with the help of a news supplement.

Quite often people who have done an extremely violent act have a major psychological flaw or had anger producing experiences which can create strong motivation for their actions. However, some also have a personal weakness which allow them to go overboard, to allow them to think the unthinkable, to sacrifice their own life? Maybe they are just an emotional mess, so some mass murders can be explained in that way. But the jihadists have seemed deliberate in their selection of beliefs. Justin Borque, who killed 3 police in Nova Scotia didn't seem angry when the police interviewed him after the act. He simply had it wrong; his opinions did not reflect reality. Why was he so certain? He was so certain of his beliefs that he was willing to risk his life, to risk spending 75 years in jail, and to ruin the lives of the families of the police officers that were killed? It defies logic, unless we turn to Marshall McLuhan for an explanation.







©2014 Brian M. Brown All rights reserved.