Like the movies that entertain us for hours on end, television news is written to keep you watching and dam the facts, this is a business.  Neal Postman said television news is a form of entertainment programming and boy didn’t he call that one!  The 24/7 news cycle has put us all on edge and many Americans are scared of what might happen.  This is by design and we’ve reached a tipping point where stress-induced by the negative press can cause some to snap.  In today’s episode, we discuss the ramifications of placing too much faith in the news outlets and what we can do instead.  Then we’ll talk with Life Transformation Master Practitioner who will give us a simple tool we can use to re-focus our energies and take back control of our emotional self.

Teresa Bruni, founder of Less Fear, More Flow will share The 2020 Resilience Journal Project with us and then we wrap up with some perspective on America and what made our nation the greatest on planet earth.

You can learn more about Teresa’s journal project by visiting https://www.teresabruni.com/journal/

You can get Teresa’s book directly from Amazon by clicking here:  https://amzn.to/3bZycoQ

This podcast is not just for Republicans…but conservatives of all different political beliefs.  Please subscribe to The Conservatives’ Guide to American Politics on Apple Podcast or wherever you consume your podcast media and share it with a friend.  Only together can we Keep America Great.  

Program Outline

  •  Learn more about Neal Postman starting at 2:20
  •  Learn how to consume the nightly news at: 8:34 
  •  I share a story about my sister that inspired this episode at: 13:34
  •  My interview with Teresa starts at:  18:12
  •  My episode conclusion and call to action starts at:  40:44

Episode

Neal Postman, an American author, educator, media theorist, and cultural critic died on October 5, 2003, just five months before Facebook was founded.  That will become important in a moment.  Neal wrote several books chastising the woes of technology.  As a computer science student with a minor in political science, I took issue with his thesis back in my college days.  Neal and I corresponded (via hand written letters mind you) on the topic through my political science professor Dr. CC Bailey.  Our discussion was on the ills of the internet and the damage it would cause to society.  To give some perspective on Neal’s thesis, in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, he asserted:

“…the presentation of television news is a form of entertainment programming; arguing that the inclusion of theme music, the interruption of commercials, and “talking hairdos” bear witness that televised news cannot readily be taken seriously.”

In my youth, as a student paying my own college tuition to acquire a degree in a field he hated, I was not a fan of his ideas.  Now, third years later, I think Mr Postman was on to something—and his point is a doosee.

Television news is a form of entertainment programming.  Of course we all know that and President Trump rails against the Fake News folks everyday…but let’s explore how we all digest the news and what we do with the information.  I noted Mr Postman died five months before Facebook was founded.  Facebook worked their way into the realm of News media and now in addition to the “talking hairdos” we have citizen generated meme’s and chide remarks leading our news consumption.  Don’t believe me?  BrandWatch.com reported there are 350 million photos posted to Facebook everyday, more than 100 million hours of video is consumed everyday, and more than 4 million likes are clicked everyday.  So, I am going to wrap Facebook up into my description here.  

We are consuming toxic content that is designed based on the “train wreck theory”—The Urban dictionary defines the Train Wreck Theory as that thing you can’t stop watching.  You don’t want to stare, but you just can’t look away.

News outlets have teams of editors working to pull the train wreck angle out of every-story.  They can not help it, they have to get eyeballs consuming “their” programming in order to make a living.  Advertisers pay for air time on stations with high viewership.  The train wreck brings in viewers.  Stupid cat memes and incendiary comments are also train wrecks designed to make people watch.  But of course they are, that is what we ask for in our entertainment—something to dull our senses and give us a break from reality.  Wait a minute…did I just confess news and entertainment?  Why, yes I did.  Look up top ten movies of 2019.  Half of them are about death, murder, theft, deceit, and broken hearts…I admit I didn’t see most of them, just watched the previews and read the descriptions…Don’t get me wrong, I loved Avengers, but not really a happy movie.  We watch for the special effects and momentary suspension of belief.

When we go to the movies we know what we are getting…we want to be thrilled, we want to see action and violence and the bad guy get the hell kicked out of him…When we turn on the nightly news, we are really getting the same thing.  When we tune into Facebook we are really getting the same thing.

Here is a post from a friend of mine on Facebook…I am leavening her name off on purpose.

Wow, I joined this group Thinking it was about the Republicans of Idaho. How we can come together & debate for the betterment of our Great State. With a purpose, to Keep Idaho strong & Red. 

All Ive sean, here is bickering, bulling & put downs. You all really know how to screw things up. 

No wonder why Blue is becoming the fast color of our state. You all hate each other. I dont think I’ve seen 1 constructive comment for the betterment of the Idaho Republican Party. 

What are YOU doing to make this state better? What can We do Together to make sure we keep Idaho the beautiful state she is. Before it falls into massive blue mess. Destroying everthing we love about our beautiful state.

Results, 115 comment of people mostly saying, I agree.

We think the news is about honest reporting of the facts and figures and not a source of entertainment to provide a momentary suspension of believe.  We all need to tip our hats to Mr Postman and maybe put some roses on his grave.  

We can not tune out completely…right?  We have to stay connected to the world, and keep talking with our neighbors.  As my listener, you know this, I’ve said it in just about every episode I’ve published.  No, I am not saying drop you subscription to the newspaper, turn off the TV, or even delete your Facebook account.  No, just the opposite, keep the entertainment source of YOUR choice.  Just stop seeing news outlets are curators of facts and figures and start accepting them as the train-wreck-artists they are.

We need to keep in touch with what is going on in the world, but we also need perspective on the source.  What is the old phrase, consider the source.  If the news outlets are working to gain viewers, then their news will be biased towards the bad—or train wreck—side of the discussion.

Let’s look at this from a different point of view.  When we sit in the movie theater and watch the story unfold in front of us, we don’t marvel at the skill of the actors.  No, the magicians who made the movie do so in a manner that we are disconnected from reality for the time we are in the theater.  We get totally absorbed in the story.  We suspend belief and for the 90 minutes exist as an active participant to a spectacle from which we can not turn away.  We allow ourselves to enter this mode of suspension willingly because we paid fifteen bucks for a ticket and thirty bucks for popcorn and a drink all to be entertained.  None of think in these same terms when we sit down in our livingroom to watch the evening news.  However, the news producers are performing magic just like the movie producers, and they draw our attention such that we become absorbed and suspend belief as train wreck after train wreck unfolds before our very eyes.  Even when the story isn’t a train wreck, the script is slanted such to make it seem as such.  

This has never been more true than with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Theme music, custom graphics, b-roll video of empty streets, and refrigerated trucks we are told are designated for all the dead bodies.  Meanwhile, every 7 minutes a news flash alert popups on the screen and horrible news of people dying crawling across the bottom of our screen even during commercial breaks.  My favorite was on FoxNews when they ran spilt screen views of an interview and a TV commercial.  It has become like a Nascar race that is too important to cut away for a sponsor break.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I love FoxNews and watch it all the time…but I don’t take everything they report as gospel.  Sometimes I flip over to CNN and even NBCNews to see what the other channels are saying.  Most important is my laptop computer that sits right next to my easy chair.  When something seems to fantastic, I look it up.  With a few exceptions, I don’t get emotionally involved with the news being reported on TV.  The exceptions are obvious, 9/11, the war breaking out in Iraq, the assignation attempt on Congressional Republicans, and such.  When I can see the action on the screen and I know the news producers can not be editing the tape, then I’ll get emotionally involved.  Otherwise I reserve judgement, comment, or concern until I second source the information.

Let’s use the coronavirus story as an example.  In Mid January I felt the information coming out of China about the coronavirus warranted some additional research.  At the time the news channels were wall to wall impeachment hearings.  They had no time for a possible pandemic.  In fact, had I listened to the news reports, I would have dismissed the virus info and not visited the CDC website and sought additional information.  Now it gets funny.  My wife thinks I am a hypochondriac.  On February 2, I told my wife I was going to go buy 25 lbs of rice, flour and beans.  She visibly rolled her eyes!  Three weeks later I reminder her of that moment.  

News outlets should be just a source of data with the full knowledge that all data received must be checked before acted upon.

SISTER STORY

I need to apologize upfront to my sister…sorry sis!  I felt your story so important that I wrote this podcast in response to our text message exchange last weekend.

I’ve not shared with you all that I was adopted at birth.  About 15 years ago I was connected with my biological mother and learned I had a younger brother and a younger sister.  My wife and I flew back to New York to meet the family.  It was kind of a strange feeling and in a future podcast I might go into a bit more detail…but for today’s episode, let me just say that I have not been the best of new brothers.  I am horrible at communicating with family.  It is a little more difficult in that I did not grow up with this new family, but I don’t really communicate with much of the family I did grow up with…I am just not good at keeping in touch with loved ones.

However, this coronavirus has changed things.  I find myself reaching out more to friends and loved ones.  I spend about an hour a day texting and Facebook book messaging family and friends.  I’ve had longer conversations (via text) in the last four weeks than I’ve had in the last 15 years with some folks.

Last Saturday morning I texted my sister to check in on her and her husband.  The message I got back set me back and left me not knowing how to respond.  My sister said she had a little crying fit that morning.  She mentioned so much change in such short time and gotten to her.  My reply to that revelation was…how is Jason doing?  What a lousy brother, right?  Not, why are you crying or what can I do to help…nope I went first to change the message.  Why?  Because I don’t like negative topics.  I prefer to see the glass half-full, especially when I get depressed.  But wait, it gets worse.

My sister replied back to my question about Jason with “he is doing good…he only breaks down what I’m at work.”  Oh geez!  Now I have to figure out how to respond to my sister crying and my brother-in-law breaking down.  I set the phone down and ate something.  I always think better on a full stomach.  Doesn’t make me much of a brother, but I eat well.

While having some potato chips and a root beer.  I thought deeply about why it bothered me that my sister was scared and my brother-in-law was struggling with the coronavirus thing?  Right then, on FoxNews one of the reporters asked the President a question that was dripping with negativity.  My eight month puppy must have sensed my frustration, because she jumped up on my lap…thinking on it some more, she might have just wanted a potato chip…but it feel better to think she was offering love for dad who was feeling some stress.

As I listened to the reporter I said out loud to the TV, “Lady this isn’t being done to us, this is being done for us.”  It dawned on my how to respond to my sister…and also the topic of my next podcast episode.  Here is what I wrote back to my sister:

Not sure how to respond.  Kay and I look at life with knowledge that we don’t get to pick the first day or last day or our life.  We only get to choose how we live the days in the middle.  My words probably don’t give much comfort, but you should try to look at this event as something happening for you and not to you.

This event is happen for us, not to us!  If you are a believer, then call it a higher power.  If you are not a believer, then call it fortuitous: but this pandemic should be a wake up call to stop and take stock of all that life has to offer.  Sounds too easy, right?

The 2020 Resilience Journal Project

INTRODUCTION:  Teres Bruni

My guest today is the founder of Less Fear, More Flow LLC and author of The 2020 Resilience Journal Project.  I’ve known Teresa for more than eight years and we help one another with projects—she helps me with my books and I help her with her websites.  Teresa is a genuinely passionate Life Transformation Master Practitioner who assists individuals in breaking through obstacles that prevent them from living life to the fullest.

So far in my podcast production I’ve not brought a guest on to share information, but considering the pandemic induced times we live and my desire to arm you with tools you can use to make a difference in America…I felt Teresa was the perfect first guest.  Teresa, welcome to the Conservatives’ Guide to American Politics.

QUESTIONS – doesn’t mean I’ve ask every question…also I may ask a question not listed.

  1. Did you ever think you would be invited to be a guest on a political podcast?
  2. You heard me tell the story about my sister and how dumbfounded I felt not being able to console her.  Knowing me as you do, how did that make you feel?
  3. Tell me and my listeners why you created the 2020 Resilience Journal Project?
  4. What are the health benefits to your program?

In the song immortalized by Kate Smith November 11, 1938 we were challenged to ”swear allegiance to a land that’s free.“  In these dark times when state after state are issuing stay-at-home orders, it is most difficult to “raise our voices in a solemn prayer” and sing God Bless America.  But I challenge you to see the glass as half full and put aside the fears of loss as we fight this invisible foe.  Stand in joy with your family and loved ones.  Hold your puppy dog a little tighter and know they’ve never been more happy as these days when you are with them always.  We should seek the happy balance from the worlds greatest lottery winnings…that being born in America, where even the poorest among us live a life that is lavish compared to most other lands on planet earth.  

Over the last four weeks I’ve been blessed to spend every waking moment with my wife and two golden retrievers.  I’ve found the missing spirit to check in on those people I cherish knowing and having in my life at a frequency never before have I done in my 52 years.  I’ve have deep conversations via sms text messaging.  I’ve connected with family via Facebook and Zoom video conferencing.  I’ve talk a lot more about health and wellness with a keen sense of interest.

To acknowledge those statements above and know that I did not do those things before hurts my heart a little.  You see, I’ve been busy as a husband, as a business owner, as a community leader, as a Rotarian…I’ve counted every minute, economized every second.  Taking time to stop and smell the roses just wasn’t in the cards.  But now they are part of my daily routine.

No, COVID-19 is not being done to us, I choose to see it as a gift for us all.  A gift to force us to take stock in what is important and slow down to enjoy the fruits of life in America.  This too, goes for our political system, this is, after all a podcast about American politics.

So much of what happens in American politics seems based on glass half empty views…all in an effort to show how leaders from the other side have fallen short.  Ours, is a predicament of competing resumes.  One side blames the other for failing to act while taking action that is meaningless in the grand scheme.  Higher tax burdens are disguised as political accomplishment all while elected leaders complain about what could have been if only the other side didn’t stand in the way.  The whole debacle is based on negative thinking.  We, as Americans—let alone conservatives, must change the station and force a new perspective.  

Continuing to play the robber baron’s game would mean we continue accepting the glass half empty argument and agreeing that one side is failing to properly over spend tax payer money.  Instead, we should force a change of discussion tenor.  When politicians are forced to present solutions through the prism of the good options—opposed the the better of the worst options; then our nation can start to heal riffs and come together.  Those who continue to bellow the bad from the pulpit should be turned out.  Like training a dog, continued support is the treat that encourages good behavior.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we make politicians sit, rollover, or beg for treats…no we need to make politicians change the message and start looking at our nations problems through a glass that is half full.

This, more than anything else on which I could pontificate, is the Conservatives’ Guide to American Politics.  Today we work together to defeat COVID-19 by using the blessing of time this quarantine have granted us to see the positive position we sit.  Tomorrow we stand united against the negative choices politicians leave with.

God bless, stay healthy, and hold your loved one a little tighter.

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