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Lemmings, following the pack

We have all heard the story of lemmings following the pack, even to the point of running over a cliff to their death. Whether or not it is true of lemmings, we use this metaphor to draw attention and care to the dangerous place media and politics can take the American public if not considered critically. Media and politicians can hit us with a one-two punch when taken at face value. Let us look at both separately and evaluate the risks of being misled from each side.

First, let’s look at the media. Fifty years ago, there was a near-monopoly on media, with maybe three TV channels and two newspapers. Since they had a lock on the advertisers, media outlets did not have a motivation to compete for various subcultures as their audience, and therefore reported the news with only moderate bias. In the 21st century, we now have an almost unlimited choice of news outlets. Some are corporate conglomerates, some are large businesses, some are small businesses, and some are just individuals expressing their thoughts. Each of these organizations is bidding for our attention and hoping we return for more. The way many outlets have chosen to hold our attention is to promote something that stands out. This is akin to a predator using bait to lure in its victims. Once you enter, there is clearly only one thing that will keep you coming back for more, and that one thing is emotion! The most effective emotion to use to captivate attention is fear. Fear is a crippling emotion and one that predators use to paralyze their prey. Media on either side of the political spectrum promote stories to get you fearful, greedy, indignant, outraged, worried, or any other negative emotion, which keeps you coming back for more. If you are feeling strong emotions about the state of our country, then you might consider a media fast; in fact, many of you do that already. If following the news is not necessary for work, it can be liberating to not watch or read or listen to any news for a week or more. Besides its psychological benefit, this practice can help avoid making emotional decisions based on short-term events, when a much more long-term perspective is required for good financial stewardship.

Next up is politicians. The use of fear is nothing new for many politicians. Democrats, Republicans, and other political parties have been feeding their propaganda to the public for centuries claiming if the other side wins, it is the end of you and yours. Of course there were times in the world, such as in Nazi Germany and Communist Russia, when that was absolutely true for some, but throughout history that is more the exception than the rule. I believe in the deep roots of righteousness in America that continue to propel us away from evil and toward the American Dream for all. This has happened despite of our political parties, and surely not because of either one. Today both parties seem to have morphed into whatever they need to be to maintain a voting base. In other words, neither party really has a vision or a purpose, because they become whatever is necessary to maintain a voting base. This drive to maintain a voting base might well be the greatest threat our country must confront. Again, fifty years ago most in the media were somewhat neutral and therefore politicians could put on an act for the public during the day, and then go out to dinner together have a drink or two and compromise to the middle on many a solution. Today, any action of moving to the middle brings swift rebuttal from media to the voting bases invoking outrage, fear or indignation. This causes the polarization of our country and is divisive in the extreme. Many have realized to effectively take down an empire one first divides the house, for a House Divided Cannot Stand. If one believes their ideas are absolutely right, can that perspective withstand a true consideration of what an opponent believes and see and be open to see the truth in their perspective? Even if one can see just a morsel of truth, it can lead to the road back to the middle. That is not to say the middle is where truth lies, but the middle will normally be closer to truth than either extreme.

Many a client on both sides of the political spectrum tell us of their fears, angst, and diminishing hope for our nation. There is good and bad in our nation’s history, but isn’t it still the greatest nation ever formed, despite its negatives? It makes one sad to see others denounce this great nation that has been a place for many of the world’s oppressed to find peace and hope; yet it is not hard to hear and understand the concerns about the negative aspects of our country. Listening with an ear for both sides is the way to defeat both the media’s pull to make money and the politicians’ pull to earn power. There are truths in the values of each side of the political spectrum, and we pray for political decision making that is not concerned with voting base, but instead in the well-being of our nation. Nonetheless, I believe there is a force protecting and watching over America and that this great nation will make the necessary course correction despite media and politics. If one hesitates to agree with that sentiment, there is still hope when one reads the history of this amazing country being a light on the hill, despite it flickering over the last 244 years. There are those plotting the destruction of our civil exchange of ideas, and yet it is they who will trip and fall if they continue. America is still on the path to a destiny that will be for all, because the loving heart of this country is still beating strong. Yes, America is not perfect and will never be. Remember this classic saying “if you ever find the perfect Country (city, company, country club, church etc) do not join it, because you will ruin it.” The “You” is any of us imperfect human beings.

– Drew Tignanelli, Founder

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