Our fear conditioning is aroused by the negative bias in the media and exacerbated by our own brain’s design, as you have read in my previous pages. The media is aware of our appeal to fear and good news are back grounded in favour of bad news, maintaining our state of fear.
Start paying attention and compare the ratio of negative to positive stories in the news. I worked out the ratio to be 19:1, nineteen bad news reports to one positive story. Are there no positive stories anywhere in the world? I would be able to fill an hour a day with positive stories from my own country. And that would be reporting the headlines only.
So why are we not hearing these positive news stories?
We are not exposed to many good news stories because bad news sell, good news do not!
“If it bleeds, it leads”.
Good news do not grab our attention, bad news do because our amygdala is always looking for bad news.
So, how is this fear conditioning energised?
News are repeated on the hour every hour. For about fifteen minutes we are exposed to the horrors with carefully selected, continuously looping video clips, as the anchor person describes the events in detail.
The tragedies unfolding live in front of us are taking place far away and will have no direct impact on our lives but our amygdala cannot tell the difference and goes into high alert.
In the unlikely event that the news being reported are good news stories, they now have a ticker tape type ribbon at the bottom of the screen, reporting the horrors happening around the world, just in case we have forgotten.
The advertising media is also competing for our amygdala’s attention.
We all take out insurance policies because we are convinced that our homes are going to be broken into, our cars will be stolen and we will be involved in accidents.
We are reminded that if we want to be healthy and avoid diseases we need to fill our bodies with pills while we are encouraged to visit a doctor, take some tests and get a report informing us that there is something wrong with our bodies.
Pay attention to the adverts and see if you can identify the ways that they play with our concerns. Fear Conditioning!
In addition to confirming the horrors that we have already been exposed to on television and on the internet, radio stations inform us of impending tragedies closer to home.
Talk shows invite people to phone into the station and air their views, what I call bitching sessions. These individuals are only too happy to inform us about their prejudices over the airwaves.
How many people are allowed on the air to report good news stories or to praise someone?
Just in case you missed the bad news on television and on the radio on the way to work, switch on your computer, log on to the internet and you are instantly reminded of the horrors in the world.
You may even receive a message from a cyber bully, throwing insults at you and your family. This is a fairly new method of fear conditioning and I deal with it in a separate subsection.
“It's amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper”, Jerry Seinfeld once commented on his show.
Apart from the horrors that we have already been exposed to via our televisions, reported on the radio and which we had delivered to our computers, we can still read it in our newspapers. In fact we have already been primed by the newspaper headlines, pinned onto lampposts and flashing on electronic billboards, while we were commuting to work.
And so our fear conditioning continues to be fed by stories which may or may not be true. After all, news are based on the reporter’s interpretation of the events taking place.
As, James Wood’s character points out in one of the episodes from the TV series, Shark; “Truth is relative. Pick one that works”.
Prophets of Doom
Then, there are our colleagues, who love to give their own bigoted views on the current news stories.
There is an avalanche of data pouring in through our senses every second of the day.
Since nothing is more important to the brain than our survival, the first filter that this information encounters is our amygdala, always on the lookout for bad news.
Coming back to the concept of accuracy, I love this Zen story called “Finding a Piece of the Truth”.
“One day Mara, the Evil One, was travelling through the villages of India with his attendants. He saw a man doing walking meditation whose face was lit up on wonder. The man had just discovered something on the ground in front of him. Mara’s attendant asked what that was and Mara replied; A piece of truth.
Doesn’t this bother you when someone finds a piece of truth, O Evil One? his attendant asked.
No, Mara replied. Right after this, they usually make a belief out of it.”
On average 95% of the data being bombarded at us on a daily basis, comprises bad news.
We know that our amygdala is programmed not to shut down until the potential danger has vanished completely. But bad news will never disappear and the result is a species living in permanent fear.
But there is something that you can do about it. You will be taught how to eliminate your fear conditioning later in this section. But before that, let's discuss the conspiracy theorists.