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Ari Halbkram is an entertainment and business brand consultant, A&R manager, podcaster, filmmaker, and writer. Visit his site to learn more.

We Do It To Ourselves

Originally published on Medium:

We are losing the thread, lurching from one controversy or catastrophe to the next. It’s utterly ridiculous. Kaepernick took a knee as a statement on an empirically proven, statistically disproportionate number of unarmed, non-violent black people being killed in altercations with police officers, and the media and our citizenry spent a week and a half repositioning the argument as debates on the rights of public figures to have an opinion, the treatment of our precious but inanimate flag, an outmoded model of patriotism, and the mistreatment of the military.

These situations devolve into discussions about the first amendment, yet we constantly lose the thread there as well — the first amendment prohibits Congress from passing a law infringing on Free Speech — it doesn’t guarantee you the right to voice your opinion, no matter how challenging or backwards, without repercussion.

Earth’s climate changes for the worse, leading to substantial arctic melt in under a year, five catastrophic environmental events in under a month, hundreds of deaths and billions in damage — confirming the predictions made by scientists with scientific models — and we allow ourselves to get divided by a debate about humanity’s impact on climate change versus more stringent regulations that make it harder for businesses to operate without their own interests top of mind.

This morning, one major news channel ran a chyron reading “Las Vegas Massacre Renews Gun Control Debate” when it should have read “Congress’ inaction on gun control contributes to gun massacre in Las Vegas.” As bad as that is, other TV news networks continue to condition us toward divisiveness and irresponsible news consumption by pushing so-called “Experts” to opine and speculate about possible motives behind the Las Vegas Massacre(TM) instead of reporting the reality — law enforcement are piecing together a very complicated case in an attempt to identify the cause. Let’s keep in mind that by the time law enforcement have concluded their investigations, we will have moved on to other attention-grabbing stories and this one will get an update in a small box on page two of the paper, while TV will barely mention it.

We are losing the thread. We are being conditioned to lose the thread. We must be more responsible in how we obtain and process our news. We need to stop regurgitating snippets of raw, unprocessed data collected in social media headlines and short TV news segments wedged between commercials for erection pills and eczema creams that cause side effects worse than eczema, and instead synthesize that data into information. We need to stop letting media outlets control the way we think, because while we do have a right to an opinion, that right should only be exercised through the responsible processing of well-sourced, fully-ingested information.

Too often we’re letting people who wear makeup on television tell us processed and sculpted information, which is being fed to them by a producer in a room with no windows, who themselves are being updated by actual journalists in the field, while being checked against the standards and practices of their corporate owners, who have tremendous business interests tied to the industries on which they report.

Remember the telephone game from childhood — where one person says something and it travels down your chain of friends until it’s been completely reshaped to the point of total disassociation from its original structure, and inevitably someone’s feelings got hurt? This is like that, only instead of “Pat likes Sam,” it’s liberal v conservative, democrat v republican, future v past, gay v family values, truth v fake news, humans causing climate change v nature running its course (as if it matters — weather is changing and causing human damage. If we can do something about it, shouldn’t we, regardless of who’s to blame?), gun control v right to bear arms (see the same argument above), questioning our leadership v shouting about patriotism, etc.

You know who’s getting hurt in the telephone game of life, this constant lurch from outrage to outrage, this consistent loss of the thread? We are. We are the ones getting hurt. We do it to ourselves. And it needs to stop.