Social Media Has Everyone Using Fear and Outrage to Get Attention, even the NY Times

Tim Cushing has a prime example of a headline stoking fear showed up on a New York Times story by simply misrepresenting the actual numbers and making it seem as though the murder rate in New York is going through the roof, “doubling”, when it’s done no such thing.

After Murders ‘Doubled Overnight,’ the N.Y.P.D. Is Solving Fewer Cases

Murders did not “double overnight.” The murder rate in New York City hasn’t doubled at all. Here’s what the murder rate looks like according to the NYPD’s own stats:

I’m making an example of the Times because they like to consider themselves America’s “Paper of Record”, and even they are now using fear and outrage to gain attention, no better than a Twitter or Facebook troll, but it’s happening everywhere. It’s also no surprise that it’s becoming popular among all media outlets because it works. If we’ve learned anything from fake news sites, biased cable channels, YouTube “experts” and social media influencers it’s that you will never lose an audience by making people afraid. You will get their attention, you will stimulate a fear-based response that causes their brain to kick into survival mode and become hyperalert to dangers, which you are happy to continue to feed them.

So in this example, New Yorkers are living in the middle of a murder and crime rampage, even though the numbers don’t really show that. Others are constantly reminding you that one group or another is coming to get you, to take away your rights, or your job, influence your kids, etc. Others are simply creating conspiracy theories out of whole cloth, but those conspiracies always involve danger to you, your family, and your way of life. Most of the outlets doing this are just cynically interested in eyeballs, not in actually informing people. They don’t actually care if the story is accurate or helpful as much as they care about how many clicks it got. They also don’t care about the repercussions of engaging in fear-mongering either. So when their audience goes on the offensive against the group that is supposedly out to get them, the leaders in politics and media will never take any responsibility for it, while also using it to continue to stoke fears that the other side will be retaliating.

Then, the cycle just continues, round and round, until we are all just tuned in constantly to learn what we need to be scared and outraged about next.

Do me a favor, get off the merry-go-round, and consider what a headline like this or a tweet from a politician is really about, and the cynicism that they are actually engaging in before you decide to base your own life decisions on it.

I know, much easier said than done.

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