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Nov 192012
 

Media bias is a fact of life. Regrettably, as preppers we’re on the downside of the media’s preferences.

You’re not just imagining it.  The media truly is biased against preppers and prepping.  This article will help you understand why; with that understanding, you are better prepared to respond to media bias and you will better know what to say and do if you are approached to appear in a media article on prepping yourself.

As preppers, we generally perceive that we’re thought of being on the fringes of society and its accepted norms, and in large part, that is a true perception, even if not an accurate reality.  The reason for this misperception is two-fold – some extremists who are viewed as being preppers are then taken as being representative of us all, and the inadequate way the media fails to fairly describe us and convey our ideas to their audiences.

The good news is there is no reason why prepping shouldn’t be a mainstream and universally accepted part of everyone’s lives.  Anyone who has a spare lightbulb in their cupboard at home is already a prepper; the only difference between everyone else and ourselves is the question of how much prepping we variously do.  We have a positive and prudent message to communicate to non-preppers, and in any reasoned discussion with a reasonable person, it is likely they would end up accepting our views, to a greater or lesser extent.  Even if they didn’t immediately start out-prepping ourselves, they would no longer think of us as strange or threatening, and they’d probably make a few positive changes to their own lifestyle and prepping level.

The bad news is that we are like fish trying to swim upstream.  We are having to struggle to get our reasonable and reasoned message heard and appreciated and accepted, in large part because the mass media likes to make fun of preppers and prepping.

Let’s see if we can understand why and how the media have become so negative about prepping in general.

The Evolution of How the Media Treats News

The main stream media – newspapers, television programs, radio shows, and most media outlets in general these days exist more to entertain than to inform.  Even their so-called news programs are based more on entertaining than educating.  This colors the topics the media cover, and the way in which they treat the topics they do pick up.

The media makes money in proportion to the number of people who watch/read/listen to their content, and it is a sad truth that, most of the time, people find it easier to read stories that make them laugh, or which confirm their own beliefs, whether they be correct or not.  Readers prefer stories that make them feel good, rather than stories that make them feel anxious.

This has been a slowly evolving thing.  In the past – say, 50+ years ago – the media took their role as promulgators of news much more seriously and saw their role primarily as educating rather than entertaining.  They were also careful to report on the news fully and reasonably fairly, and to avoid allowing their personal feelings to intrude or influence how they covered the stories they reported on.

But this has slowly but surely evolved over the last some decades.  Television – a primarily visual medium – created a desire to come up with visual content, rather than the earlier type of television news show that features a newsreader sitting at a desk and reading stories from sheets of paper.  At the same time, new printing technologies made it possible and affordable for newspapers to start printing higher qualities pictures, and in color, and so the newspapers became more visually oriented too.

Another change was simultaneously occurring.  People’s attention spans were shortening.  Whereas, 60+ years ago, people could concentrate on a topic for 45 – 50 minutes (hence the reason for the ‘academic hour’ and the length of classes in schools/colleges), these days people have a concentration span of 5 minutes or less.  This means that most topics now are given much shorter treatment than before, and with short treatments comes over-simplification, with much of the nuance and detail being lost.

The ever more intense competition among more and more television stations and other media outlets also made the different media outlets do whatever it took to keep and grow their audience, and this meant that the media started a slide down from being ‘boring’ educators to being ‘interesting and fun’ entertainers.

This change in focus also allowed for another very important change.  While it is probably true that the media’s treatment of anything at any time has always been slightly shaded by the personal opinions and values of the people who select, write, film, edit and present the stories, in the past that was something that the media attempted to obscure, and if exposed, it was something the media would be embarrassed about.

But today the media no longer hide their bias and preferences at all.  A dispassionate analysis of – for example – the media coverage of the last presidential campaign shows more than ten times as many favorable stories about Obama as were present about Romney.  Whereas the media clamored for Romney to disclose tax returns and all sorts of other personal information, the media ridiculed or refused to report on the vast gaps and contradictions in Obama’s limited disclosures about his shadowy past.

Whereas the media delighted in reporting anything that could possibly be described as a misstatement by Romney, the verbal gaffes by Obama (and Biden) were ignored.  Previously the media treated as real and prominently covered documents that were clearly fraudulent, which implied Bush was a draft dodger; but when confronted with the fact that Obama uses a social security number that couldn’t possibly be his, they ignored it.

Here’s a great article documenting the different perspective as between Fox News and MSNBC in the run-up to the Presidential election.

Bottom line :  It seems incontrovertibly true that the main stream media has a left-wing bias.

Prepping as a Controversial Political Statement

Now, you might think that prepping is an apolitical subject that both Democrats and Republicans can agree upon without any political tension, but that’s sadly not the case.  The concept of prepping strikes at one of the fundamental differences in the two political parties – should people be responsible for themselves, or should the government be responsible for people?

As preppers, we are taking responsibility for ourselves and choosing not to rely on the government.  While we do this not because of political ideology but rather because of what we see as unavoidable facts and outcomes – no matter how well intentioned, national government type responses to some types of emergencies will just not be possible.  There are possible scenarios that will necessarily become ‘every man for himself’.

But people who believe the government knows best and should be involved in all aspects of managing the lives of its citizens feel very uncomfortable with this expression of what they see as distrust in the government.  So although prepping is a totally apolitical concept, some people with left-wing preferences – including many/most journalists – view it negatively and inappropriately in political terms.

The Media’s Guiding Principles When They Cover Prepping

Ignoring (if we can) the regrettable political overtones and their media consequences, when the media decide to approach the subject of prepping, how do you think they instinctively decide to shape the story?

Do you think they want to scare their readers, and make them uncomfortable with stories like ‘You’re a Fool if You’re Not a Prepper’ and ‘Are You Storing Enough Food and Water’?  Do they want to tell readers ‘if you’re not preparing extreme solutions for extreme problems, you, your family, your friends, and everyone else around you will probably die one of these days’?

Or do you think the media would get better readership and loyalty by running stories ‘Preppers are Crazy, and You Have Nothing to Fear’ and ‘Don’t Worry, Nothing is Going to Happen’ and ‘If Anything Ever Goes Wrong, the Government Will be Here to Save Us All’.

Feel good stories always win out over fear/bad stories.  Comfort always wins over discomfort.  And humor and sarcasm always wins over careful reason and logic.

The other thing is that it only takes two or three minutes (which is the maximum length a news story is likely to be) to selectively make fun of a randomly selected aspect of prepping, but it would take tens of minutes or even hours to carefully and completely discuss society’s current vulnerabilities and how people should best prepare to respond to them.

So when the media cover prepping, they typically approach it from the desire of creating a reassuring story that will allow their non-prepping audience to relax and feel good about their unpreparedness.  They will want to explain the sometimes visible actions of preppers as being something that normal people don’t need to be concerned about.

For example, prepping came unavoidably into focus after the government’s and aid agencies’ inadequate response to the problems caused by Hurricane Sandy.  The media loved the human interest stories of people suffering from Hurricane Sandy’s effects and consequences, but there came a point where they realized they were creating a monster – by focusing on all the problems and inadequacies in the response to Hurricane Sandy, they realized they were validating the concept of prepping and one of the central premises of the prepping community – that when things go wrong, you can’t rely on other people helping; you have to be able to help yourselves.

So what did they then predictably do?  Visit our article on ‘An Example of Media Bias When Covering Prepping‘ to read an analysis of a USA Today article about prepping written immediately after Hurricane Sandy.

Summary

The media has stereotyped prepping as being non-mainstream, as being odd to the point of crazy, as being vaguely threatening or scary to normal people, and as being something to laugh at and make jokes about, rather than as something to take seriously and carefully think about.

We in turn need to respond by showing ourselves as being normal mainstream people with sensible ideas.  We can best start that process by showing that almost everyone is already a prepper because we all keep spare supplies of various things in our homes already, and we all prepare for disasters by, for example, taking out insurance on our homes, our cars, and our health.  Our article ‘Who Are Preppers‘ talks about this in more detail.

We can also point out the federal and state and local governments all encourage disaster preparedness.  That is what FEMA is all about, after all, and if you do a bit of research, you’ll be able to find the equivalent state agency or the parts of several different state agencies that are involved in state disaster preparedness and response, and possibly similar organizations at county and city levels too.

The only difference between us and anyone else is how much and how extensively we variously prepare.  We’re not crazy, we’re prudent.

When you portray things that way, all of a sudden, being a prepper doesn’t seem quite so bizarre and totally not scary.

If you are approached by the media, this is the line of reasoning you should give.  You are simply doing what the federal, state and local governments encourage everyone to do, and you are merely doing a bit more than everyone does already.  You’re not seeking to overthrow the government, you’re merely wishing to supplement the government’s response by being less needy in the first place.  And, most of all, you’re a normal person, just like your neighbors and everyone else.  You watch ball games, you enjoy beer, you participate in the society around you, and so on.  Prepping is only a small part of your total life.

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David Spero[suffusion-the-author display='description']

  6 Responses to “Why the Media is Biased Against Prepping”

Comments (4) Pingbacks (2)
  1. I think That the key to making prepping not only socially acceptable but an expected and reasonable activity is this:

    http://www.empcommission.org/docs/empc_exec_rpt.pdf

    The EMP threat both from a high altitude nuclear detonation or from a massive earth directed solar flare is the single most important reason to prep. A successful EMP attack would take down the north American power grid for months resulting in the death of the majority of the population of the United States due to starvation and dehydration. This is not a matter of opinion. There has been plenty of testing of the effects of exo-atmospheric nuclear detonations since the early 60’s.

    Have you noticed how everyone has heard about the Mayan calendar (2012 non-event)? It is a joke and people are prepping for it. The EMP issue needs to eclipse the 2012 issue and fast. Every adult in this country needs to know about this threat to their survival and they need to know that this government sponsored report and others exist.

    Think for a moment and realize that the US military, CIA and federal government have been making enemies all over the world since the end of World War 2. And all our enemies know about the EMP effect. Last of all, realize that this involves 1950’s “high technology”. We are toast; ot is just a matter of time. This isn’t zombie apocalypse or 2012 or planet X. It is the real deal and everyone needs to know. As soon as this issue is as well known as the Mayan calendar the hardest part of our job is done. People will be asking us what to do instead of ignoring us or laughing at us.

    Lux

    http://www.instructables.com/member/luxstar/rss.xml?show=instructable

    • Hi, Lux

      Thanks for these comments. I understand why you believe that a broader promulgation of information about the EMP and solar threats might create greater public support for the concept of prepping, but I’m afraid I can’t completely agree with you that this is how the public would respond.

      The thing is, there is nothing secret about either EMP attacks or intense solar flare events, nor is there anything secret about the apocalyptic consequences that would almost certainly and unavoidably follow. If you search Google for ‘EMP attack’ you get almost 2 million results; if you search for ‘EMP attack survival’ you get almost 1 million results.

      Similarly, you get millions of results from searches related to intense solar flares.

      Mainstream media have occasionally published stories on both these possibilities, too. It isn’t just websites like this that cover these topics. So there’s no real conspiracy of silence or cover-up, there’s just a total apathy and lack of interest.

      The thing is this. The potential – the probable – downside to such an event occurring is so terrible as to overload most people’s imaginations. The sudden and complete loss of electricity, and a delay of years to restore it, as a result of something we can neither see nor feel (ie solar storms), is impossible for most people to comprehend or accept, and people also don’t realize about how our electricity grid is becoming more vulnerable rather than less with each passing year and decade. This also begs the question ‘If it is such a danger, how come it hasn’t happened before’ even though we’ve only had a power grid for less than a century, and even though its vulnerability is becoming greater, and even though there have been short small examples of what could happen already.

      And as for the even worse outcome from an EMP attack – not just a loss of the power grid, but of all electronics too, most people refuse to believe that any enemy would ever do something so terrible.

      Sure, we know better, but most people are not as rational or hard-headed as we are. The same people who support gun-control and believe that people should not be allowed to resort to deadly force to defend themselves in extreme situations, the same people who oppose the death penalty for even the most extreme of crimes, and the same people who seek to impose their views of morality on others – these people also refuse to accept that anyone, anywhere, could be as terribly evil as to seek to destroy the United States, and to be willing to kill tens or hundreds of millions of our fellow citizens in the process.

      The other problem is that trying to reduce the risk to an acceptable level is close to impossible for most people and their modern lifestyles. Indeed, to an extent, we should be thankful that we preppers are in a minority. What would happen if every person who lives in a city suddenly decided that they also wanted to have 1 or 2 acres of land per family member in a retreat location too?

      There are just under 1.9 billion acres of land in the lower 48 states. Let’s say 1/3 of this is suitable for settlement (that number is probably way too optimistic). That gives us 630 million acres, and with almost exactly 315 million people in the country, that means we all could have 2 acres. Land values would skyrocket. What would happen to national and state forests and parks? Farming costs would also skyrocket due to increased land costs, and so on and so on.

      And that’s just considering the land issue alone.

      Don’t get me wrong. I’d much rather have a well prepared nation around me than an unprepared nation such as is the case at present. But I really really don’t think that merely talking more and more about EMP and solar storm risks will be very persuasive to most people.

  2. Hello David,

    When I wrote “I think That the key to making prepping not only socially acceptable but an expected and reasonable activity is this:”

    I see now that this is wishful thinking. It is too terrible for most people to accept.

    When You wrote “

    I understand why you believe that a broader promulgation of information about the EMP and solar threats might create greater public support for the concept of prepping,”

    I still think it might or will create greater public support for prepping. I suppose the issue is to what degree. I have been corresponding with some people (and some preppers) that did not know about the report. It seems to carry some weight in the area of taking the subject out of the realm of opinion and onto the bulls eye called fact.

    Thanks for the input. It will definitely change the my message a bit.
    By the way, I skimmed one of your post on EMP before work this morning and plan to read both in detail this week. I will probably be spreading those links around as well since one of them reads like a sort of condensed version of the commission EMP report.

    Lux

    • Hello again, Lux(22)

      Thanks for your further thoughts, and of course, thanks very much for passing on links to the site. Traffic is our lifeblood.

      I think there are several factors that enter into a person’s calculation about future dangers :

      (a) What is the chance of something occurring
      (b) What would be the outcome if the event occurred
      (c) How would the govt and various support agencies resolve the problem

      We as preppers tend to be more pessimistic about all three issues. Non-preppers tend to be massively more optimistic.

      The EMP report you cited above provides some unbiased opinion about the second of these three factors – what the outcomes from an EMP might be, but is more or less silent on the first and third issues, although it misleadingly opens its report with a section misleadingly titled ‘We can prevent an EMP catastrophe’ – almost none of the preventative measures suggested in this 2004 report have been implemented.

      There is also the curious fact that the EMP coverage diagrams it shows on pages 6 and 7 are much less threatening than the definitive coverage diagram from the US Army’s 1994 report and which I show on this page : http://codegreenprep.com/2012/06/emp-what-it-is-and-why-you-should-fear-it/

      Even the damage caused by an EMP event is debatable, and I’m far from convinced we’re being given the best data by the authorities. It seems that EMP testing is being conducted with appreciably lower levels of energy than may be experienced by a ‘real’ EMP device, and it also seems that the previously thought to be physical limits on the intensity of an EMP pulse might be as much as ten times lower than the intensities which could be achieved by some designs of EMP bomb.

      Furthermore, each additional ‘improvement’ in miniaturization in our electronics brings about a corresponding increase in EMP vulnerabilities. Data on EMP resilience is typically several generations outdated in terms of the equipment it is reporting on.

      My point is simply this : The EMP paper you cite is an underwhelming but still helpful document that partially addresses point b only. As long as non-preppers view the first issue – the chance of an EMP attack – as very low, and as long as they rate the third issue – the effectiveness of a government response – as very high, most people will remain sadly unworried about the risks of EMP attacks.

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