(Social) media is upending democracies

In this excerpt from the Coz Green Audio Experience Podcast, Coz Green interviews Peter Montoya about his latest book and uses his personal experiences working for mass media to reflect on passages in Peter’s book.

Well, I’ll tell you, Peter, when I worked for ABC, I am going to be very candid here, my boss and I were sitting in his office one day and he looked at me. He says, you know, we’re going to hell for this.

 

And I said, what? Just the way he said it. And he said, look what we’re doing. Look what we’re you’re doing. We’re getting people stirred up. Now, this was ABC 20 years ago. So it was different, like you said, because there were trusted name in news.

 

I most recently left a division of NBCUniversal in 2019, and I had to get out of media because of exactly what you’re talking about. I do not believe in traditional media anymore because it is so one sided. It is so bias, and I’m not going to cross

 

the line to say it’s evil, but to your point, they know exactly what they’re doing and it’s not about Nielsen ratings as much as click bait. So back in the olden days of traditional TV, it was all about viewership.

 

Traditional television viewership and radio and all that is is in the toilet. The ratings really are compared to where they were. We’ll never see the days of the final episode of MASH or any of those numbers ever again, because it’s so fragmented.

 

So it’s all about what you’re talking about, fear, getting someone to click, because if they’ll click the link on their phone, because that’s where we’re at, right. Very rarely do I watch something on a 60 inch TV unless I choose to through Netflix or something.

 

It’s all about click bait. It’s about fear. It’s about driving a narrative. So what impact then, does this social media have on where we are today in this civil war?

 

So when I say media, I’m being overly broad in generalizing and there is good quality media out there. And there also is the bad media and so bad media. We know it’s bad because they’re vilifying other Americans. They’re demonizing, slandering and ratcheting up the fear centers of our brains.

 

So what it turns out is, is that both fear and outrage is addictive. And so there are people who are literally addicted to watching cable news. And so as I make the suggestion and notice your reaction, stop watching all cable news.

 

And if you have a visceral reaction to that, like, no, I, I can’t be uninformed. They’ve got you. Their hooks are in you. So much of cable news, if not all of cable news, is outrage driven. It’s an outrage driven advertising machine.

 

Absolutely. All for what we’re talking about, viewership, which equates to advertising dollars, and they’ve had to change the model. They have completely had to change the model to make it work economically for these these news outlets. And what’s really kind of disheartening today is that 90 percent of all media is controlled from five to seven companies.

 

If people knew that all of the media is really, really driven by just a few companies, I think they would be unpleasantly surprised of who holds the monopoly on the information. And so to that point, misinformation. Yeah, I saw recently an article, and I won’t say who, but somebody called out Mark Zuckerberg and actually called him

 

an enemy of the state because of what he’s done with with Facebook and when something is created for good. There’s the flip side of that that can be used for bad. How influential, influential has all this social media been on us the last few years?

 

Yeah, it’s a great question. And I spent about a third of my book talking about social media, because social media has been really disruptive, not only to us individually. Everyone knows about how addictive it is and how it shortens our attention span, how it rewires our brain, how it makes us more anxious and more fearful, how

 

it makes our kids more insecure. And that laundry list is bad enough. And then when you look at it on a macro level, it is upending democracies around the world. So democracies are by far and away. So democracies are the worst form of government except compared to all the others.

 

Democracies really are messy. They’re imperfect. And they are absolutely the best form of government in the world today. And as democracies are, they’re usually more stable. They’re less likely to have conflict. They’re less likely to attack. And when you have countries run by dictators or authoritarians, there are usually that there have much greater human rights abuses.

 

They’re more likely to fight their neighbors. They’re less likely to engage in healthy, active trade. They’re just really bad citizens globally. And the following countries have elected authoritarian leaders in the last couple of years. Miramar, India, I’m forgetting one.

 

Oh, and Brazil are three of them. And so we’ve seen a rise in these authoritarian leaders. So extreme right wing leaders are able to harness social media to pump more fear into the marketplace using using xenophobia. They usually attack another group of people as a way of giving them more credibility, which usually leads to a populism, rising

 

populism. So they can get elected, and that usually means they curtail human rights. In addition to that, it usually means violence. So they elected an authoritarian leader, leader in Myanmar due to Facebook. They this has been well documented.

 

By the way, if you search Myanmar or Facebook online, you’ll see it’s very well documented. And 24,000 people were slaughtered via genocide in in Myanmar. So social media and especially Facebook is incredibly dangerous. Two point eight billion people.

 

I have registered Facebook accounts. The average human being spends two hours and twenty five minutes a day on some Facebook product will be Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram. And also, if I remember correctly, it’s one point eight billion people every single day log into Facebook.

 

So it is an incredibly influential company. It’s the fifth largest company in the world, and they have near monopolistic powers in what they can do. And they certainly know that there are bots, trolls, misinformation. They could stop it at any time they choose, but they don’t because those things pump up the algorithms which keep people more addicted

 

to the network. So I would not disagree with the characterization you made at the beginning of that question.

 

If you are more committed to national unity than partisanship, please check out my book, The Second Civil War: A Citizen’s Guide to Healing Our Fractured Nation. My book will challenge you to improve your relationships with friends and family.

 

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