Why are you at war with your friends and family?
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.
From 1861 to 1865, the United States of America was embattled in a civil war. Our nation’s bloodiest conflict. The country was divided, the north versus the south. A difference in beliefs, values and politics. It was brother against brother.
It’s estimated that approximately 750000 of our relatives lost their lives in the first American civil war. Now, my guest today believes that we are engaged in the second civil war here in America. There are seasoned entrepreneurs, gifted speakers and bestselling authors, but rarely do we find all three in one person.
My guest is all three. He is certainly a rare exception. He is the author of one of my favorite books entitled The Brand called You. He’s a skilled orator with over 4000 keynotes under his belt, and he’s the creator of the game changing tech startup Urth, a social media platform which eliminates bots, trolls and that dreaded misinformation.
My guest is going to share with us insights today from his new bestselling book, The Second Civil War: A Citizen’s Guide to Healing Our Fractured Nation. He’ll share practical lessons not only how to cope with relationships with those whose political views that we just find intolerable, but also how to rehabilitate those relationships, making them healthier than ever
before. So let’s welcome to the program, Peter Montoya. Peter, thanks for joining us on the program today, cause.
Thank you for having me. I’m thrilled to have this conversation with you.
Well, it’s good to see you. You and I met about 25 years ago back in another life. And I was so excited when I started reading your book. And I thought, we’ve got to connect because it’s a game changer.
And as we said, we’ve already been through one civil war and those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. So here we are again in yet another cycle. So let’s start with what motivated you to actually write this book.
So what went off in your head that said, I’ve got to share this message?
Oh, gosh. Well, I had to learn the message for myself because I was deeply engaged in the second civil war. I was very, very partizan, very, very angry and frothy on a regular basis about politics. My father in law would regularly send out e-mails touting and proselytizing his political position and his political candidate choice.
And I, after a while, got fed up and I replied to one of his emails and one of the nastiest, snarkiest, passive aggressive ways possible. And as I was pushing the send button of this really horrible email, I thought it was justified.
And I felt really righteous and good about that choice. About 24 hours later, I was kind of thinking, should I sent that email? Should I send it? And then went back into my sent email. I read the email and it’s like, this is not me.
Why did I send this email? This is not who I am or how I behave. This is not kind. It’s not even fair. So I had to reach out to him. He was furious, so furious that he didn’t respond to the email.
He really didn’t want to take my phone call. But he was gracious enough to have dinner with me where I had to, well, I didn’t have to, I felt compelled to do a full mea culpa and apologize and own it.
I didn’t in any way put any of the blame on him. Like oftentimes people behave badly and go, well, if your position wasn’t so bad, I wouldn’t have behaved so bad. No, I just really owned it. And because I really reflected on that incident, I had to investigate why I did that.
Why did I behave that way? Why did I believe what I believe? And that was the genesis for my research. So as I write the book and people they ever read it and feel that, I really do my best not to be preachy or saying, you know, stop doing this behavior.
The only reason I know it so well is because I was doing it myself. So the book in many regards was written for me to help me understand why I was behaving so badly.
And who’s the intended audience for the book? Who who who are you writing this for? Who’s your avatar?
It really is. Every friend and family member, especially those on social media, who I would open up the, you know, the post or the feed of social media and I would see all this vitriol, all this hatred, and I would hear stories about people being shoved against walls and being threatened for their lives, I would see friends who had
been friends for years disavow one another. So it was for all of my friends in my family who were going through this really bloody, bloody, metaphorically bloody conflict with one another. That’s who I voted for. So the book, you know, frequently you might think, is a political book.
And it really is. And I think it’s the first political self-help book or leadership book. So even though it looks like a political book, it actually is written for everyday Americans and a very common sense, practical way.
So I said in the introduction that the first civil war was all about a difference in beliefs, values, politics. And that’s where the dividing lines were. What is this new civil war, this second civil war, then? What is it and what are those dividing lines?
How is the…
The first civil war was hot. And a hot war is anything that’s violent where you have obviously bloodshed and death and then a cold war is anything that’s not violent.
So we had a cold war with Russia, or USSR back in the day, which was economic. We sabotage one another. Misinformation, propaganda. It was everything but violent. And that’s what’s happening here in the United States.
So whereas the war of civil war of 1861 was violent and we certainly knew the dividing lines, it was federal versus state powers. And that over slavery, this civil war, you would think, is between the Republicans and Democrats.
But that’s not the case, because I call both the political parties, talk to their media departments. And I asked him, do you want to abolish do you want to rid the country of the political party? And both of them were relatively appalled and said, no, we don’t aren’t trying to abolish the country under the party.
Our country is better with at least two very vibrant, healthy parties. We just want to beat at the ballot box and we want to make sure our ideas win. So who is this war between? And the answer is, is a social civil war.
It is friend against friend, family member against family member, work colleague against colleague. It’s every single person I know has either lost friendships or has damaged and strained relationships. This is what they call that, the tearing of the social fabric in our country.
And what that means is we have less ability to empathize, less ability to cooperate, to solve our national problems. So I really think that we as a country that the most important question we should be asking one another is how do we cooperate better to solve our collective problems?
We’ve got big problems in our country, big problems around the world. But instead, the predominant question running through most of our political narrative right now is how do we bludgeon the other side into capitulating to our point of view?
So we have power. And I think that is fundamentally the wrong question.
But this battle is very similar to the First World War, where it’s no hold, no holds barred. Right. So maybe we’re not using weapons. Well. They’re using weapons in the street, you know, yeah. Depends on what the news is actually covering.
So there could be deaths from the Civil War that maybe we’re not seeing. But it’s not to the extent that we talked about the introduction of 750,000 deaths. Yeah. But lives are being affected, because I do know that because of the mental health issues that this second civil war is affecting.
There is depression, there is suicide, there is anxiety. And so it does have, you know, fatalities or casualties of this war. Yeah. But how did we get here? Yeah. Would you say it’s technology? What is it that’s different?
Because we’re fighting with mice and screens and thumbs on keyboards, not with old muskets.
Right. It’s a really good question. And forgive me for a second for giving a fairly long answer. So up until about the mid to late 1980s, when you turn on the news, there were two fundamental value propositions being offered and the value propositions.
You go way back into the 60s and 70s and 80s. The value proposition was first you wanted breaking news. And second was trustworthiness. So we wanted Walter Cronkite. Peter Jennings. We wanted people to break us the news, but do so in a very, very truthful and honest way.
In 1980, Ted Turner pointed a satellite up to the heavens. And through a little loophole in the FCC regulations created the first cable station. And then the first cable news station in 1980, which really took hold in that in 1990 with the Iraq war.
That’s where it first really got traction about 10 years into it. So in 1987, we also saw the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, which meant that news channels no longer had to share equal time to make sure that both points of view, that two points of view were getting equal airtime.
Now, they could share opinion and basically be one sided as much as they could. So we have the advent of cable news. We had the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in the 1990s. Then we had the invention of the Internet.
And what that basically allowed is for it was unlimited free content available online at the publishing of a keystroke. And then you had the advent of social media in 2005, 2007, when Facebook really took off. And all during that, we major media companies were coming to us and saying, we’re losing our advertising dollars because we’re losing our
readership. You can get the news for free now available online. Please pay us to pay for the overhead of our news operations. Please pay us for editorial staff and investigative reporters. Please pay us to help us bring you high quality news.
And we as the general public said no, we can get it for free. So they scratch their head and they say, well, gosh, how do we get make more money? We’ll do that. Selling, advertising. How do you sell more advertising?
And the answer is fear. So the best way that the media and I say media use that phrase very broadly, let me define media. Media means a traditional television, cable television, Internet television, podcast, radio articles, online, traditional television. TVs on gas pumps, TVs in elevators, anywhere that you consume news.
I say media. It’s not just cable news and traditional broadcast news. It is anything you consume. The best way to get and capture people’s attention is by scaring them. And the more time they spend watching our channel, the more advertising they consume and the more profits we shall make.
And you think, well, gosh, is it really that naked? Do the major media companies know that they are intentionally misrepresenting and mischaracterizing other Americans, dividing us just to make more profit? Yes, it is that naked.
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.
So have you seen the social dilemma or. You know what, if you watch that as an American, how can you not be sickened and know that they didn’t necessarily, they say, intend for the like button and all the things that they invented to be addictive?
Well, mission accomplished, though. They did it in great fashion because we are so addicted to the dopamine. I’ve actually heard stories of people committing suicide because they had gone through something difficult and didn’t get enough sympathy or comments or they did something good and they didn’t give any likes.
So they didn’t feel validated and actually took their own lives. What are we doing with social media?
So you’ve really hit another one of my sweet spots. And because, as you said in the introduction, I’m in the middle of a tech startup starting a social media platform call. It’s actually a civil media platform. So the social media platforms right now are really run.
We talked about earlier on outrage, but the real currency of social media is both sensationalism and approval. That’s what most social media runs on, which in small doses is not necessarily bad. We need that could actually one of our very most primal instincts are to actually seek the approval of our peers, because it helps us conform better
in a very pro social way. So we cooperate better. And so what that is meant to do is to make us be more sociable, to actually help other people to get approval. And Facebook kind of harnessed that and said, gosh, look at we got these people addicted here.
Let’s use that to sell advertising. So I really think in how our platform Urth is going to be very, very different. Is it runs on reputation rather than that of sensationalism and approval. And it’s a different model that we’re running it on, which is going to make it a lot more trustworthy and
a lot more long term versus just getting short term hits on a regular basis.
So do you tout what political party you’re a part of?
Yeah. Good question. So I was a member of a political party until about 2003, and I am independent. And I asked this question a lot and everyone gets the answer wrong. Which political party is the most deceptive?
The other guy. Right. The other party is the most deceptive.
How do you how do you truly define independent then?
Well, give me a second. The truth is, the most deceptive party is the one that you pledge your allegiance to, the one that you trust. That’s the one that’s most deceptive because it’s the one that you trust.
The other party is not deceptive because you don’t trust them. You’re skeptical of them. So is whenever you pledge of allegiance to just about anything, it creates a bias and distorts reality. That’s what biases do. Biases are inherently a distortion of reality in some way.
Now it’s like bad, but it distorts reality. So when you pledge allegiance to America first and then maybe to a party second, you are changing the bias. So hopefully you’re seeing things more objectively. So I really believe that you can only have one primary allegiance.
And so my primary allegiance is to the country. And if you put your party first, that is inherently unpatriotic. Well, so
what I would suggest, Peter, this, that. Less and less people. Now, this is my observation, are actually pledging allegiance to America, right? They’re pledging allegiance to a party. Yes. An ideology, because we’re seeing that because this allegiance to America has gone out the window.
People don’t believe in the flag. They diss on the United States of America at every turn. They’re not paying allegiance to America. They are paying allegiance to an ideology.
So what I notice about patriotism and I wrote a chapter in my book, it’s a meditation on patriotism. And as I share my thoughts on patriotism, please understand the following. I don’t have a monopoly or own any more than an opinion about what I think patriotism is.
And so please understand, that’s how I’m positioning this. I’m not saying this is what patriotism is. My experience is for most people. Patriotism is about pride, which means they’re proud of their country and they have this pride of ownership.
And that’s what pride means, which is to love the country. However, in my experience, most people who are the most patriotic hate half the people in the country. And that, to me, is not what patriotism really is. So patriotism or love is three different things.
First of all, it can be a decision. A decision you make in your mind. I love my country or I have my loyalty to my country. So first, it’s a decision. Second, it is a feeling we can have that sense of pride that welling up on the chest, that kind of that feeling.
Liberals want to cry because we just adore something or someone so much. It can be a feeling. But the third and by far and away, the most important part of love is actually to incur a cost for the benefit of somebody else.
Often without the expectation of return. And that’s what we do for our kids. I was talking with my son today, and he we were having a conversation about these, a 15 year old. He said, you know, I don’t understand why, just because you’re my parents, I should respect you.
It’s such a 15 year old. And I said, OK, you know, I understand why you would say that. And I said, just out of curiosity, how much do you think I’ve invested in you financially and through my time?
How much time and money and let alone the emotional investment have I put into you? And he said this is, you know, a typical 15 year old said, well, I didn’t ask to be born. I didn’t say you did.
But still, I ask for you to be born. I’m glad you’re here. How much of an investment did I put in you? And you actually came up with some of these numbers, and I think it was a million dollars fairly easily and on the financial side.
And I would say it’s probably a 500 hours a year specifically dedicated to him. And then plus, we have all the emotional fret and worry and angst that’s unquantifiable. And those are costs that I incur for the benefit of my son
without expectation of return. The respect would be nice. But I don’t I don’t expect it. So when we look at love of country, it isn’t just about saluting the flag. It isn’t just about standing up. It is about actually loving the people in it and being willing to incur costs.
Here’s what costs are. Paying your taxes is a cost stopping at a stoplight so you can wait for other people to cross safely. Is it costs going to the airport and going through security is a court cost.
These are all costs that you incur for the benefit of other people, which you may never see a return. And that’s what patriotism really is. I try not to use the word sacrifice, because when people hear the word sacrifice, they think that you have to belong to the military or be a first first responder
. You have to have your life at risk. No. Every single time you defer and you help somebody else without provocation, expectation of return. That, to me is actual patriotism, not just pride.
Why have we lost this sense of patriotism? Is it because it has become so? Me, me, me? Where did we lose our way? Or at least we always have as mankind? Right. The great commandment is to learn how to love.
Right. Whatever. Whatever belief system you come from. Love is the answer. Really? Yeah. How have we lost our way so fast, though?
So that’s really a good question. So I was told from the earliest of ages that we are all equal. We’re here to love one another. We’re here to cooperate. And I’ve been told this. Love thy neighbor, love God, and love your neighbor as God.
I’ve been told these things over and over and over again. And I’ve told been told things like, people have to be taught to hate. People have to be taught how to be racist. And that’s not actually true. So intolerance, actually.
Is our default mode. So I’m going to make a number of generalizations, and as you hear these generalizations, these are going well, Peter, that doesn’t apply to me that there are generalizations and they very well may not apply to you.
But, yeah, intolerance actually is our default mode, and it is called tribalism. We are a hugely tribalistic creature, which means that we seek out small groups of people between 100 and 200 people who we want to be closely connected with and who are absolutely essential to our survival.
So here’s how you can see your tribalistic tendencies. Have you ever been to a cocktail party or a networking meeting and you’ve walked in the room, put on a smile, looked around the room and gone.
That’s not my person. That could be my person. I like the way that person looks. We’ve called it judgmentalism. But that is tribalism. So we’re looking for our people. And then what? Ratchet it up. So whenever you consume a media personality, a media network, or even a politician who demonizes other Americans to make themselves look better, that
is playing on our tribalistic tendencies. So it’s easy to unlock when it has been commanded to by a religious institution or a political institution or a media company. All we have to do is be given approval to vilify other five others.
And then all of a sudden we circle the wagons and we take care of our own.
So we’ve been doing this since the beginning of mankind. But because the the technology has made it more concentrated. Right. This is this is orange juice concentrated like never before. Right. That’s why the vitriol and everything is just so potent.
Because of this technology. So let me ask you kind of a personal question. So what news network do you watch?
I do not watch any news, guys. None right now. I gave up news maybe a little more than a year ago because I realized that news wasn’t news. And so the question always comes across is, Peter, how do you stay informed?
It turns out and there are numerous studies on this. You can search these two. The more news a person consumes, the more misinformed. They are not informed. So people will ask, well, Peter, how do you know what’s going on?
And the important events kind of bubble to the surface. People say, Peter, did you hear about this? Did you hear about Governor Cuomo resigning because of sexual harassment claims? Nope, but thanks. I mean, my whole goal goal is I want to be informed, not influenced.
And when you watch most news news programing, you’ll find that it’s not only informed, you’re being influenced in some way, you’re being told who’s at blame. There’s a kind of moral. Play moral drama being played out before you, that’s actually reaching into you and playing with your emotions to get you engaged in this moral drama.
And I really have no need for that. I really only need the information that helps me make more accurate decisions to keep me in it, to survive. And you might say, well, Peter, don’t you have a responsibility as an American citizen to know what you’re voting on?
Absolutely. And I much prefer to read that from an empathetic, long form journalism source that does not inject their own opinion. And that takes one reading. I don’t have to see 18 hours of cable news to see it.
And I’m in California. I think that we need systems of accountability and it seemed to have worked to purge a governor in New York. But I don’t care which party he’s in. I don’t think it’s endemic of a political party.
I think it’s endemic of politicians. It seems to me that there’s a certain type of person who needs that attention, who seeks political office. That’s politicians. It has always been politicians, probably always will be politicians.
It has not changed since the Roman Empire or anything. When people say, oh, it’s so bad today. No, again, it’s just more potent. It’s more concentrated, because back in the day now, I’m really dating myself. So when I was a kid, there were three networks, ABC, NBC and CBS.
And our little TV did not have a remote. Oh wait, It did: me. Coz, get up and change the channel. There are literally and I’ve made this joke before, you know, in cycling through the guide on the TV, there’s a thousand stations or networks now of nothing, absolutely nothing,
because only five percent commercials.
I can’t totally diss on commercials. I made a living being in television and we made our money because of commercials. So people say, well, you know, if it wasn’t for the commercials, well, if it wasn’t for the commercials, you wouldn’t have the programing.
So something has to pay for it. But here’s where the shift has come. And I don’t want to simplify it, but in a way, it is this simple. If you think about the cable news networks, all they have become is reality shows.
Some years ago, when there was a writers’ strike, if you remember that, there was a writers’ strike where they said, OK, we’re not going to pay writers anymore. We’re just going to put cameras with different kinds of people and we’ll just make cheap television programing content through reality TV shows.
That’s all news has become. Their staffs have shrunk. Their budgets have shrunk because all they do now is just tell a story. It’s reality TV because one network just a few years ago was one president 24/7 and sends the other guy the other side got into office.
What happened to their ratings? 50 percent of the audience like that on two specific networks, because the narrative changed because it’s just reality TV and you can only watch so much reality before that becomes your reality. And then you’re living in a fantasy world.
We turn it off. Now, you and I were talking in the precio and I thought I was unique, but I read it in your book and I had a mentor tell me about 35 years ago, Coz, I don’t watch the news, don’t read the newspaper.
If you need news to your point, find one trusted source. Get some feelings for what they’re saying and then turn it off. So recently I was in a group and I even said in the group, what is real anymore?
I want authenticity, so I’m going to go on a new mental diet. So I’ve been off social media for about two months. And in fact, it’s interesting to get texts from people saying, are you OK? Usually we saw daily, you know, memes and positive things you shared and we don’t see them anymore.
I don’t watch cable news. I don’t listen to the podcast I was listening to. And I’ve gone back. If I’m going to watch TV and you and I were talking about this, I watched some old shows that I grew up with like Emergency! and Quincy and some of these shows, it’s changed my world.
I’ve changed my mental diet, and changed my physical diet too, but I’ve changed my mental diet. And it’s a whole different world because so many people forget. And I know you’ve talked about this, too. You know, we have the area of control, the area of influence and the area of concern.
And because of social media, everything. Is out there in my area of concern, I’m concerned about everything, but we forget that we can only control up until the end of our fingertips. Right. We’ve got to get back to realizing our area of control is about that big.
Right and stop worrying about the whole world. So turn it off.
Incredibly well said, guys, and I absolutely applaud you for turning all that media off.
It wasn’t easy, but I don’t know. You know, certain things in a business, you have to be on social media and promote yourself. But right now, I don’t need to promote myself. So I’m not promoting myself. And I’ve never been happier.
I know the happiness actually goes up. So reality is a construct. And so if you don’t like your reality, you change your construct and you change the inputs. So of course I understand that a person’s perception is their reality.
And if you don’t like the reality, you change the inputs, which changes the perception. So if you currently believe and this is to the generic you, that half of the country is evil, that it wants to destroy the country and is out to take something away from you.
You are a pawn on someone else’s chessboard. I’ve read the numbers in. What’s really amazing is when you ask a poll, Americans on issues, guns, immigration, minimum wage, state versus federal rights, infrastructure, democracy reform, you ask questions about specific policies.
Between 70 and 90 percent of Americans agree on policies. Then you go, why are we actually seen here deadlocked and I think earlier you mentioned World War I. It’s it’s like trench warfare. We’re basically not either side is not making any forward progress.
Then why are we locked in trench warfare? Because as soon as you attach a party to a policy, all of a sudden the other side either side resists. And that’s why we go back to my earlier recommendation. It’s time to disavow your political party and never, ever, ever consume any content, any media who is profiting by vilifying
another group of Americans. Now, should you fight for ideas? Absolutely. The marketplace of ideas is really important that we have that that we vet ideas, interrogate them and make sure we have the best policy choices. It’s in the best interest of the long term interests of our country, not just in our party.
We should absolutely do that. And so you fight for ideas. You don’t fight other Americans.
So what you’re talking about is really fighting for opinions. And we were dissing on the cable news because traditional news viewership in the three major networks. Doesn’t really exist anymore. Remember the days like you even talked about Peter Jennings and Walter Cronkite?
Walter Cronkite actually within. Like a poll back in his day was seen as the most trusted man in America, right? Right. So things have changed
By the way, the day he came out and talked badly about the Vietnam War was the day the Vietnam War basically ended, when that when he said those words. That’s how much credibility he had.
And he went from news to all of a sudden now he shared an opinion because that opinion about the war, that was not objective. Right. Because he picked a side when he said that. And then the Dan Rather’s and all of them started to share some opinions and it started to be less.
We don’t we don’t have journalism today. What we have seen in the last few years is actually the death of journalism.
Yeah. In large part it’s not.
What was? All The President’s Men. Right? Where they actually, you know, did some investigative. We don’t see that anymore. News is not the same. So how do we distinguish then between this news and opinions?
Because it’s hard to find news.
So let’s talk about that for a second. And you mentioned earlier talking about what we largely see now is people on television just yelling at one another. So when you look at the large global news operations, like CNN, like Fox News, like MSNBC, those global news networks are incredibly expensive, is incredibly expensive to have bureaus and satellite
and editors and producers and investigative reporters. And those huge cable news networks were built for global sized stories. The first and second Persian Gulf wars, 9/11. It was built for those sized stories. So when you have a story that big, that’s when you need to have, a network of that size.
All the people around the world, all of the resources, all the cameramen and equipment and satellites and expertize. But then the rest of the time, we actually can’t support it. So what is the most cost effective way to run a network?
Is it exactly? You said earlier. Let’s get two people or four people of different opinions, get them on screen and get them shouting at one another. And that is relatively expensive. There’s very few reporters. There’s a couple of bookers and a couple of cameramen, and it’s really fairly cheap.
And so that’s why these cable knew that news networks do what they do well.
And you and I are doing it right now. It’s become a world of talking heads. And we even saw more of that during Covid, where this format, you and I talking, regardless of where we are in the world, this is now tolerated.
Right. This kind of technology is actually tolerated where two talking heads I don’t even need a satellite anymore. He needs an Internet connection. And you and I create content this easy, and that’s a good thing. But that can also be a bad thing depending on how it’s used.
So high quality content is expensive. I mean, the thousand hours I spent into researching and writing my book to have an informed, I hope educated opinion about what’s happening took a lot of time to get me to this place where I actually understand it.
So good conversation is really worthwhile. And to your earlier question, cause about where to find the best news, the best news is boring. That is the only news worth consuming. And so for an exercise, find a BBC one or two, go on your cable and look for it over, the ones they actually report in England.
And when you watch one of their news stories, you’ll find it has a completely different pacing. You’ll find that they put on their big news story at the beginning of the hour. And about three and a half minutes into it, you will feel this kind of anxiety like you’re going OK next story.
You kind of notice yourself feeling a little uneasy because they go into the second act of the first story and they will spend not three and a half minutes, as the lead story does here in America oftentimes does.
They’ll spend seven, 10 or maybe even 17 minutes on their opening story of a one hour newscast. So they’ll say what happened. Here’s the facts. Then they’ll bring on the first set of experts. And the second set of experts talk about things in a calm, deliberative way, whether interrogating the issue, and they’re not trying to
score political points. And when you watch that, you’ll go, this feels weird to me. It’s almost boring. I want to change the channel. That gives you an indication I haven’t seen in a while. By the way, you might maybe they become more sensationalized.
I can’t speak to that. That was the last time I watched it. It felt weird and boring to me
when I was consuming news and I was doing it more on demand. I found it. I was watching news from England and Australia to see what the true perspective was not from within this camp of America, but to see how they were seeing it from the outside looking in.
I’ll tell you, was a completely different perspective, because we’re just in an echo chamber. And to your point, we find our tribe based on our vibe. And so. Who have a similar bias to just reinforce that bias. Right.
So in your book, you talk a lot about this problem. But let’s talk about the solution, because in the introduction, we talked about how your book can help us, actually. I don’t know if it’s be more forgiving, but at least more
tolerating of different opinions and actually men some of these relationships so that they can get healthy again. Let’s turn the switch and talk about not just the problem now, but the solution.
I’m so glad you asked, because most people what they think is, well, this problem will go away when the other side lays down their arms, when the other side changes. And if you know anything about leadership, you realize that’s a fallacy.
You cannot change what other people do. All you can do is change yourself. And so if you love the country. This is my prescription. I would recommend that you incur cost. And so I’m going to share with you a little bit of the insights into why you shouldn’t be so angry at people for holding political opinions that
you find horrible. And we probably have had people like that where we’ve heard people who have a political position like I did with my father in law, which was morally, morally reprehensible. And I was outraged by his opinion.
I thought, how could a man of such character hold these opinions? Why would he support this candidate with being of the quality that he is? And we have to understand, it doesn’t. People are not arguing about policy, and that’s not why they believe what they believe.
Here’s what it boils down to. We believe to belong. We are a herd animal. And what we must do in order we have protection by the herd is we got to be accepted and we get accepted when we assimilate.
So what we do is we do our very, very best to make sure that we look and talk and act like the tribe that we want to belong to. So let me give you this, this thought experiment.
Let’s say we found an isolated city of people of maybe a thousand people in some South American country, and there was no telecommunication and no roads and no roads and railways, no airports in or out. And we drop you into this civilization of about a thousand people.
And everyone there, they all wear white robes and they paint their faces red and they shake their heads. They speak a completely different language, different diet, different religious institutions, different political institutions, a completely different way of life. Now, let’s just say this is this is actually a real stretch.
Let’s say they accept you. They say that they have a moral philosophy such that they don’t murder the outsider, which is what we would have done 10000 years ago. We just would kill anybody who didn’t belong to our tribe.
Let’s just say that they’re actually accepting of you and they bring you in. How long would it take before you started dressing like them, painting your face red, shaving your head, learning their language, adopting their culture? How long before you assimilated not only in look, in dress, in costume, in language, but more importantly, by belief structure.
And the answer is a couple of years. Why? Because you’re very survival depends upon it. So we look in the United States, there are two major, two major tribes, the Democrats and the Republicans. And every member of those tribes believes sincerely that they have their own agency, that they are unique, freethinking people who determines their own opinions.
However, when you do any kind of polling in either one of those tribes, you’ll find that they all are belief packages, that large swaths have very similar beliefs about God, religion, guns, abortion, immigration. They all hold very, very similar beliefs down to the phrases that they use.
So, again, I’m making a massive generalization. And you’re thinking, well, Peter, that’s not me. I mean, I’m I’m a unique thinker and maybe you are. I’ve met very, very few of those. And that includes myself. I don’t put myself in that category.
What we do is we adopt the beliefs. These are tribal badges is what we call them all. Make sure that we are accepted and gain the approval and protection of our tribes. Morality doesn’t matter. Facts don’t matter. Logic does not matter.
You have gotten into an argument with somebody over a political issue, and you’re going the reasoning of how they got to. This doesn’t make sense. And you wonder how. And the reason is tribalism. A person let’s just say that there’s a community of people who don’t wear masks and they think that Covid is not nearly as bad
as it is and they don’t wear masks and you walk into a room wearing a mask. I’m going to be willing to bet you that you are going to be leaving that room or taking off your mask within a matter of minutes.
You will feel incredibly uncomfortable if you don’t assimilate to what everyone else is doing now. By the way, I’m not making any moral judgments, whether or not you should wear a mask and using it as an example. So you can actually empathize with the situation.
So the next time you’re looking at your brother, uncle, father, coworker, friend, and you’re sitting there wondering, oh, my gosh, how can they believe what they believe? What is going on with them? Understand, it is just our tribal nature.
And we are doing what is as instinctual to us as breathing. And that is to believe to belong.
Well, and you’re saying it so profoundly. There it is instinct. I mean, we’re not necessarily instinctive like a dog or other animals. But to your point, that’s a default. That’s an easy default to go to tribalism. And we see so much. Even memes that say that, you know, your vibe attracts your tribe.
Well, that’s never been more true, that a certain vibe does attract that tribe. And so it’s more divided than ever before. Now, Covid introduced a lot of different. Well, not necessarily different ideas, but I think it just brought it more to the to the forefront.
You talk about being in a group of mass versus people who are not masked and how that became a belief system. Right. If you believed in mass and somebody didn’t, there was a lot of shaming around that.
We’re seeing that now even with vaccinations, because that’s a belief system. I know people who say I’m not going to get vaccinated and other people who were shamed into getting vaccinated, whether they wanted to or not. Where’s that coming from?
Yeah, that should not be such a powerful belief system, but there is a great divide about even the Covid vaccinations now. Have you been vaccinated? What’s going on
is a great question, which I will not answer, because people will assume that a certain political ideology about me. I tried to get you.
Way to go. Didn’t fall into the trap.
That’s exactly it. So I’m not going to talk about whether I think you should or should not get vaccinated. But I will talk about the reason that you. So, once again, broadly speaking, and if you are the exception, I certainly understand that.
And what people usually say, well, I’ve done my research, I’ve done my homework, and I decided either getting vaccinated or not getting vaccinated is the best thing to do. Now, it just so happens that your opinion to get vaccinated or unvaccinated happens to be very, very consistent with the tribe that you belong to.
Whether you believe it or not, you might think to yourself, well, gosh, you know, I made a decision using my cognitive abilities. I use this big giant prefrontal cortex that I have up here, which is unique to human beings, which means I was exercising my agency in my free will and my reason as a way to come
up with the best answer that is possible. It just so happens, it’s far more likely that what you’re doing is you’re assimilating to your tribe and you are doing what everybody else does. And so we there are people who are vaccinated right now looking at the unvaccinated, and they say to themselves, OK, there could be long term
consequences to getting vaccinated. But we also see right now as people are dying because a lack of hospital beds, ventilators, respirators, a lack there, medical systems are collapsing under the weight of all the people who are actually being admitted into hospitals.
I’ve got a good friend whose wife is has pneumonia and cannot find a hospital bed. It is horrifying. And the vaccinated look at the unvaccinated and go, you might have long term consequences, but you’re literally dying right now.
That doesn’t make any sense. But when you understand how powerful tribalism it completely does is, the protection of our tribe, assimilating with our tribe is more valuable to us than the risk of death. That shows you how powerful our tribal mechanisms really are.
Is it possible for us to change our beliefs or are we going to only dig in stronger as we get older? I’ve gone through some big changes in my life that are 180 degrees from how I grew up.
Fundamentally, in my beliefs and my values. How does that happen? Is that what we all need to do is really become more generic in our beliefs, or are we just going to dig in? The older we get,
it’s a great question. So when I was young, starting as an entrepreneur, I was arrogant, self-righteous and defensive. And now, as a 52 year old seasoned entrepreneur who’s been hardened by a couple million mistakes, I am humble and incredibly open to advice and criticism along the way.
I’m so incredibly receptive to finding out where I’m wrong before I make the mistake, not learning from the pain of my mistakes. That’s how I operate much, much differently now. So hopefully for a lot of people, as they get older, they get more humble and more open minded.
And if you consume too much news that is constantly scaring you because of other people, you are oftentimes get more rigid and more hard and you’ll move much more into manichaeistic point of view. And manichaeistic, in case you haven’t heard that before, is a good versus bad or good versus evil mindset.
And when you get into that mindset of thinking that one side is all good and the other side is all evil, you really do get a lot more rigid in your beliefs. Fear is a really, really dangerous for us because it does make us self-righteous and defensive.
And so going back to some of those tenants you talked about earlier, cause with, you know, being committed to the greater good of the country, thinking about all people being equal, thinking about our national symbols of pride in all, pledging our allegiance to that, not only to the symbols, but to the people, and respecting one another will
help you soften and be more objective. I really believe that people debate to figure out who is right, and people have discussions to figure out what is right. And so I’m much more interested in having a discussion, figure out where I’m wrong and then proceeding with the best solution rather than being right.
I really don’t have any interest in that anymore.
What else can we do to strengthen the relationships within our tribe and cross the bridge? To empathize and deepen those relationships with those not in our tribe.
Yeah. One thing that I’ve really done is I’ve become much more skeptical. And I used to be one of those people who would find somebody who is. Misinformed and sharing something on social media or publicly that was wrong, and I thought it was my job.
There’s someone wrong on the Internet and I would, you know, spring into action to go and try to correct them. And what I really learned is, number one, they really don’t like that. No matter how wrong they are, they really don’t appreciate that.
That’s the first thing that I realized. And the second and far more valuable thing I realized is that finding out where somebody else is wrong does me little value. What really helps me is learning about learning and figuring out where I’m wrong.
So I’ve gotten very, very skeptical of what I want to believe, not what I want to prove wrong. So when someone says something to me and I go, oh, yeah, that’s certainly true. That’s my moment where I go, wait a second, am I just hearing what I want to believe or am I hearing what actually is truthful
? So I treat all of my knowledge and all of my beliefs as temporary, pending new information, and I will discard a bad belief or bad knowledge. I have no loyalty to my own knowledge or my own beliefs. I’m constantly looking for the best current data.
And I will hold it as such. Just data or information versus being a conviction or being a fact. Very, very loosely until being replaced by new information. And that’s one of the things that I use as a tool.
And I hope to demonstrate that for other people, because most people think that what they think is who they are. And I really disavow that mentality of what you are, what you believe I am. This great consciousness, this great witness inside, which is has my heart and my soul inside of it that wants to do well for
the human beings. And that’s the part that I want to go to, not to my ego, which contains my judgmentalism in my tribalism. And I’ve learned that the more judgmental that I am, the worse I am towards others, the worse I am on myself.
And so I really find judgmentalism and tribalism to be a very, very effective form of emotional rot.
That’s a great point. I remember hearing when I was a child, someone said to me, a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. When we try to change each other’s opinions, we’re only digging deeper.
So I like what you’re saying, that even if you just have in your heart and in your mind, I don’t know. Absolute truth. What if they’re one percent right? What if they’re 10 percent right? Whatever the other side is, right, because we always say, well, I’m 100 percent right, they’re 100 percent wrong.
If we just suspend the belief that we have the corner on the market of all truth, that maybe they have some, too. That changes everything. And as you said, that’s the wisdom, right? So knowledge plus experience with time to reflect equals wisdom.
How are we going to help the those younger I don’t want to say the millennials, because that puts them in a box, but those younger than you and I see things differently because we can’t just say, well, they’ll grow out of it in 20 years.
You’re suggesting we can do something now, not just let people get older?
Yeah. Well, my objective, whenever I’m having a conversation with somebody, whether they’re eighty eight or twenty eight, is usually the same. And that is not to win. It actually is to increase my empathy and my ability to cooperate with other Americans.
I as a leader and I do a lot of leadership training, I really think the best thing that I can do as a leader is make a good decision. The second best thing I can do is make a bad decision.
And the worst thing I can do is sit and argue about decision to make no decision at all. So I’d rather be convinced of a bad idea with other Americans and least be heading in a direction that we can self-correcting versus being stuck in this bloodsport of bludgeoning the other side to try to get them to capitulate
. It is a no win trench war that we are in in both sides. And what’s amazing is, as I’ve been traveling around doing these presentations, as I’ve been doing the zoom meetings and getting the emails and seeing the comments is everyone on both sides says I’m right.
But very few people are willing to do the work of disavowing their political political affiliation, choosing to be as independent as one can be, and choosing to do what’s in the best interests of the country. Because well, because you know this.
We are the shining city on a hill. We are the greatest and oldest democracy. We are the greatest and oldest capitalistic system. We as a country have been a beacon of light and hope. We have lifted more people out of poverty than any other political and economic system.
We have reduced all so much war and human suffering. We have spread medical care, increased standards in the First Amendment and religious freedom around the world. We have elevated the standards of living around the world by being a beacon of light.
And every single time that an American gives patronage to a media network, that demonizes another American in either an individual or group. You’re kicking the lights out of a room on the city of the hill. You are basically neutralizing another American to not want to participate, to actually help the country grow.
The only ones who win when we win, you demonize or vilify or slander another American are our enemies and our rivals, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran. These are the countries that are running the table in their little corners of the world while we’re over here fighting among ourselves.
We are the city on the hill, and the world needs us. They need our leadership back on the stage to show the world what it can be with a functioning democracy. That uphill, that absolutely vaults human liberty, human freedom and human dignity.
Do you have hope for the future?
Yes, I do. We will get through this very, very painful stage in the new technologies, whether it be my platform with Urth or other media platforms, are going to come around to help stop but, trolls, and misinformation. We will correct this.
When the printing press was invented back in the fourteen hundreds. We saw 30 years of complete and total social and political upheaval. It’s one of the things that started the Crusades, which was massive genocide through the Middle East and through Europe.
Social media was invented about 15, 16 years ago. And so we’ve got about 15 years left before we really write our media landscape. And getting back means a lot more balanced and objective and less demonizing of other people.
But with technology, maybe it’ll happen faster, maybe.
I certainly hope so. I’m certainly working on it.
So what you’re saying is Zuckerberg is the new Gutenberg.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, once again, going back to those numbers earlier, a third of every human beings is on Facebook every single week.
So the new book, a bestseller, is The Second Civil War A Citizen’s Guide to Healing Our Fractured Nation, really does set up the problem and also outlines the solution. Peter, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing so much insight and wisdom with us today,
Coz, it was great. Thank you so much for having me here today. Really enjoyed our conversation.
So go to PeterMontoya.com, pick up your copy of Peter’s new book on Amazon or at a Barnes & Noble near you.
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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