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Competing Narratives

Try this experiment. If you belong to a gym, watch CNN and Fox side by side. I noticed a while ago that these two cable news networks diverge completely on almost every subject — especially the economy and covid.

So, how do we know which we can trust? I can’t answer that question. I don’t trust either one. I just notice it because I see it at the gym and CNN and Fox are only one television apart. But the fact that they clearly don’t agree on the same story suggests that we’re not getting the full story if we only listen to one of them.


You might have seen some headlines lately about how horrible covid is in Florida and Alaska. I see that a lot on CNN. Alaska is indeed experiencing a Delta variant surge. I had it. So did my husband. Since I’m writing this article, I think you can assume I didn’t die. He’s outside doing auto repair before it snows, so I think we can assume he isn’t dead either. I turned 61 today and, no, I didn’t die. I’m overall a healthy person. I’ve had covid twice. Except for a sinus infection after a series of long airplane rides wearing masks, I’ve not been sick between these two events. In March-April 2020, it was the worst cold of my life at 59. In September 2021 it was the worst flu of my life at 60. Yes, I mean that distinction of cold versus flu. I’m not a doctor, but I’d say I experienced two different illnesses, based on my own observations. I didn’t test in 2020 because tests weren’t available, but I tested positive for covid antibodies in July 2020. I did receive a positive covid test last month and I have off-the-chart antibodies as of two days ago. My observation — 2020 was a respiratory illness and at one point I wanted to cut my own tonsils out of my throat, they hurt so bad. Last month, it was digestive.

Do those sound like the same illness? They didn’t feel like it.

But that’s a rabbit trail and I’m focusing on competing media narratives. According to major media outlets, Alaska is a covid killing field and so is Florida, yet the statistics say Alaska is not a covid killing field and neither is Florida. Take a look at the linked graphic to get some real stats. Florida, which has the highest percentage of elderly in the United States, is eighth among the states in covid death rate. Notice that New Jersey and New York are second and fifth in overall death rates. Yet, the media presents NJ and NY as covid heroes while demonizing Florida. That would seem like fake news if we were living in any other time in history. Today, we just call that CNN. Now, notice that Alaska is all the way near the bottom — fourth to last. So why is the Washington Post spinning it into “Alaska is a killing field”?

If It Bleeds, It Leads

To a certain extent, media in a large market has always been about sensationalism. In order to get the attention, they focus on the blood. So, if I’m CNN, I’m going to run with the scariest headlines it can create because that keeps people’s attention on them rather than Fox News. Oh, wait, CNN’s ratings are a great deal lower than Fox’s these days. Yikes, the competition is winning.

We need more blood.

Journalists overwhelmingly are trained in institutions of higher learning that lean way left. It might be inevitable that young impressionable people go into these programs starry-eyed and naive and come out utterly convinced of the ideological system of the institution they just spent 4–6 years trying to convince they are worthy of a degree. And they take their politics into the workplace and it influences their reporting of facts.

Their reflexive political ideology is that “red” states are horrible and stupid for not agreeing with the political ideology of journalists and those they support. So, of course, Florida chooses not to lockdown for constitutional reasons and that’s horrible, from their political point of view. To hell with the Constitution. They believe public health matters more than liberty and whatever it takes to stop this novel virus (that isn’t killing all that many people) is absolutely justified under their ideology. But about half the country disagrees with that narrative. Most people don’t know anyone personally who has died of covid because this disease really kills less than 1% of the people who catch it, but we all hear the stories every night on the television, so we come to believe we’re just the lucky ones when in fact we’re the normal ones. New York, New Jersey, and other states and many communities locked down, which the journalists agreed with, so of course they can’t report that their death rate numbers are higher than the states that engaged in actions that they didn’t approve. So they use buzz words and subtle propaganda techniques to avoid that discussion. Meanwhile, Alaska is painted as the worst place in the country for covid when it really isn’t. Our case rate did go up dramatically with the Delta variant and, yes, a few old and already sick people have died, but if you’ve outlived the national average for old-age and you die with a positive covid test, is that really something that bleeds enough it should lead? Maybe it’s manipulated news to keep people watching rather than the truth that might set us free. As my neighbor who just celebrated her 83rd birthday points out — she’s over the national average for life expectancy. If she passes, with or with covid, we should consider that a natural part of life and not a gross miscarriage of justice.

Whatever Happened to Critical Thinking?

Furthermore, most Americans have been miseducated in public school about what critical thinking involves. I’m not sure where we got the idea that critical thinking means agreeing with the experts, but it’s prevalent among most Americans. That’s not critical thinking. That’s brainwashing. Critical thinking is the analysis of available evidence to form a judgment. It’s self-directed and self-corrective and strives to rely on rationality. Thus it needs to be skeptical of most, if not all, claims at the outset because it seeks an unbiased analysis of factual evidence. You’re going to get disagreements in a society that thinks critically because people engage with the issues, sort through the evidence, and draw their own conclusions based on their own reason. Over time, as issues are studied, a general public consensus will develop. The best ideas will out and the crackpot theories eventually fall by the wayside.

Too many Americans educated in public schools have somehow gotten the impression that critical thinking accepts orthodox thinking. We come to believe that “experts” know the facts and we shouldn’t question them, forgetting that experts once said cigarette smoking was healthy for you and the FDA approved Thalidomide, DES, and Oxycontin. In fact, in an average year the FDA approves about 4,700 medications and recalls about 1,400. Maybe their track record is little questionable, except if you believe they’re experts and you can’t question experts, you’re just going to ignore that they have to recall about one-third of all the drugs they approve. Scientists once were convinced the sun revolved around the earth (and, yes, the Catholic Church was the NIH of its day). When I was in high school, climatologists were convinced we were headed into an ice age. Other scientists and experts assured the American people, the entire human population was going to starve to death in the next decade. We were supposed to run out of oil by 1985. I graduated college more than 30 years ago and those predictions by “experts” have yet to come true. Maybe experts aren’t always right and it pays to be skeptical. Don’t sell everything you own just yet and move to the mountaintop because doomsayers are often proven wrong when their predictions don’t come true.

Do It Our Way Or We’ll Hurt You!

Perhaps not surprisingly, the media are now telling us that we shouldn’t think for ourselves. I think maybe they don’t like people arguing with them and using logic and reason to do it. It certainly makes Don Lemon look dumber than when he’s just running his mouth without challenge. Stop questioning authorities who know so much more than you do because they have worked for the government for decades. Have you ever met a government bureaucrat? I shouldn’t have to point out that you don’t have to be intelligent when you work for the government. Just spend an afternoon at DMV if you need to be convinced of that. Lower your expectations, you spoiled brats. You’d meet a lot of cool people in the breadlines and who needs a working washer anyway? Pay no attention to inflation and certainly don’t worry about what it’s going to do to the value of your retirement account. You can live on one-third of what you saved, especially if you live in government housing and spend all day in breadlines. Don’t seek to compare or contrast the competing claims of different medical scientists because there’s only one official orthodoxy you need to know and accept without question. And by all means, comply with our unconstitutional mandates. Deciding what you can and cannot put in your body is not freedom. Freedom is doing what you’re told when you’re told to do it.

Does that sound like a cult to you?

How Cults Work

Here’s how you can tell the difference between someone with faith and a cultist. A person of faith is aware that other people disagree with the tenets of their faith. They’ll pray for you to change your mind and, if you will allow them to, they’ll try to explain why they believe what they believe. They don’t hate you for disagreeing with them. They love you enough to pray that you will one day come to know the truth they believe. Cultists are aware that other people disagree with their lunatic fringe ideas, but they only accept one way of thinking and they’re willing to kill or hurt you to force you to believe the same thing they do.

See the difference?

On a whole host of issues, you can easily find two or more competing narratives, but you’re only supposed to believe the one the media tells you to believe. And, if you don’t believe that, they’re not interested in reasoning with you or engaging in compromise and dialogue. No, they want to fine you and prevent you from being able to buy groceries and conduct business.

If it sounds suspiciously like a cult, that’s because it is one.

Whatever Happened to Journalism Ethics?

For the record, as a former reporter, I am deeply offended that this is the message the media is now promoting. When I trained and worked as a reporter, we understood that it was our job to uncover alternative narratives, obscure facts, and present as many “sides” to a story as we could find because the public needed to know the truth as well as we could manage to present it. On my first day in college, my first journalism professor said to a class of mostly incoming freshmen, “Leave your politics and even your morality at home.” He went on to explain, as a reporter, we had a set of ethics we must follow and everything else was our personal opinion. Do not bring it to work. If we couldn’t do that, we should major in public relations, not journalism. In those days, at my college, public relations was part of the School of Business, and took about two journalism classes in a four-year degree-program. They were not journalists.


It’s not really a secret that big pharma gives a lot of money to media outlets and politicians. Two-thirds of Congress cashes checks from pharma companies. This is all a multi-million dollar payola scam. This week, we learned that most of the major mainstream outlets receive funding from Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. The CEO of Pfizer is also on the board of Reuters. So can we trust the pharma-financed media to tell us the truth on medical issues and particularly treatments for medical conditions they produce meds to treat?

I don’t think so.

It amazes me that people who won’t believe climate science that was funded by grants from, say, petrochemical companies will then turn around and unequivocally trust media funded by pharma companies discussing issues involving pharmaceuticals.

Folks, it pays to be skeptical and to use the brain between your ears. If something doesn’t make sense, it’s probably because some portion of the “facts” aren’t available to you. Locate what’s missing and engage in educating yourself.

Lela Markham is an Alaska-based novelist and blogger as well as a free thinker. She absolutely believes in questioning authority.

Guest Author | Lela Markham

Originally published 10/23/21 on: Medium


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