John Livingston News

What IS Real? Media Madness

One of the joys of the COVID-19 slowdown for me has been that it has offered me an opportunity to do more reading and rereading of books that I read many years ago. One such book was “The Media is the Message” by Marshall Mcluhan. After reading the book for a second time the new message that stands out for me is that the media itself and not only what they cover should be the focus of what we analyze.

The process of information gathering, the storing and distributing of information that itself influences opinions of each of us individually and of public opinion in general is critical.

I was the ships surgeon on the USS Virginia for over two years from 1977-1978. There was nothing for a doctor to do on that ship other than maintaining radiation health records of the crew so I decided to try to qualify as Officer of the Day Underway. My free time was used up quickly as I had to study and stand watch in all 8 Departments on the Ship. I spent 10 weeks in the Combat Information Center {CIC} where there were 42 computers that monitored incoming enemy missiles, torpedoes, gunfire and bombs, while at the same time rapidly finding weapons and fire control solutions to engage and defeat those incoming threats. The system was the 1st integrated NTDS (Navy Tactical Data System) deployed on a Navy ship and is very similar to what today is used on our fighting ships and on Air Force AWACS. There was one big computer in the middle of the CIC where the TAO Tactical Action Officer, had to sort through hundreds and sometimes thousands of pieces of data with the help of the rest of the CIC crew, very rapidly.

One of the lessons we all learned was that there was a lot of information gathered by our sensors—radar, sonar, Doppler etc. that either wasn’t real, was irrelevant, or had a lower level of priority and was thus less of a threat than other incoming information. A question often times asked was “Is it real”. One day after our ship pulled into New York Harbor my Uncle who met us at the pier was offered a tour of the CIC by our Captain. Ron had a PHD in Organic Chemistry and was the CEO of McNeil Laboratories. Our Captain had a PHD in Nuclear Engineering very different backgrounds for sure. They got along great, so much so that they ended up spending 4 hours in the CIC together. As they went through various battle scenarios generated by the computer models Ron many times asked the question how do you know what is real? Our Captain responded-“EXACTLY the question and the problem”. Later that night the three of us went out to dinner and Ron explained that the question what is real is always asked by a chemist after the results of an experiment are completed. What is real is a question that is constantly asked in the scientific community and seldom asked by our media or by those consuming information coming from the media.

We should ask if the information is sourced and who is the source. Unnamed sources should never be considered to be highly accurate and real. What is the track record of the person or publication giving us information? Have they told us that Russian collusion is real? Have they told us that sea levels would rise 6 feet by 2007? Have they told us that there would be 2million people who would die from COVID-19? Have they told us that our State receives more in Federal Funding than we give to the Feds in Federal taxes a really big lie. What is required when presented with data that is designed to generate or perpetuate a narrative is the application of knowledge and experience, otherwise known as scholarship and common sense. Common sense would also naturally direct us to ask the question -Is there relative information that is not being presented?

So when information is given to us about the morbidity and mortality of the current Covid-19 pandemic are we given context by those disseminating that information? In our State I have not once heard the media ask the question how many patients are in St. Al’s and St. Luke’s today with a Covid-19?

Yesterday in St. Al’s that number was 2! Context please. I have not heard the media ask the question—Where do Covid-19 deaths and complications stand when ranked against other disease processes? We are projected to have over 2200 cardiovascular deaths, 2000 cancer deaths, 1200 abortions in Idaho this year and the Covid 19 deaths are projected to be 110. Context please. The chances of dying from Covid-19 in Idaho 0.0009 or .09%. Idaho citizens have twice the chance of dying from a car accident than they do from Covid-19. Time to develop a “stay in place” and quarantine policy for people that drive cars? Context?

The local media has not written about any of these details because they do not support their political narrative. Instead they write derogatory articles about working citizens who want to get back to work and once again start supporting their families and each other. It’s OK for liquor stores to be open but not churches most of them don’t go to church anyway, I also bet they go to the liquor store frequently. The media gushes over politicians and lobbyists who give them an easy story, but they give little coverage to businesses on the verge of bankruptcy. Ad Hominem attacks on conservatives by Betsy Russell and others don’t tell a story of either a pandemic or an economic shutdown. A childish “hissy fit” only serves to perpetuate divisiveness. But that’s what sells newspapers except why are circulations down all over the valley for local newspapers?

Maybe the American people and especially Idahoans are tired of having our media messaged for us. We know what is real. Good thing our media doesn’t stand watch on board our ships or AWACS in CICs. They wouldn’t care what was real and that would be problematic.

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